One of my favorite traditions of our annual Gathering of Games celebration is that we recognize a handful of companies each year as Great Game “All-Stars” – an honor we commemorate by writing up a brief case study about the company. In the 20 years we have been doing this, we have covered an amazing variety of companies across just about every industry out there, from manufacturing to retail and food service to banking.
With this year’s Gathering rapidly approaching, we have been working on the case studies for this year’s All-Star roster. It was one story in particular about a Californian manufacturing company that brought itself roaring back from the brink through open-book principles that got me thinking: Why is it that it usually takes a crisis or catastrophe to motivate us to create change?
This question is especially relevant to the Great Game of Business since it seems that, despite more than 20 years of outrageous success stories, surprisingly few companies out there today employ open-book principles in their day-to-day operations. The ones that do play the Great Game often have been pushed to the brink before they make the move. Again, my question is: Why do companies wait so long?
Maybe it’s just natural that when we’re winning with a lead in good times, or at least breaking even, we don’t feel the need to change things up. It’s similar to when we wait until we’re sick or overweight before we decide to eat healthier or start fitness training. Maybe it’s only when we’ve fallen behind that we finally embrace open-book principles because we don’t have anything else to lose.
Or maybe, as Morgen Witzel recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times in his review of the book, Beyond Performance Management, business leaders simply don’t have the courage to give up the tradition of command-and-control leadership in favor of transparency and shared information.
I don’t know. I wish I understood why more companies out there wait so long. What do you think? What’s been your experience?