Episode 11 : What is High-Involvement Planning?

Posted by Rich Armstrong & Steve Baker on Oct 30, 2020 7:00:00 AM

Steve Baker and Rich Armstrong are joined by three Great Game Coaches to discuss the details of our High-Involvement Planning process and why it's so crucial to understanding how it works, especially right now.

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Great Game Coachs Panel Episode_Podcast


Episode with guests: Great Game Coach's Panel

Kevin Walter, Owner Tasty Catering and Great Game of Business Coach 

Dave Scholten, Great Game of Business Coach 

Jack O'Riley, Great Game of Business Coach 

(This episode was recorded in May of 2020.)


Key Episode Take-Aways:

1. Every company thinks that they're a special snowflake. (click to jump to this topic below)  

This all started in manufacturing: “We're not a manufacturer.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I'd have a lot of money. So my response is, do you have a P&L? And every organization, every company does. Well, then you're the same as everybody else.

2. A solid process that is focused on execution.  (click to jump to this topic below)  We have a solid process that is focused on execution. So as we go through the planning; we're always thinking about, we're gonna have to do some things to take us forward strategically. So execution is the output.

3. How to get started with High-Involvement Planning. (click to jump to this topic below)  We've designed a process for the situations that we're in for those that aren't planning currently, where we meet with a business owner, help him or her pick out a planning team. They pick the planning team, and we'd want to consult with them so we know who's on the team, and give them advice on how to best pick planners, and then assign homework to those people: a SWOT analysis and some other questions that we'd have.

Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.

Announcer  0:00  

Welcome to the "Change the Game" podcast, where we share stories of open-book management and highlight capitalism at its best. Thank you for tuning in to the 11th episode of the "Change the Game" podcast, with special guests, Jack O'Riley, Dave Scholten and Kevin Walter. This episode was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in May 2020. Here's your hosts, Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker.


Steve Baker  0:26  

Good morning, Rich Armstrong. How are you today?


Rich Armstrong  0:29  

Good. Thanks, Steve. Good morning to you.


Steve Baker  0:32  

Yeah, absolutely. I'm Steve Baker, this is Rich Armstrong, my co-host, and we're with The Great Game of Business®. We believe that businesses have the potential to make a huge and positive difference in the world. And they can empower people to pursue their dreams and benefit our society as a whole. And we need it now more than ever, that's for sure. At The Great Game of Business, we want to demystify business, you know, break down the walls and the hype that make business an elite sport for the select few that keeps everybody else in the dark and out of the money. If we can do that, that is capitalism at its best. So what would it be like to save the American Dream by closing that gap between the haves and have-nots? That is how we'll reach our big, hairy, audacious goal of transforming 10 million lives in the next 10 years.

So this podcast is inspired by that idea, the idea that is illustrated perfectly in Jack Stack and Darren Dahl's new book, "Change the Game." Rich, I think you have a copy of that. It's powerful stuff. I mean, it works everywhere. Of course it works in business, but it also works in government, education, not-for-profits. It works in every sector; you've got to get this book.

And I would buy extra copies for people in your community because frankly speaking, when we start recovering from this, people are going to need the guidance. So you've got "Change the Game" by Jack Stack and Darren Dahl. And of course, you've got a new book by Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker, "Get in the Game: How to Create Rapid Financial Results and Lasting Cultural Change," available where fine books are sold. 

So, again, welcome everyone. It's awesome to be here. Today's theme is bringing the marketplace to your people. I'm super excited because of who we've got on deck for you. We've got three of our longtime practitioner coaches. They're joining us to discuss planning, and how now is the time to bring the marketplace to your people and do your best to define the new normal. I just choked on the words “new normal” because you've heard it so much.

So the whole idea is so you can continue to reposition your business for the future, reimagine your business, reconstruct it. So our coaches will be sharing their expertise, their experience, all through four recessions in this time-tested practice we call high-involvement planning--specifically how to move forward now, in planning for the upturn. 

We like to start with a quote and instead of going back to Mark Twain or Winston Churchill and all that sort of thing, we actually have a great quote from Gary Shafter. He's an SRC Holdings board member and former John Deere executive. Every time we present in front of Barry, he starts the strategic planning meetings, our high-involvement planning meetings, with this comment.

He says, "Most annual plans start with a once-upon-a-time and they end with happily-ever-after." And if you aren't prepared for that, you've got trouble. Isn't it awesome? Every annual plan he's seen always started with a once-upon-a-time and ended with a happily-ever-after. What if you had real reality-based planning? That's so cool. So Rich, I'm going to introduce these guys and get us going. 


Rich Armstrong  3:34  

All right. Good. 


Steve Baker  3:36  

Look, a lot of you may have heard of Jack O'Riley, Dave Scholten and Kevin Walter. We've been talking for weeks about what to do right now. But short-term thinking will only get you so far. Now is the time to adjust your sights and start to look further out. So  it's time to move past the uncertainty that we're living in today and begin thinking about what the marketplace is telling you about your organization and how it faces tomorrow. So what is the market telling you about the future and how it looks? I mean, you need a plan for where you want to go. You can't just get there from here without a plan. You also can't make that journey alone. And one of Jack Stack's higher laws says, "You can stop one guy, but you can't stop 100." So I'd like to introduce you to these guys.

Not only are they great collaborators and friends and even brothers, to me they're the coaching caballeros; they truly live the Great Game coaching values, like better together. They're helping people create more wins. So I'd like to welcome Jack O'Riley, Dave Scholten, Kevin Walter. How’re you guys doing?


Rich Armstrong  4:42  

Good morning. Good morning guys,


Steve Baker  4:44  

So good to have you. You guys have such a great resume, it would take the whole show to get through, so I'm just going to say it this way: these three guys, these caballeros, have worked in every sector you can imagine, and in every state of the union and around the world, with companies large and small.

