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The Myth and Magic of the Critical Number

Oct 22, 2018 by Steve Baker 0 Comments

Myth and magic (1)


Imagine a number, that if identified, would represent the single most important thing in your life; the one thing that would change everything.

Whoa. That would indeed be awesome. But there’s more to it than that. There’s myth and magic that surrounds the Critical Number™.  It will indeed change your business. And yes, it will change your life.  But it’s not magic.

Let’s say that you discovered the ULTIMATE Critical Number. You found a financial measure that will indicate success – and you’re going to focus your entire organization on your ultimate Critical Number and take over the world!

Sounds good, right? You may be dead right.

You’re right in the sense that YOU have identified the ultimate Critical Number, but you’re also dead. Dead because you will have no buy-in from those who have to execute on it. It’s YOUR number.

Have you ever gone off on a planning retreat with your top leadership and solved all the world’s problems? And upon your triumphant return, like Moses from the mountaintop, stone tablets in hand… no one cares? No one buys in? No one commits or executes?

That’s the myth about Critical Number. It’s not a panacea, it’s not a magic pill. It’s not even about the Critical Number, it’s HOW you get to Critical Number that matters. And THAT is where the MAGIC lies.


When selecting your Critical Number, consider these questions:

1. What ways you can involve as many people as possible in the process?

2. What ways can people feel connected to the Critical Number, and to each other in a common goal.


For example, if you selected Net Profit as a simple Critical Number, get your team together to make a list of potential drivers of profit. Look for connections (line of sight) directly from line-item owners and ask for as much participation as possible. With common goals and common rewards, we’re going to win as a team!



Want to learn more about choosing the right Critical Number? 

Check out our Beginner's Guide!

Get the Critical Number Beginner's Guide



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Topics: Critical Number, Buy-In, Planning

Steve Baker
Written by Steve Baker

Steve Baker is the Vice President of The Great Game of Business, Inc., a division of employee-owned SRC Holdings Corporation. Known for his high-energy and engaging message, Steve has become a top-rated and sought after speaker, author and coach on topics of open-book management, strategy and execution, leadership and employee engagement. Steve co-wrote the update of the best-selling book, The Great Game of Business 20th Anniversary Edition. Baker spent two decades working for privately-held companies, struggling to help owners reach their goals without access to key business metrics. Learning to play the Great Game of Business at SRC changed his life both at work and at home. He also serves on the Board of the National Center for Employee Ownership as well as the Steering Committee for SRC’s Ownership Culture Initiative. Steve is a career marketing and branding professional and is an award-winning designer. He lives in Springfield, Missouri with his trophy wife, JoAnn, and his three above-average children.

About The Great Game of Business

Our approach to running a company was developed to help close one of the biggest gaps in business: the gap between managers and employees. We call our open-book approach The Great Game of Business. What lies at the heart of The Game is a very simple proposition: The best, most efficient, most profitable way to operate a business is to give everybody in the company a voice in saying how the company is run and a stake in the outcome. Let us teach you how to develop a culture of ownership, where employees think, act and feel like owners.