Industry Insights

Key Takeaways from the Gathering of Games

October 2015
Authors:  Gary Schafer

Gary Schafer

Partner

Audit

Manufacturing & Distribution
Other

910 E. St. Louis Street, Suite 200
P.O. Box 1190
Springfield, MO 65801-1190 (65806)

Springfield
417.865.8701

, Tim Chitwood

Tim Chitwood

Director

Audit

Health Care
Manufacturing & Distribution
Other

910 E. St. Louis Street, Suite 200
P.O. Box 1190
Springfield, MO 65801-1190 (65806)

Springfield
417.865.8701

 & Matt Cash

Matt Cash

Director

Audit

Construction & Real Estate
Not-for-Profit & Government

910 E. St. Louis Street, Suite 200
P.O. Box 1190
Springfield, MO 65801-1190 (65806)

Springfield
417.865.8701

BKD, LLP returned as a sponsor of the 23rd annual Gathering of Games, the world’s largest conference on open-book management. Based on the teachings of the Great Game of Business (GGOB), the theme of this year’s gathering was “Harnessing the Wisdom of the Crowd.”

The positive and enthusiastic energy of gathering participants is like no other conference. More than 500 people attended, representing approximately 190 companies ranging from a large publicly traded company to a not-for-profit health system to a county government to small family-owned companies. The mix of repeat attendees and newcomers all were eager to investigate open-book management or improve how their companies play the “great game.”

The main conference kicked off with keynote speaker James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds. The takeaway from his presentation was the crowd is smarter than any single person. His evidence suggests harnessing the knowledge and ideas of the group as a whole generally leads to better decisions and, ultimately, more successful companies.

Of the 36 total education sessions, the majority of topics covered the three principles of the Great Game of Business philosophy:  

  • Know and teach the rules
  • Follow the action and keep score
  • Provide a stake in the outcome

Presentations included information on how to identify a company’s key drivers or “critical numbers,” which should correlate with the focus of management’s time and energy. The importance of an organization’s culture and management’s focus on the development and communication of that culture works alongside the transparency of the numbers to create a dynamic organization.

A primary goal of open-book management is to develop a culture of owners. One presentation covered the role employee stock ownership plans (ESOP) can play in developing a culture of owners and providing tax savings to a company, while another focused on alternatives to the ESOP model to incentivize employees using stock options, phantom stock or other methods.

Smaller group breakout sessions throughout the conference allowed participants to interact with one another in facilitated roundtable discussions to drill into the game’s various elements. 

The All-Star Reception & Ceremony honored participant companies as Rookie of the Year, All-Stars, Pioneer and Hall of Fame inductees. Great Game of Business author Jack Stack spoke about each of the award-winning companies.

The closing keynote address was delivered by Verne Harnish, author of numerous books including Scaling Up:  How a Few Companies Make It … and Why the Rest Don’t. Conference participants received a copy of this book, and Harnish’s presentation focused on “growth tools” for scaling up a business.

Here are five key takeaways from the conference:

  • The more open the books, the greater the employee engagement—as long as there’s a stake in the outcome.
  • Focus 20 percent of your time on the past and 80 percent on the future.
  • Focusing on company culture and helping individuals succeed leads to company success.
  • Shifting demographics in virtually all organizations are changing the way employees are engaged.
  • Open-book management may be applied very differently among different enterprises, but when executed effectively, it leads to better engagement and improved results.

For more information, visit the GGOB website or contact your BKD advisor.

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