Jack Stack is back in the book-writing world for the third time.
“Change the Game,” the latest book from the president and CEO of SRC Holdings Corp., is scheduled for release in January 2020.
The “game” involves open-book management, in which all employees become knowledgeable about how their job fits into a company’s financial plan and can share in the profits. Stack used the concept in leading a Springfield manufacturing plant from the verge of closure in 1983 into a multiple division corporation exceeding $600 million in revenue.
“We wrote the book about the process,” Stack said.
With a subtitle of “Saving the American Dream by Closing the Gap Between the Haves and Have-Nots,” the book contains stories of users that have implemented open-book management concepts Stack first introduced to the general public in 1993 with the publishing of “The Great Game of Business.” He co-authored that book with Bo Burlingham, an editor-at-large at Inc. magazine, as well as a second release, “A Stake in the Outcome,” in 2002.
Stack said “Change the Game” serves as a reflection on “how good the bright side of capitalism can really be if everybody is involved and participate in the big picture of the company.”
He said open-book management has success stories in many industries, including health care, nonprofit, government, manufacturing and retail. The book’s intent is to share the variety of stories from those implementing it.
“But we don’t thump our chest to do it. We try to do it in a very subtle style,” he said, noting the passages don’t include first names or locations, in order for readers to take inspiration and see themselves as a part of the story.
One of the stories involves Beth Domann, Springfield Little Theatre executive director.
In the book, he shares how Domann, a stage performer and director by trade, and her team quickly adopted the management system.
“We knew we all had to develop an accountability to the numbers, to be willing to change,” Domann is quoted as saying in the book. “It used to be easy to think that anything having to do with the numbers didn’t affect me. That all changed. We realized that without the open communication the system brought us, we could end up in hell.”
Over a 15-year period, the theater has grown its annual budget to $2 million from $450,000, according to the book.
Open-book management success is something Stack knows firsthand. He and other Springfield ReManufacturing employees in 1983 borrowed $9 million to buy from parent company International Harvester, in order to keep the business open. The management system, dubbed The Great Game of Business, was instituted that same year. Today, the company has spawned 10 subsidiaries, including The Great Game of Business Inc., which teaches the management concept. Combined, SRC’s companies today produce $640 million in revenue and employ roughly 1,800 people.
“It’s not rocket science; it’s not cutting edge,” he said of opening a company’s books. “A lot of people feel this is the right way to run a company. We came along at the right time and the right place and said, ‘It’s OK to do it and it actually works.’”
Making a plan
Book production has hit a recent snag. It was originally scheduled for release Oct. 1 by Charleston, South Carolina-based publisher Advantage Media Group. The authors have decided to take some extra time to get reader feedback at a September open-book management conference in Dallas.
However, preorders of the hardback and audiobook are being accepted via GreatGame.com, as well as through retailers Amazon and Target.
Stack said “Change the Game” has been in the plans for nearly a decade, as he and co-author Darren Dahl have had frequent conversations about The Great Game of Business’ impact on organizations and individuals. Stack said part of his inspiration came from reading “In Search of Excellence,” a best-selling business book by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. It was written in the early 1980s, at a time Stack said negativity was prevalent in business, with downsizing and thoughts the country was no longer productive and unable to compete on a global level.
He said the book took a more optimistic outlook. It’s a viewpoint that “Change the Game” shares, he added.
“It is a positive message. It’s not gray. It’s either black or white, and we live in a gray world,” Stack said. “So when you have something that is credible, it’s easy to sell.”
That perspective was conducive to a strong sales response for Stack’s first book, which has been printed in 14 languages, said Steve Baker, vice president for The Great Game of Business Inc. “The Great Game” book has sold around 400,000 copies domestically.
Stack isn’t the only author at the company.
Baker and Rich Armstrong, president of The Great Game of Business Inc., collaborated on “Get in the Game,” set for release Oct. 1. The book presents steps of implementation for Stack’s open-book management, leadership and operating system.
When the 20th anniversary edition of “The Great Game” was released in 2013, Baker and Armstrong developed a resource guide dubbed Get in the Game that accounted for the last 67 pages of the book. Now, the guide is expanded to 219 pages in hardcover.
Stack said “Get in the Game” could be considered a companion book to his. It’s a result of the Great Game’s trainers, consultants and coaches being on the road collecting research to provide a step-by-step guide on how employers can teach employees about the management system.
“This is hopefully answering questions that people might have,” Stack said of “Get in the Game,” adding the book addresses how to convince doubters.
Both books are published by Advantage Media Group, with an initial print run of 5,000 for each. The publisher also practices open-book management, Stack said, which led to the two companies connecting.
Admitting to going through a bit of author paranoia, Stack wonders if people will think the book is good or bad. He expects to get some answers at next month’s Gathering of Games, the annual open-book management conference presented by The Great Game of Business Inc. Set for Sept. 4-6 in Dallas and now in its 27th year, it’s aimed at users of The Great Game of Business, as well as those considering it.
Copies of the book will be provided to attendees, he said, with the intention of receiving reviews. Some of the feedback, be it good or bad, could make it into what he calls the “grand opening” for the book in January.
“We’re giving it away for free at the event. We then hope to make corrections after the event, if needed,” he said.
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