We counted them up; it's 52 sectors, including high tech, software, food, construction, energy, healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, veterinary care, real estate, wealth management, and my favorite, hazardous waste removal. They've become so expert in connecting the dots when clients are practicing other operating systems, ranging from Scaling Up, EOS, three head, you name it, they've seen it all. Best of all, these guys are you. They were all practitioners, using Great Game in their own businesses, before becoming Great Game coaches.

So their insights are invaluable. So here's what I want you to do, before we really get into the questions. Please take notes, ask a lot of questions. And we are going to be offering you a 30-minute coaching call to talk about this really cool, high- involvement planning accelerator we've designed for you. So first of all, let me throw this one to Dave Scholten. Dave, what is high-involvement planning, or as we call it, HIP?


Dave Scholten  6:04  

We define High-Involvement Planning as taking an annual, time-consuming ritual and turning it into an exciting journey, where the whole company, all your people, discover answers to growth and success. It includes getting 100 people on the same goal: bring the team, sustain your game, keep score. And we include a sales and marketing template, a growth strategy, financial plan and succession planning. And then we get buy-in from the team.


Steve Baker  6:33  

It's a little odd, because not everybody thinks about planning as something that they would take outside of the secret retreat or the boardroom, as you said. But seriously now, how does it differ from strategic planning, one-page plans, visioning?

You've heard a lot of them; how can you involve a lot of people in strategic planning? So it's kind of two questions, really. Kevin, why don't you take this one: how is it different from other strategic planning styles? And how can you involve a lot of people in strategic planning when they don't even understand the business yet?


Kevin Walter  7:04  

For anybody that remembers the Popeil's Pocket Fisherman, it differs in that, you know, who knows how to do the job better than those doing the job themselves? So by involving them, it really harnesses the wisdom of the crowd, taps into the unknown genius that may be existing out there, and pulls everybody together, like Dave said, and focuses them on strategy, thinking more beyond today, tomorrow, this week.


Steve Baker  7:29  

Well, hey, Jack O'Riley. We've known each other a long time. And I know that originally you kind of built your whole coaching practice around helping companies with long-term planning. But you've also worked with a lot of companies in that planning that were not necessarily open book or Great Game of Business practitioners. In your opinion, are open book and financial transparency required to do high-involvement planning?


Jack O'Riley  7:58  

No, it's certainly not required, but it's an asset in the planning process. But we do work with many clients that are definitely not open book; it's not their plan. And the only variation here is that we would slightly change the method that we use to adapt to their situation. 


Rich Armstrong  8:16  

So can you elaborate a bit on that? What kind of adaptations would need to be made? 


Jack O'Riley  8:22  

Well, much of the terminology in the templates that Dave just spoke of is Great Game, open-book terminology that may not apply to a closed-book company. It also might alter who we select, to do the planning.


Steve Baker  8:36  

Guys, we hear this a ton: “But we're different. I don't think planning will help because our business changes so much.” In fact, I read recently, Jason Fried wrote a book called "Rework," where he says planning is fantasy. [Laughter.] So have you seen anywhere where high-involvement planning does not work?

1. Every company thinks that they're a special snowflake.

Kevin Walter  8:57  

Every company thinks that they're a special snowflake, right? This all started in manufacturing: “We're not a manufacturer.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I'd have a lot of money. So my response is, do you have a P&L? And every organization, every company does. Well, then you're the same as everybody else. You're the industry expert; we're the Great Game advisors, coaches, okay?

And when it hasn't worked, it's when leadership wasn't 100 percent committed. It's not the people; they're sitting on the bench saying, "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play!" And the leader says, "Oh, no, no;  you're not ready yet, kid. You're still in the minors." It's when leaders don't trust their people, right? We expect our people to trust us, but when we don't trust them, then it's not going to work.


Steve Baker  9:45  

Kevin, do you have any examples of that from your own experience, where you've made progress and then you hit a wall because people won't open up to the rest of the folks?


Kevin Walter  9:55  

Yeah, early on in my coaching career. I didn't know how to sniff it out back then, but I had a company where one of the VPs on the design team, in the meetings, was paying it all lip service. But then he went back to his own little fiefdom and went back to command and control. It took me a while to sniff it out. And when I did, we kind of forced the issue. It's not going to work if the top leadership's not 100 percent on board. And sure enough, the numbers showed it the first year. The other two cities or locations did very well financially; his city lost $7 million on their P&L. So that was a great example there. 


Steve Baker  10:34  

Yeah. Thank you for that.


Rich Armstrong  10:37

Guys, when you're talking about planning, you've got to talk about forecasting, right? And within the practices of the Great Game of Business, we talk a lot about forecasting and the importance of forecasting and the importance of accuracy in forecasts. Even with SRC's long-term planning, the last five years, we got as close as 98 percent  accurate on that forecast.

But with the effects of all this pandemic, it's certainly shaking everybody's confidence, and their ability to actually predict the future and forecast the future. Can you explain to us a bit--and Dave, maybe you want to take this one--just how HIP, or high-involvement planning, can help with that?


Dave Scholten  11:18  

So the future is gonna be scary. Our first bit of advice is, Get your head out of the sand, and have some courage. And I didn't say it, Steve. [Laughter.] Accountants come out of the office, and they say, "This is what's going to happen." Because they're using historical trend analysis. So start there: where have you been? Extend those trends out. And then ask your team, ask yourself, "How do you want to impact those trends? Where do you want to go? What do you want to be?" But this also includes some big thinking. Think anything is possible if you dream. So we think if we make a plan, or we have a goal, and we build a plan, we can hit it. And you figure out how to get there. But it's the ultimate higher law.

You know, we talked about how it's easy to stop one. My favorite law is, "The highest level of thinking gets you the highest level of performance." You know, the other question to ask yourself about SRC: do we plan well, or do we execute well? 


Rich Armstrong  12:22  

That's very good. What would you say to that, Dave? 


