Magazine article Personnel Journal

Rules of the Game

Magazine article Personnel Journal

Rules of the Game

Article excerpt

In my family, games have always been a central activity. My father's family loves 500, a card game that features a simple bidding system and scoring that allows each team to go in the hole (or accumulate negative points). Good players, therefore, often bid contracts they know they can't make (and then drop into the hole) simply to keep the other team from winning. My grandfather was famous for invoking the family motto--"Put it to a venture"--before bidding something ludicrous.

My mother's family preferred bridge. At every major holiday (and many other weekends), they gathered together a group of close friends who would contribute to a pot luck dinner and then play cards. Those people became family, and bridge parties became the cornerstone of our visits to my grandparents.

Meanwhile, at home, my mother and her friends were mah jong junkies. They played for hours at a time, especially during the summer when they would sit around the pool alternating rounds of the game with laps in the water.

It was inevitable, I guess, that my brother and sister and I would learn to play these games, adopt favorites of our own and pass this fever to the next generation. Already, my niece likes to sit on my lap and "help" shuffle the cards or call out a bid while we play.

All this probably explains why I felt I'd found a kindred spirit in Jack Stack. Stack is president and CEO of Springfield Remanufacturing, recipient of this year's Optimas Award(TM) in the Financial Impact category. "I'm not trying to trivialize what business is all about by calling it a game," Stack says. "And it's much more than a metaphor. If you look at all the characteristics of a game and you look at all the characteristics of a business, you see that they're almost the same."

It's an apt analogy. If you have any doubts, please see Dawn Anfuso's article on Springfield beginning on page 50. In it, Stack offers a very persuasive argument in support of his perspective. But Stack puts his money where his mouth is, too--he runs Springfield as if it is a game and goes so far as to call day-to-day operations The Great Game of Business.

Of course, as Stack himself is quick to recognize, the analogy only works if everyone understands the rules and are playing on the same team. In 1995, that demands a clear understanding of corporate finance.

At Springfield Remanufacturing, getting employees to understand finance rests on an elaborate, ongoing training program called The Great Game. Details are offered in Dawn's article, but the gist of it is that employees participate in weekly meetings to review the finances and share in the profits. …

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