Brief history

Open-book management hit the headlines about 20 years ago…

Jack Stack, a pioneer of the idea, was giving a speech at a national conference on labor relations. The conference was presided over by then-president Bill Clinton. Stack used the term open-book management in his talk. Clinton said later:

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4-bill-clinton-1348866409“…and the phrase…that made the biggest impression on me here was “open-book management.” If we could do nothing other than convince people that somehow the only way to get everybody on the same team is to give them the same information, the same capacity to evaluate the information, I think that would be a terrific thing.”

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The idea itself had already been around for a few years. Inc. magazine published an article called “The Open-Book Managers” in 1989, the first time anybody used the term. Stack’s company, Springfield ReManufacturing Corp. (now SRC Holdings), was held up as a model by Inc. and many other media outlets. Books began to be published about open-book management (see Resources). Scores of magazines and newspapers ran articles.

As the publicity grew, more and more companies—most of them small and midsized, though not all—began to develop their own forms of open-book management. Here’s what a few of their leaders said about it back then:

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“When employees understand the economics of business, they feel, think, and act like owners.”

—Jim Schreiber, VP and corporate controller, Herman Miller

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“Our commitment to open-book management is unwavering. It’s the key to our competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

—Leslie Fishbein, president, Kacey Fine Furniture

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“It allowed us to involve all our associates in the previously mystical world of financials. Now our people know what’s at stake—and how they can make a real impact on the numbers.”

—John D. Callahan, president, Allstate Business Insurance

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“By opening the books and sharing financial information—both the good and the bad—we found that employees spend less time worrying about job security and more time helping the company grow and be profitable.”

—Emma Lou Brent, president, Phelps County Bank

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Today, open-book companies are everywhere

Over the past 20 years, open-book management has developed and changed. SRC continues to grow and prosper, and to spread the open-book word through its subsidiary, the Great Game of Business. The many other companies that have practiced open-book management for some time now take it for granted.

CEO Marcus Boggs of CEA Technologies told the Colorado Springs Gazette in 2012:.

“Employees know how the company is doing. There’s a lot of clapping and back-slapping when we meet our goals. We have very low turnover and I would estimate at least half of the employees in Colorado Springs have been with the company at least ten years.”

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And the beat goes on…

economistThe Economist reported in 2012 that about 4,000 companies worldwide have adopted open-book ideas.

In 2013 HR magazine profiled open-book companies Sun Design Remodeling Specialists and Central States Manufacturing.

Inc. often highlights open-book companies, such CleanScapes in Seattle. In 2014 columnist Eric Holtzclaw wrote about his open-book journey. “Results are amazing,” he says.

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Learn more about OBM

Three key elements                         FAQs                               Resources                           Coaching

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Ready to get started?

The principals of Open-Book Coaching have worked with close to 400 companies over the past 20 years, helping them develop a systematic approach to open-book management. Contact us for more information about how we can help you. Or, drop us a line using the contact form below.

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