Dave Scholten  12:26  

I don't think you can have one without the other.


Rich Armstrong  12:28  

So true. Well, I know you guys are all working with companies right now, you've got current clients you're working with to help them plan right now. Can you give me some examples? Specifically, what are those things you're doing immediately with them? How does that really work? Some practical examples of how you're helping them get a little bit more clarity about the future?


Kevin Walter  12:49  

Well, for me, in our company, Tasty Catering, it's going to be a whole new world, right? For at least six months, if not a year, there are no more gatherings for over 50 people. That's what caterers do. So how are we going to be the best 50-person or less caterer? What other options are out there? Our team, we're really proud of them. They came up with "barbecue in a box" when the meat shortage started hitting. Picnic season is our busiest time, and it's our most profitable segment of our business, picnics.

We can't have picnics this year. So how can we still capitalize? They put together a package, "barbecue in a box," where you can get our burgers, our hot dogs, all of our products that people have come to love, and pick it up or have it dropped off at your house. And some of the companies have said, "Wow, that sounds great. We could use a boost. Why don't we do it for all 400 of our employees?"


Steve Baker  13:41  



Kevin Walter  13:42  

Part of it is, it's a higher ticket per person average. And it's a higher gross margin. So it might be less work and more money at the end of the day.


Steve Baker  13:53  

Jack, would you answer the same question? How would you specifically work with a company to help them get clarity about the future?

2. A solid process that is focused on execution.

Jack O'Riley  14:00  

We have a solid process that is focused on execution. So as we go through the planning; we're always thinking about, we're gonna have to do some things to take us forward strategically. So execution is the output. And this process is not something that you do easily in a conference room and then forget about it.

So we have to do some things. And because the underlying philosophy is, people support what they help create,  some of the people who are going to do the execution have helped create the plan. So there's a direct link there. And then there's a very solid rhythm that makes sure that we go through the steps and then the rhythm becomes communication and a basis for learning. And it is absolutely not a once-upon-a-time thing; it is execution.


Steve Baker  14:48  

So we got one in the box here. This is from Darren: How does the market intelligence come into play with high involvement planning? So who'd like to take that one?


Dave Scholten  14:59  

We talk a lot, you know, Jack Stack loves the sales and marketing template. And I think Jack O'Riley is going to cover the four [templates]. Specific to the sales and marketing: sales and marketing for us equals intelligence. If a company or an organization is surprised, we would suggest that maybe they're not well read, or well researched.


Steve Baker  15:20  

I think a lot of companies have been surprised recently. [Laughter.]


Dave Scholten  15:23  

Well, you know, that's going back to your other question. I was talking to a client that had been in this chaos for four weeks. I said, "Okay, so has the chaos been different?" "No, it's all pretty much the same." Well, then create some structure around the chaos, and get out of it. But the whole sales-and-marketing and the market intelligence  includes data. And you have to have passion for the data. It includes academic smarts, street smarts, a shovel, and passion. And I say the shovel because you're gonna have to dig. Okay?

It includes competitive industry information, economic and market, vendor supply, logistics, sales marketing, your customer, technology. What's going to happen with HR? What's going on with the social things that are going on with people? And then one of my favorite parts: most people read numbers; we want to teach you how to listen to numbers. Because numbers are stories about people. And the numbers are telling you a story. And if you don't pay attention, or if you don't listen right, you're not going to hear the story.


Steve Baker  16:31  

The number whisperer, I like it. I think I just trademarked that. Let's keep going. Rich, if you don't mind, we've got one--it's not a question, but it's a comment here from Douglas: Mike Tyson famously said, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." This response was to a reporter's question regarding whether he was worried about Evander Holyfield's fight plan.

And what's interesting is, I've been hearing that one a lot lately. And it really talks about the high involvement part, too. It's really powerful to have a lot of backup, and a lot of other people putting their things--like you said Dave, the intelligence. Jack O'Riley, why don't you talk about the principles of high-involvement planning, if you don't mind?


Jack O'Riley  17:18  

I just did a little bit, in talking about the “no fairy tale” planning. But Dave alluded to the templates--or one of the templates, the sales and marketing template, that's gathering the intelligence that he just spoke of. And think about the beauty of that. When you bring it into your company and your people understand the market conditions, they're going to better understand the decisions that you make.

If you have to make some tough decisions, it's not going to be the owner or executive on some sort of whim; it's the marketplace that drove that decision. And how do you argue with the marketplace? So there's a sales and marketing template, there's a strategy for growth template, which condenses the strategy to one page, and it's very well done. There's a financial template, and then there's a succession plan template. So it's all inclusive, with a strategy for growth template being at the heart of the tools that we use.


Rich Armstrong  18:13  

Yeah, I really liked [what] you said earlier, [about] the importance of execution. And you touched on this a little bit on the rhythm, but I've got to imagine there are some people out there right now on this call who are saying, "I've done all this planning stuff. And all of it just goes and sits on the shelf, and nothing ever really happens." Can you talk a little bit about how high-involvement planning may address that?


Jack O'Riley  18:36  

Yeah, if I can answer it in two different ways, if you're a Great Game company, and you're doing monthly huddles, or monthly all-team huddles, and weekly huddles with your design team, and you've got your plan so that the high-involvement planning execution part gets tied to those huddles. So there's no escaping keeping the challenges, the things you need to execute, in your face every week or every month.

So when I talk about a rhythm, that just gets bolted into the processes that are already in place for people playing the Great Game of Business. If you don't have a rhythm, you're not an open-book company, you need to create one so you get the accountability to make sure that the tactics that you've determined get executed and get followed up. And it's surprising the number of companies that have not done that. And when we bring that philosophy to them, it's like, "Wow, this is cool." It is cool, because it's accountability.


Rich Armstrong  19:35  

And I've had the opportunity to work with Jack quite a bit with some clients and that's a huge word for you, I know, the accountability behind it. Hey, we're going to come up with some great priorities and we're going to put some accountability behind it. But there isn't a better man in terms of holding people accountable than Jack O'Riley, so thanks. 


