Understanding the Rules of the Game

By Jeri T Dennston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   11/8/2012

Takeaways: Understanding the rules of the game and making the game fun for everyone encourages staff participation, buy-in, and stay-in. Bosses have to play the game, too.

This is part 3 of my review of some concepts Michael Gerber shares in his book, The E-Myth.

Previously, I mentioned that the key to ensuring your staff performs the way you expect is to set up a Game that exemplifies the values and behavior you expect. I said that YOU as the owner and Boss must first ACT and MODEL the behavior you want your staff to exhibit.

Gerber goes on to list what he calls The Rules of the Game: Michael Gerber and The E-Myth Revisited

  1. Never figure out what you want your people to do and then create a game out of it. IF it’s to be seen as serious, the game has to come first.
  2. Never create a game for your people that you’re unwilling to play yourself. They’ll never let you forget it.
  3. Make sure there are specific ways of winning the game without ending it. The game can never end or it will take the life out of your business. But there must be victories in the process which are celebrated, to keep your staff engaged and to make the game appealing.
  4. Change the game from time to time – the tactics, NOT the strategy. The strategy is its ethics, the moral underpinning of your game’s logic. Watch your people. Their results will tell you when the game’s all but over and it’s time to change. The trick is to anticipate the end BEFORE anyone else does, and change it by executive action. Persist even when you get push back at first. Your persistence will move them through their resistance into a more lively game.
  5. Never expect the game to be self-sustaining. People do what you INSPECT, not what you EXPECT. They must be reminded often. At least once a week create a meeting about the Game. Once a day, make an issue about an exception to the way the game has been played and make certain everyone knows about it. Remind your staff often about the Game they’re playing with you.
  6. The game has to make sense. An illogical game will die before it ever gets off the starting blocks. It has to be built around universal truths that everyone can see and understand.
  7. The game needs to be fun from time to time. Plan the fun into your Game. Most games are NOT fun, so the challenge is learning how to deal with the “not fun” parts of the game so you retain your dignity while making mistakes. Fun needs to be defined by your people, so get them involved in making it Fun, something they look forward to.
  8. If you can’t think of a good game, steal one. Anyone’s ideas are as good as your own. But if you steal someone else’s game, learn it by heart, and, if necessary, give them credit.

In the case of the Hotel Venetia, the Game was about giving people what they want, listening to the needs of the customer and figuring out how to deliver those. That created the purpose behind the values or standards to live by.  What’s missing in many businesses is a sense of community and relationships. People want to connect with one another. By turning your business into a community where words like integrity, commitment, vision and excellence actually have meaning, you create a Game worth playing.

In the next article I’ll explore how you Play the Game.

Make Strategic Management a Game

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International    11-8-2012

Takeaways: Think of fun, creative ways to engage your staff. Turn your strategic management system into a game everyone wants to play. It’s critical that the boss both communicate AND model the behavior he/she expects of everyone else.

The EMyth Revisted: strategic management as a gameIn August, I related a story Michael Gerber told in his book, The E-Myth, which described the unique experience he had (and continues to have) at the Venetia Hotel in the Redwoods outside San Francisco.

You may recall, the hotel went out of their way to make his experience memorable by anticipating his needs, including a brandy waiting for him before he turned in for the night, the brand of coffee he likes, and the newspaper he prefers to read in the morning. They had installed a strategic management system that anyone could follow.

Make Your Strategic Management System A Game

The question was “How did the hotel get the staff to actually follow the system?”  This is key. Many companies have policies and “systems” they’ve instituted but no one follows them. First, the owner took the business seriously – he viewed the hotel as a reflection of his personal values and who he was. Thus, if a staff person didn’t take their job seriously, it reflected on the entire operation.

He told the manager when he was hired, “The work we do is a reflection of who we are. If we do sloppy work, it’s because we’re sloppy inside. If we’re late at it, it’s because we’re late inside. If we’re bored by it, it’s because we’re bored with ourselves, not the work. How we do our work becomes a mirror of who and how we are inside.”

He continued, “Work is only an idea before a person does it. But the moment a person does the work, the impact of the work on the world becomes a reflection of that idea – the idea behind the work – as well as the person doing it. In the process, the work you do becomes you, and you become the force that breaths life in to the idea.”

The point being made is that the boss, the owner, took the time to explain the purpose behind the work that each person does in the hotel, broken down into three thoughts:

1 – the customer is not always right but whether or not he is, it is our job to make him feel that way.

