The Great Game of Business is a game you might want to play

Updated 3/17/2014 5:16 AM

The Great Game of Business really isn't a game. Based on principles developed by Jack Stack in a desperate (and successful) attempt to turn around a failing International Harvester remanufacturing facility he and 12 other managers and supervisors had purchased in Springfield, Mo., GGOB is the logical next step to Open Book Management.

The GGOB, however, goes light years beyond basic OBM precepts.


Among the things to know:

• GGOB is about profits and culture, changing one to build the other.

• The Game works for businesses our size. Ask Dave LeVan, CEO, Advantax Group LLC, a 22-employee St. Charles company that conducts property tax reviews and analyses for companies across the country. Or ask Dave Haimbaugh, whose 58-employee Induction Heat Treating Corp. hardens steel for businesses in nearly any industry.

Haimbaugh is president of Crystal Lake-based IHT -- and quick to credit Kelly Ciskowski, sales and customer relations, as the first to realize what the Great Game could do for their company.

• The Game fosters "bottom-up innovation," says Kevin Walter, partner and chief procurement officer at Tasty Catering, Elk Grove Village, and a Great Game coach. "There's a direct line of sight to how an employee's action impacts the numbers."

The numbers matter because employees share the company's financial success, a notion central to the Game. The process, Walter says, "makes employees think and act like an owner, especially when employees realize that they -- the people on the floor -- are the ones who actually create the numbers."

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To put context around LeVan's and Haimbaugh's GGOB experiences -- which they share in next week's column -- you should do some homework:

• Read a copy of Stack's book, "The Great Game of Business." It's an easy read.

I got a copy from the library. Your book store should be able to help. Amazon has copies. Walter likely can direct you to a source.

• Poke around

• Talk to Tasty Catering's Walter. He's a GGOB practitioner as well as a coach.

The GGOB story begins in 1979, when Stack, at the tender age of 30, was given the reins of the Springfield Renew Corp., a dying IH unit that mostly remanufactured truck engines. By the time Stack put his ideas into a book in 1992, the company had grown from 119 to 650 people.

More impressive: The company lost $60,488 in 1983, the year Stack and his team bought the business, but by 1986 had pretax earnings of $2.7 million. According to the website, what has evolved into SRC Holdings Corp. has, since '83, started, acquired and owned more than 60 businesses -- including The Great Game of Business, Inc.


Although the circumstances are very different -- there's no desperation at Advantax or IHT -- the basic processes that made SRC a going concern are working today at Advantax and IHT.

That's next week's tale.

• 2014 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter, and at Kendall Communications on Facebook. Write him at

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