Steve Baker  19:54  

Well, I'd like to ask Kevin a question here because you know, this all sounds pretty cool and you say, "No fairy tales," but involving everyone in planning sounds a little like a fairy tale to some people. So let's just be frank: for people new to this process, who should be included in their first high-involvement planning session, and then I'll ask you another question or two about it, if you don't mind, Kevin. So who should be involved?


Kevin Walter  20:19  

Everyone possible. You really never know where that next big idea is going to come from. And for us, that's helped with diversity. We started with one company, and now there's four. And the other four were all employee ideas that came to life. You never know where that next big thing is coming from. One of our guys, just on his own, built an acrylic sneeze guard for outdoor service. And we might take it another step and try to get a patent on it and see what we can do there. 


Steve Baker  20:53  



Kevin Walter  20:54  

You never know where that next big idea is gonna come from.


Steve Baker  20:57  

I love it when you can tap people for the creativity they truly have. And you've told a lot of stories, all three of you, about seeing how creative people have been, especially right now, when things are so crazy. But let's assume that somebody is listening and saying, "This process sounds cool. I want to do it. But how can I get our owner or president to take an interest in it?” Kevin, would you talk about that?


Kevin Walter  21:21  

To me, it might be by the scruff of the neck if you have to. [Laughter.] But in reality, just show them that you're trying to be a helpful problem-solver. You know, figure out what their needs, wants, and pains are, like I think John spoke of a few podcasts back. You know, what's the need? What's the want? What's your pain? I might even start out with the pain and say, "Hey, we can address it; everybody can help." And if you go back to--I think it was Jack Stack's podcast--people really rally when the company is vulnerable. And the owner's got to have a little bit of vulnerability to say, "Hey, I need your help." You'd be surprised what you get as an owner when you say, "I need your help." People trip over each other to help. So get the top executives involved any possible human way you can. But maybe create some early wins and say, "Hey, this works. Let's keep going with this."


Rich Armstrong  22:17  

Steve, we have a question in the Q&A. And I think it's just kind of a follow-up to what Jack was talking about earlier: what should be the frequencies of the huddles in our current situation? Anybody want to take that? Jack, you want to follow that up?


Jack O'Riley  22:31  

Yeah, the frequency of a huddle for companies that I work with is weekly. There's a weekly forecast. And then there's a monthly all-hands huddle, if you can pull that off, depending on the logistics and number of locations, and all that sort of thing. And then at the department level, there are at least weekly huddles, and sometimes daily standup huddles.

And the key here is, don't break the rhythm. I have to say during COVID, not  one of my clients failed to do their forecast. They adjusted, because it's top importance to make sure the rhythm’s intact. So weekly, at least.


Kevin Walter  23:12  

And we're not talking about adding hours of meetings to the week; a stand-up huddle is two, three minutes. What’s working, what’s not, and call the next play. It's that rhythm of communication around the numbers. And listen to those numbers, like Dave said. And it's about people being in the know. When they're not in the know, there's fear. And that’s horrible.


Steve Baker  23:32  

There’s another question here, it's a little bit longer question. Should the largest strategic plan for the company include a finish line, a deadline, for example, an exit of some kind. Seven years seems like a good deadline for some kind of exit for many companies. A marathon without a finish line may not be considered a real race. So it sounds a little bit like a question about goal-setting and long-term goal-setting. Anybody want to take that?


Dave Scholten  24:04  

That's a tough question. Because the goal changes and the world changes and we change. You know, the question is almost morbid.. Because you know, when you make a decision that you're going to stop and you're going to get out, that's a way different conversation than what is the end of our growth? Now, if you're going to grow the company to sell it, you're gonna have to figure out how to communicate that to your team.

But you know, if you have a balance sheet goal… you know, we've worked with companies that don't want to be $100 million. They don't want to have 400 employees;  they like their culture at 100 people. So, you know, I don't think there's ever a finish line because we don't believe in pursuing perfection. We do believe in pursuing excellence, and continuous improvement never stops.


Steve Baker  24:55  

I always like the analogy Jack uses about a house. You're always going to try to keep your house at its highest potential sale price, even if you don't plan to move, right? So the idea is to build the business to the highest level possible of value.

And so that doesn't have to be a finish line. But should there be an opportunity that's just unbelievable, then you're at your highest value at any given time.


Rich Armstrong  25:21  

Yeah, I agree that this is kind of a journey, rather than a finish. However, setting some  mile markers along the way, some goals. It kind of reminds me of SRC, with a $100 million war chest; it's a 10-year goal, a finish line that we're setting for ourselves because of a certain challenge we have in the business or an opportunity in the business. So I think setting those mile markers are smart: long-term critical numbers, short-term critical numbers, that sort of thing.


Dave Scholten  25:53  

I think it's also okay to agree on a goal. You know, I've told my kids and my wife, I'm gonna live to be 100. [Laughter.] And so that goal impacts what I'm going to do today. And so it's okay to have a finish line if you can pursue it, and it makes sense.


Steve Baker  26:14  

I was not laughing that you have that goal, because it's kind of funny, I was also going, “Okay, I'm gonna make a spreadsheet, figure out how I need to go... I just figured out that I will not be able to retire till I'm 97. So I have to be 100 to make this whole plan work.


Dave Scholten  26:29  

Can we talk for a minute about that spreadsheet, Steve?


Steve Baker  26:32  

Sure. Let's do it offline. It makes me cry. [Laughter.]


Dave Scholten  26:37  

Now, if I can I want to take 30 seconds to follow up on Jack's comment about keeping the cadence. What you measure, publish, communicate, improves. That's a psychological fact. What you measure, publish, communicate will improve. So if you build a five-year plan, and you communicate it, and you put it out so people can see it, odds are higher, you're going to do it. And if you talk about it often enough. If I'm going to tell my kids I want to get healthy and eat smart, then I post my calories and my workout on the refrigerator every day. So sometimes making a public commitment is going to apply pressure or desire to do your work.


