Focus on the Critical Number

The Critical Number is at the Heart of The Great Game of Business

Right now, there is at least one financial or operational number in your company, something right at the heart of your business, that if improved in the short term would have a dramatic effect on your business. Does every single person in your organization understand how important that number is?

The Critical Number defines winning. It rallies people around a common goal and provides a focus on what’s most important and critical to the company’s success. When the Critical Number is correctly identified, targeted, and tied to a reward, the rules of The Game have been set. The Critical Number becomes the focus of The Game.

Our classic definition of the Critical Number is “an operational or financial number that represents a weakness or vulnerability that if not addressed and corrected will negatively impact the overall performance and long-term security of the business.”

Think of it as your “one thing”—the one thing that at any given time is going to have the greatest impact on your business. The one thing you must improve to succeed and that clearly defines winning!




Evolve Your Business

Your business is in constant change. Therefore, your Critical Number should change with it. The right number for your business could depend on many different factors related to current financial issues, market conditions, operational challenges, and growth goals. That means that your business might need to choose a new Critical Number each year.

At our parent company, SRC, and The Great Game of Business, we often have two Critical Numbers. One relates to profitability, and the other is strategic. It changes from year to year, depending on the particular weakness we see in the company.

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It Is What It Is


The Critical Number is the Critical Number. Don’t fall into the trap of attempting to pick a number that everyone directly influences in the hopes of involvement and more engagement. We actually see this a lot.

For example, many companies quickly jump to profit in an effort to connect everyone to the Critical Number. They argue that it’s the fastest way to get everyone in The Game because everyone can impact profit in some way. This is all true, and they make a good point. In fact, most of the first-year Great Game practitioners will often just stick with profit as their first Critical Number. We are not debating that this may be a good place to start.

However, as you grow as a Great Game of Business practitioner, you want your people focused on what will strengthen the company first. If that’s profit, great. If it is something else that becomes critical, then don’t hesitate to give that challenge to your people and let
them fix it. In fact, many long-term Great Game practitioners choose profit as one of two Critical Numbers. The second Critical Number is the weakness they are trying to eliminate. 

The ultimate objective is to identify what is absolutely critical to success—what clearly defines winning for the company at any given time.

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