2 – everyone who works here is expected to work toward being the best they can possibly be at the tasks he or she is accountable for.

3 – the business is a place where everything we know how to do is tested by what we don’t know how to do, and that the conflict between the two is what creates growth and meaning.

Define Structure. Make it Fun.

The boss took the time to create a clearly defined strategic management structure based on how to behave in the world – a values system – through which the staff can test themselves and be tested. For all intents and purposes, he made this People Strategy a game.

The game symbolizes the idea the owner has about the world and his/or her contribution to that idea. The degree to which your staff “buy into” playing the game depends entirely on how well you communicate AND EXEMPLIFY your idea, your value system to them. You do this through new staff orientations, an Operations Manual, your organization chart, job descriptions, and written Performance Appraisals.

But most of all the owner or “boss” communicates this through his or her own performance and actions. It has to be seen and experienced before the staff will voluntarily perform in a similar manner.

In the next article I’ll share Gerber’s Rules of the Game. In the meantime, think about how you model your expectations of your own staff. Are you living and acting the values and behavior you expect of them?

Understanding Change as a Game We Play

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International 

 Takeaways:  Change is one of many games we humans play.  Games have similar characteristics, including purpose, rules, time boundaries, spatial parameters, roles, and prizes.

Leadingat the Edge of ChaosIn his book, Leading at the Edge of Chaos: How to Create the Nimble Organization, Daryl R. Connor describes change management as yet one of many games humans play. All our games, he says, have certain characteristics in common:

  •  Purpose – they all have a point regardless of whether they are frivolous or serious.
  • Rules – they all have explicit or implicit directions for how to play. Implicit may be the unspoken rules around friendship, for example.
  • Time boundaries – some are brief and others take a long time. Personal development, for example, is a life-long process.
  • Spatial parameters – some games are played in a small physical space, such as your computer, or in a large workspace, like offices or the global marketplace
  • Prizes – all games have rewards of one kind or another, whether it’s a promotion and salary increase or a ranking as winner
  • Intensity – some games are fun; others serious, such as competing for a hard-get customer
  • Emotional reactions – some games are pleasurable, such as achieving financial success, or mere obligations, such as paying taxes.
  • Prescribed number of players – some games are played with older or younger people, or they may be solitary, such as meditation or prayer.
  • Intentionality – participation in some games is conscious, such as dating, while in others it may be totally unconscious, such as intimidating coworkers.
  • Language – most games use terms or symbols to convey specific meanings that are only relevant within a specific context, such as might be created when a team comes together to focus on an innovative new product or idea.
  • Roles – most games include roles everyone plays; there’s always a leader and other types of participants, such as spectators, rookies, experts, or artists.

Managing Change

If we look at managing change from the perspective of gamesmanship, we see that this is just another game we play, and it incorporates all the elements described above. As the pace of change continues to increase, organizations find they must be continually changing to keep up or stay ahead of the competition. This requires leaders at all levels who are nimble and understand how to play this game.

Because businesses and organizations of all types are continually changing and have been doing so “for as long we humans have been building hierarchical structures”, says Connor, the game of managing change has become more and more sophisticated. A new paradigm has been born that forces us to look at this managing change game from a new perspective.

According to Connor, paradigms are created as a response to people trying to make sense of the world around them. So as the world has continued to change and humans try to understand the implications of these changes, new questions and challenges arise, creating a new paradigm.

Ten years ago, for example, few people anticipated the impact the smart phone would have on daily lives. Yet society globally has become more and more mobile, and people are doing more shopping and internet browsing from their phones rather than their desktop computers. This has, and will continue to create, dramatic implications for businesses of all types. It has implications for broadband service providers and cable companies. It has implications for organizations selling their products and services online. It has implications for retailers with physical store locations as shoppers scan QR and bar codes in the store to find better pricing elsewhere.

Yet, despite this consumer trend, fewer than 5% of all websites today are mobile phone friendly, let alone tablet friendly. This is a new paradigm shift in the global marketplace game.

As leaders we need to stay abreast of these trends and consider the implications they have for our own businesses. Are we still trying to use the old set of rules to play in this new sandbox? Or are we adapting and changing the rules of the game to meet these new challenges?

Mobile smart phones and tablets have altered the global marketplace. What are you doing to meet this new challenge in order to play in this new game space?