Steve Baker  27:20  

Yep. You guys have inspired me. You made me think of something I read not long ago, in a book, and I can't remember the fellow's name. It's called, "Younger Next Year."  What's interesting is there's a term in sailing that I'd never heard of, because I'm not a sailor, and I live in Missouri. It's called kedging. The idea is, a sailor could get out in his ship and get into a dead calm; there's nothing going on. So they send a little boat out with the anchor, and they drop anchor a little bit ahead, as far away as they can, and then they kedge, they pull to the anchor.

So some companies out there right now are going, "What do I do now? What's going to happen next?" If you're in the doldrums, the dead calm, you may need to throw a kedge out there, just something you can work toward, all pulling the rope together. Is that useful at all? I'm just looking at your guys' faces. You're all kind of drifting off a little bit. 


Rich Armstrong  28:16  

[Laughter.] I'm just surprised you read some books. That's impressive.


Steve Baker  28:19  



Dave Scholten  28:21  

Cartoons and pictures.


Steve Baker  28:24  

Yeah, that's the problem. I'm a visual guy, but I listen to books.That's not working all the time. So Rich, I see there's some more stuff coming in.


Rich Armstrong  28:32

There's one in here that I think is right up Kevin Walter's expertise. There's a student who’s in change management. And he was wondering how you guys would incorporate the whole idea of resilience in the process of change and roles of change or resistance to change, commitment to change. We talk about culture change, that sort of thing. I mean, that's a big part of planning, right? It's a big part of this whole process. Any thoughts on that, on how we incorporate that?


Kevin Walter  29:06  

For us change is needed. There are three brothers that own our company, and we've been doing it for... my oldest brother is 73, so 40, 50 years. We tell our new people coming in, "You're the biggest change agent, you're the most important person over the next three months. You're gonna come in and look at processes and question them; we want you to question them. We want your feedback on what you think we do that’s stupid. Just because we've done it for five or ten years, doesn't mean it's the best way.”

And that really helps us spur change right from the get-go with new people. Another thing is we follow the Kotter 10 steps of Change model. And that seems to help. Change is all about communication. It's all about getting people on board. People support what they help create. You’ve heard that from two or all three of us today already. People support what they help create. If they're involved in the change and it's communicated well, then it's their change; it's not you forcing change on them. That's a basic principle.


Steve Baker  30:04  

I'm gonna grab one here, Rich--these are great questions, by the way, guys, keep them coming. This is from Julie: should you have different games at the same time for different groups in the company, or strive for one game that all can help achieve the end result and focus on that one game?


Jack O'Riley  30:19  

I'll take a stab at it. I think it's situational. Depending on the size of the company, if you can play a game with everyone, I think that can be pretty powerful. But many times, individual departments will be playing games. So each department could have a game going, I think the only constraint you have to worry about is if you're playing five games and the CFO has to be in every team, now you may have stretched an individual. Certainly, I think you can play multiple games. And what I do is ask clients to use their weekly huddle to monitor those to make sure they're effective.


Steve Baker  30:57  

I'd like to throw in something myself because on the road, we do a whole lot of mini- game work with organizations that have never heard of the Great Game of Business. For someone who's implementing, what I love is the fact that many games ought to be driving the big game anyway. So we're all in the big game together, and then break it down, as you said, Jack, kind of into workgroups, departments, whatever, who can contribute by driving that bigger critical number.


Rich Armstrong 31:43

Here's another good one that I don't think we've addressed directly. Here's a gentleman that's just kicked off the Great Game of Business in their organization, and they've involved their top team. But do they think they should start to include the second-line team also in the HIP process? So what dos that involvement look like? 


Dave Scholten  31:43  

First part of the answer is ask them if they want to be included. You'd be surprised that they will say yes. You know, Great Game of Business is a process and there's a structure. You know, I've done high-involvement planning with six people, I've done it with 110. If you're going to bite off 110 people, it's going to take four, five months to create your first plan. And each person is going to probably spend 30, 40 hours participating in the process.

But if that's going to offer you a return on investment of your growth, why not? The more the better. But you know, you have to be careful what you ask for; stay narrow, and stay focused, because it's hard to rally that many people to a process,


Kevin Walter  32:31  

if I could jump on that one, too. You know, there's other systems for strategic planning out there. And that's the difference with what the Game has to offer, the Great Game, is those all stop at your top level of leadership. And it doesn't involve the rest of the people. So when you involve the rest of the people, it's harnessing that wisdom of the crowd, and you get much better traction results, because people feel a part of the plan, and they're much more likely to support it.


Steve Baker  33:01  

Kevin, actually, that's a really great setup for a question I've been wanting to ask, and I wasn't sure how to shoehorn it in here. But look, everybody out there has heard of scaling up, EOS traction, Disciplines of Execution, I mean, you name it. There's so many great operating systems out there, at all different levels of sophistication. But can you tell me, Kevin, what do you see as the differences? And then I got a follow up question to this for the rest of the guys. What do you see is the difference between the Great Game operating system and the scaling up, traction, etcetera?


Kevin Walter  33:38  

What comes to mind is my initial response. Like the Popeil's Pocket Fisherman, it's all of that--and more.


Steve Baker  33:45  

And more! [Laughter.]  I mean, you already touched on a lot of it, right? I mean, the idea of involving more people, that's high involvement, but--


Kevin Walter  33:51  

And the second part of it, Steve, to drive it home is, right now, I have very little involvement in the high-involvement planning for our company. The three brothers, we office next door. The company runs itself and the last two years were our most profitable years ever.


Steve Baker  34:07  

So you had to turn people into business people.


Kevin Walter  34:10  

Getting the people involved in that plan, creates a business filled with business people that think, act, and feel like owners. You know, with those other systems, the owners are  typically involved up to their eyeballs with everything getting planned. It’s freedom, with our system.


Steve Baker  34:29  

Yeah. So that's incredible. I mean, I imagine a lot of people out there are going, "I wish I had that. But right now, I can't even breathe." But tell me this. So this is my follow up question on traction, scaling up, four Disciplines of Execution, all these. So how does Great Game dovetail? Let's say somebody just loves traction. They're doing it. How do you as a coach--and this is open for anybody--how do you see that dovetailing?


Kevin Walter  34:55  

it's an extension that drives it throughout the whole organization. We offer the same things--a vision, planning, strategy--but it involves the rest of the organization. And if it's a Great Game company, it involves a gain share or a bonus plan. I've had EOS implementers come and ask me, "Could you teach me about your bonus plan? We don't have that."


Dave Scholten  35:19  

I think what Great Game can add to the other things, again, let's approach, it's money. It's people, it's both. You know, psychology teaches us that people, when they set their own goals, they hit them. So if I'm at $50 million, and I want to get to $100 million in five years of revenue, if I asked my managers, they're going to say $120. They're going to give me a number to make me proud. I can be the hero and back it down. 

Number two, you know, they support it, because they've been involved in the process; they're going to take ownership of that plan. But you know, this is the difficulty sometimes that people try to get their head wrapped around: it doesn't matter what their goals are. If you execute, back to Jack's point and Kevin's points, if you communicate the process, you'll crush the goals. People get so focused on the goals, that they forget that we have to create a cause, and a journey and an operational plan to hit the goals. So if you do that, right, you're going to crush the goals.


Jack O'Riley  36:22  

If I could add one thing. And I don't understand those other offerings as well as the rest of you. But when I think about the Great Game, we're concerned about all employees. And quite frankly, if you're a company of 100 and there are 10 leaders, planning with 10 leaders is fairly easy, compared to a responsibility of involving all employees. So what we do--I have the Edward Deming quote: "I didn't say it would be easy, I just said it would work." [Laughter.] It does work. I mean, we can prove it over and over and over,


Steve Baker  36:54  

Dammit, Jack, make it easy! [Laughter.]


Jack O'Riley  36:57  

So we're worried about all employees and communication to everyone.


Rich Armstrong  37:02  

Well, it kind of makes me think, you know, we definitely have some fans on this podcast, that believe in those principles of transparency and involvement of their people. But we may have some people on the podcast that are not yet willing to open up that much, or they want to use some of these practices without making that full commitment. Can you provide a little advice on that--any of you--in terms of how they could get started? Because I don't want to extend an all-or-nothing type of proposition here.

3. How to get started with High-Involvement Planning.

Jack O'Riley  37:32  

We've designed a process for the situations that we're in for those that aren't planning currently, where we meet with a business owner, help him or her pick out a planning team. They pick the planning team, and we'd want to consult with them so we know who's on the team, and give them advice on how to best pick planners, and then assign homework to those people: a SWOT analysis and some other questions that we'd have.

And then [we'd] set up two probably half-day meetings to do a subset of high-involvement planning, not the full process that we've talked about, but just something to get them slightly focused for the near term--particularly those companies that don't plan and need something now. So we have that process that we can offer. Did that answer your question, Rich?


Rich Armstrong  38:25  

I think so, I think so. Definitely. Dave?


Dave Scholten  38:27  

You know, we ask clients two questions for people that want to do this. One, have you got anything to hide? You have to earn some reputation for transparency. Two, you gotta believe that the people closest to the product and closest to the customer are as smart as you. They might have ideas. But it's interesting, Rich, people that are concerned about transparency. When we implement Great Game of Business, and then we do this meeting with 100 employees, and tell them we're going to do this Great Game of Business deep and wide in the company, everybody brings a pencil because they don't want to come to a meeting. So they bring a pencil for their eye . And at the end of the meeting, when we survey those hundred people, a third say I enjoyed the financial literacy training the most, I never knew this, I could take it home. We didn't have enough time. And I can't believe the organization trusts me enough to give me this information. And so, it's a return on investment. We don't share salaries, there are some things maybe the employees don't need to work on.


Rich Armstrong  39:29  

To Jack's point, though, I mean, there are ways to step into this, right? Because, we have some business owners that when we talk about financial literacy, they're even thinking to themselves that I don't really understand the numbers yet. So for them to make a step in getting other people involved it takes a lot of courage. But are there ways that they can get involved with financial literacy, get involved with the Game with their leadership team first, rather than going full Komodo? [Laughter.] I don't know if you have any thoughts on that. Are there ways? I mean, you talked about HIP, you talked about there's a way to do that. 


Steve Baker 

They're all stuck on kimono. [Laughter.]


Rich Armstrong  40:17  

What about Great Game itself, some of the other practices you see that can be stepped into this?


Jack O'Riley  40:23  

Yeah, I think there are a lot of ways it can do that. And I'm gonna go back to the word I used earlier, it's situational. We'd have to see what we think would help them the best. And back to your comment about the owners not understanding their financials as much as they might think they do? Like 100 percent of the time, when I'm having Great Game new clients, ultimately, during the first 12 weeks, an owner will say, "I didn't know that." So there's no reason to be embarrassed, because your financials in a Great Game process are looked at under a microscope, probably for the first time. So that's a good thing when you learn some new things.


Steve Baker  41:02  

And it's a lot of growth, sometimes for leaders, I think, to realize that they may not have all the answers and have that discovery, right?


Jack O'Riley  41:10  

They don't need to have all the answers. Their team has them.


Steve Baker  41:13  

Yeah, exactly.


Rich Armstrong  41:15  

And I think your point, Jack, is that HIP can be that entry point where we're looking at the business long term, and they can kind of work toward full transparency in the future, if they feel comfortable with it.


Steve Baker  41:28  

Mm-hmmm. So Rich, there's a number of questions stacking up in the chat box. I thought I'd grab a couple, you could grab a couple. We've got one here. This is for Jack from Mark: What's the composition of the planning team? In my work, we try to make it a diagonal cross-section of the company or system--diagonal, meaning diverse functions and levels. So what's the composition of the planning team? 


Jack O'Riley  41:57  

Well, I would start with something like that. And try to include the front line, and I know Kevin and David feel the same way. And so I've had clients that start, we figure out the team, and there might be some frontline people in the planning session and we talked about confidentiality, and all of that. And then over time, that can shift. Sometimes people, as they get through a couple years of planning, you find that they're not contributing, so you change the team as you need.


Steve Baker  42:27  

Mm-hmm. Awesome. Thank you for that. And good question, also. Rich, you want to take one?


Rich Armstrong  42:34  

Yes. Steve, there's a question from John. They've been playing the Game for two years. Is it possible to effectively self-implement HIP, high involvement planning, or do you suggest a coach? Yeah, Dave.


Dave Scholten  42:48  

The answer to the question is yes, and yes. It depends what kind of person you are. If you're 50 and you want to live to be 100, you decide you're going to exercise, you can buy an exercise bike and put it in your basement, it might collect dust, you might use it. You can go to the gym and learn from other people. And depending on the type of person you are, and the type of results and how much progress you're going to have to make, if you hire a coach, they will get you where you want to go. So you can reach your peak performance. But it's hard to get there alone.


Kevin Walter  43:23  

Yeah, I agree. I think this ties into an earlier question. It’s that accountability piece, right? You might need a coach to help you get it off the ground and going, to get you in that rhythm and hold that trimester accountability or quarterly accountability, monthly, to help with that, to get in that rhythm. And then after that, it's just an annual kind of reshuffle. Now what's our outlook for five years, three years, one year?


Jack O'Riley  43:50  

I'd like to add to that. One thing a coach does, and Rich Armstrong spent several years trying to convince me of this. And it finally happened. A coach is a great connection to the community. So when you’re using a coach and we run into a particular problem, we can ask other practitioners, hey, what would you do with this? Or have you experienced this? Or can this person attend one of your huddles so I can see what's going on? And I would say I have to say 100 percent of my time, that’s every time I've asked another Great Game company if somebody can attend a huddle or if they would talk to them, they've always said yes.


Steve Baker  44:31  

I've got one from Steve; it's looking back. And it's actually a really smart audience today because a lot of the questions that Rich and I had prepared, you guys are asking in some version or another. Looking back on how many organizational efforts you've been involved in to implement Great Game, what were the reasons for failure? Kevin, you talked about leadership. You got some more? 


Kevin Walter  44:54  

I've got stats. I think I've coached about 65, 70 companies. Two were failures. In both instances, it was because leadership let the people down. They changed the rules of the Game in one instance. And in the other instance, some leaders at the top levels hadn't bought in from the get-go.


Jack O'Riley  45:12  

I've had two also in 12 years, and in one the president was let go. So there was a disagreement between the president and the owner. And in the other one, I think the client really didn't like transparency. He wanted to do some things that you can't do in a transparent company,


Steve Baker  45:32  



Dave Scholten  45:33  

So what could go wrong? I think it's important to have the end in mind. I tend to be a very driven person, so I tend to drive towards my clients or towards our companies. You know, we work with our companies to say, "What are your six month goals, and what are your three-year goals? Why are we doing this? What do you want?” And once they describe it, we put a metric on it. Then I'm gonna move like a freight train to get there. And we ask permission to push, cuz in order for you to change, you're going to have to consider doing things differently and consider being uncomfortable. 

What can go wrong? What are the symptoms of when things are going south? When people aren't being honest with you, or they're not being honest with themselves. I've literally had to practice honesty with leadership teams. We like to say that there's three "C's" that you will struggle with in implementation. You don't celebrate enough, okay? If winners win, then you have to get good at celebrating. You don't have to be a cheerleader, but are you going to celebrate the wins to make people feel good, because when they win, they win more? So celebration. Communication has to change; it has to be different. No more 400 word emails. And the other one is, don't complicate. We're trying to work on 30 things; let's just do six well. And when your company employees see that you brought in a coach, they know that you're serious. 

Some other roadblocks: lack of faith. And the future of what this is going to look like. Lack of trust: the employees are used to you saying one thing and doing another. You ever heard the saying, "What you do speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you're saying." The communication: we all have a tendency to revert back to what we used to do. So sometimes you have to let that go. And the other thing is, sometimes when we work with clients, we have employees that don't want to buy in right away; they're not ready to drink the Kool-Aid. And I think it's important that you demonstrate some patience and commitment. They'll come in, but they've got to understand your commitment.


Kevin Walter  48:03  

I like the cheerleader angle. You know, we do this, and we do a lot of this. So I like the cheerleader angle. 


Steve Baker  48:10  

I love it. 


Kevin Walter  48:11  

Celebrating those wins.


Steve Baker  48:13  

That's right. I look at you guys. You've got like, the Yoda wisdom of Jack O'Riley, the heart and soft side of Kevin Walter, and you've got the Dutch uncle of Dave Scholten. It's awesome. It's like, what a combo. So you guys are freaking me out just a little bit, because I've heard Kevin and Jack say it--Dave, you might have said it--that you've each had two failures. And it just made me realize I've had two--Rich, you know who I'm talking about. One was a family-owned company where they had a hired CEO come in, and he ended up stealing from the company. So it didn't work; it imploded. Then the other one was an organization where leadership was all in, I was going down there once a month. And in the end, they just never opened the books fully. They wanted people to do it with one arm tied behind their back. And after a while, people learned enough to know they weren't getting all the information. Thank God, I'm not the only failure on this call.


Dave Scholten  49:10  

Real quick, another another point to that, Steve. I have had two clients that I had struggles with, and Rich got involved. And we turned it around, but we had to bring the team. So two heads are better than one and Great Game's got a very deep network of talented people. I've had clients that, I'll say they misunderstand my personality.


Steve Baker  49:37  

I'm going to just point out as the facilitator/moderator/host/whatever, that we have just enough time for a couple more questions. And I would like to ask one about... look, we're just trying to survive. Is spending resources on planning now really a good idea? Anybody want to take that? Kevin, maybe?


Kevin Walter  49:59  

Dave said it up top in this podcast: we've got to come out of the bunker. We've got to start peeking out and making plans for coming out of that bunker. Right? We survived, and how are we going to make sure we survived the next three months, six months, one year, to start? Okay? How are we going to beat the competition of the marketplace, whatever the marketplace is going to look like? How are we going to anticipate what the marketplace is going to be? It used to be back when I was younger, big companies beat small companies, right? The big monsters. Nowadays, fast beats slow. If you're nimble and you're quick, and you're quick to respond to market, you can gain your market share. For us in catering, we're looking at the whole catering industry thinking it might be half of what it was just because people may not want to be in close contact in a room full of 400 people. So what's the new... what does it look like? I almost said "new normal." For us, our long-term play through all this is we kept everybody employed and we're going to come out of this faster than our competitors who shut their doors and laid everybody off. And we're going to have a bigger piece of the pie. Now, whether that's the same or more revenue than in past years, who knows? But we want a bigger piece of that pie.


Steve Baker  51:16  

Great advice. And right now, if you're listening to this podcast, you need to be thinking about what am I going to do to grab all the market share I can? Now is the time. For the next 10 years, this is the time, right? So grab it while you can. Be courageous. Rich, you want to ask that last question before we wrap up and do our final thoughts?


Rich Armstrong  51:35  

I think it's a combination question here. I would ask these guys because you guys refer to yourselves as coaches. And we've all hired consultants to help us with this stuff. Is there a difference between a coach and a consultant?


Kevin Walter  51:51  

To me, it's pretty simple. Consultants come in and tell you what to do. And coaches come in and encourage you to do the right things that you already know, but you just need to do. We're not the players on the field, but we're the coach in the dugout, kind of helping make sure to orchestrate the lineup and make sure we're covered, and maybe rearranging the defense a little bit.


Dave Scholten  52:16  

I think the difference between a coach and a consultant is just... you know, we call it the Great Game of Business for a reason. We have an athletic mindset. You want to implement the great game of business? Well, it's like you want your second grader to play soccer. First thing we're gonna do, I'm the soccer coach, you've got a second-grade son? I'm gonna teach parents how we're going to work with the kids and I'm going to teach parents how to practice with the kids. So after we decide how we're going to do this with the parents and leadership team, then we're going to get on the field with the players. No armchair quarterback, no coaching from the bench. We're on the field. We're gonna roll up our sleeves. And we will advance your athletic program as far as you want to take it.


Steve Baker  52:59  

All right, here we go. Rapid fire; this has got to be fast. Just one thing. What would each of you recommend that people listening should do in the next 90 days into the year? What's the one thing to take action? Dave?


Dave Scholten  53:13  

I would make a decision on whether you're going to be a victim to change, or whether you're going to take control and create your change. Create a learning environment. Okay? Start reading.


Steve Baker  53:24  

Beautiful, beautiful. Jack O'Riley.


Jack O'Riley  53:28  

Yeah, there are great resources here. We've talked about it this morning. Reach out. The three of us and other coaches are very passionate about business and the Great Game and helping people. If you think you've heard something that we can help with, just reach out. Don't overthink it. 


Steve Baker  53:45  

I like it. Don't complicate it. Don't overthink it. Kevin Walter, rapid fire.


Kevin Walter  53:49  

For me? Involve your people. Whether you involve us or not, involve your people. There's so much unharvested genius and knowledge and talent in your teams. And you'll be surprised what happens when you unleash that. 


Steve Baker  54:03  

Well, you guys are awesome. I want to thank each and every one of you for participating. I want to thank everybody who was sending questions in. We might have missed one or two but we'll answer those offline.

I would like to announce something new. High-involvement planning has been around for nearly 40 years now at SRC and the Great Game, but what can people do now, like right away? And so we've created, with the help of our coaches here, the high-involvement planning accelerator. And basically all you do is go to greatgame.com/accelerator, and accelerator, if you want to know, is spelled a-c-c-e-l-e-r-a-t-o-r. greatgame.com/accelerator. You can learn more about the process. It's free of charge, no obligation. You have a 30-minute coaching call with one of our coaches here and there are plenty more. A number of hours are set aside specifically for you and a coach so that you can gain alignment with your leadership team; identify priorities, measurements and an action plan; and establish your three-month and end-of-year plan in a one-page playbook. So the original call, there's no charge for that, so you can see if it's right for you, just gain the great insights and information. And once again, that's greatgame.com/accelerator. Let's keep the conversation going, you know? Send us your questions, your best practices, your wins, your victories, your challenges, all that. You're not alone. You are the backbone of the economy. We are the new teachers and we have to stand together to really make  business a force that really is going to make an impact that we want to make. So let's change the game and show the world capitalism at its best. Rich, thank you.


Rich Armstrong  55:44  

Thank you, Steve. 


Steve Baker  55:45  

Always good to see you. Coaches, thank you so much: Dave. Kevin, Jack, you're awesome. And thanks for the team behind the scenes. On the Great Game of Business, "Change the Game" podcast. Have a great weekend.

Topics: All-Star Awards, Employee Ownership, Great Game Coaching, engagement, Community

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Hosted by Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker the Change the Game podcast highlights true life stories of organizations influencing positive change by doing business differently. They’re teaching people how business works and closing the gap between the haves and have-nots. It’s capitalism at its best. Inside each episode, you’ll discover stories of entrepreneurs who are Changing the Game.

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