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Open Book Management

How to Get Open Book Management Going in Your Business

In prior installments in The Guide to Open Book Management posts, you learned what Open Book Management is, The Case for Open Book Management, whether Open Book is right for your business, the 3 Key Components of Open Book Management, and 5 Decisions to consider as you go Open Book.

In this installment, the assumption is that you’ve made the commitment to implement Open Book in your organization.  So where to start?  This downloadable checklist will help you consider the logistics and necessary steps to launch Open Book.  Do you have to do everything on the list?  Of course not!  But by checking off each box, you’re setting yourself – and your team – up to be more successful through this process.

In terms of the timing, ie: when to complete each step, that’s pretty flexible and will be different for each organization.  Here is the OBM Implementation Checklist; below you’ll find some notes about each of the steps to help you along the process. (Consider the checklist a TL;DR version!)

Implementing Open Book Management, a Step-by-Step Guide

  1. 1. Decide that you ARE going Open Book!

– This is a decision for the Leader and potentially the Leadership team, making the commitment to implement Open Book Management.

2. Write a Draft Vision of Open Book Success

– The definition of a vision here is a picture of success at a particular point in time, written with enough richness of detail that you can really picture it happening, set in the future.

– For a Vision of Open Book Success, write it as though the huddle has been happening for a while, maybe 6 months or a year after you’ve started huddling.  Include details of what a great huddle looks like in action – what is the energy in the room like?  How is the attendance?  What kind of positive results are you getting? Be detailed and descriptive, and paint a positive picture of what you want to occur.

– [Example Open Book Vision]

– [How to Write a Vision of Success]

3. Decide on the day & time for the huddle

– As there is NO perfect time for a huddle, choose a day & time when it is possible for the highest number of people to attend.

– Set a date in 6 months to re-evaluate; you can always change this in the future.

4. Get the first huddle on the calendar

– Make sure it’s on your calendar and block out the time.

– While huddles are most commonly 1 hour, your first huddle will often take about twice as long, as it includes sharing the Vision of OBM and time for feedback at the end of the huddle.

– If you’re planning to include an educational component (see “Welcome to OBM” class below), schedule that time as well.

– Reserve the room (if necessary) for the first huddle and for future huddles.

5. Invite the team to the huddle and/or schedule for it

– Especially for the first huddle, it’s helpful to make the invitation more special than simply adding the event to an employee’s calendar.  You can share the vision as a part of the invitation!

– If there are key employees or leaders that you would like to take part in the huddle, get it on their work schedule.

6. Share the draft vision and ask for feedback

– First, make sure you have the word DRAFT in big bold letters at the top of the document you’re sharing. (If it doesn’t say draft, people feel much less comfortable sharing their feedback.)

– Ask for feedback using the following two questions:
… What do you like about this vision?
… What is missing and should be added? Why?

7. Begin creating your scoreboard

– Determine whether you’ll use an electronic or physical scoreboard.

– If physical: gather your materials (1) a whiteboard, a large laminated sheet of paper, shower surround – any will work as long as you can use dry-erase markers and it easily erases (2) Tape to mark out the weeks/months and lines – typically ChartPak tape in 1/16th and 1/8th widths (3) Dry erase markers in black, blue, and green.

– Design the board, marking out your time periods.  The template below uses the 4-4-5 Accounting Convention and has one column for Forecast and/or Actual and one for Plan.

– Plot it out first!!  Before putting tape or Sharpie on the board, it’s helpful to get a yard stick and measure out the increments you’ll be using.

– If electronic, feel free to make a copy of the Template below and modify it to suit your needs.

– [Scoreboard Template]

8. Teach some version of a “Welcome to OBM” class

– This can happen at any time in the preparation for launching Open Book – ideally, it will be early enough that you’re sharing information before people need it!  In reality, there’s no perfect time.

– Contents for the class would ideally include:
… What is Open Book?  Why are we doing it?  What does it mean for you?
… Sharing the Vision of Open Book Success
… Definitions of key terms such as huddle, scoreboard, plan, forecast & actual [Glossary of Financial Terms]
… Information on the huddle roles
… How to get involved
… When the first huddle will be

9. Brainstorm potential key measures

– Start with: what is important for everyone in the business to know?  It’s helpful to get as many people involved as possible in this brainstorm, to see what they think everyone should know.  Next, identify where the areas of overlap are, and start there.  (This could happen in the Class!)

10. Finalize key measures/lines for the scoreboard & line owners for each line

– There’s no such thing as “the right lines” – start with the numbers that help you run the business, such as sales, labor, cash, service, product quality.  You can always add more lines as you go, but too many lines will slow you down.

– Use the right metrics for each line, too.  It needs to make sense – measuring labor in dollars does not tell you what you need to know, though it IS an important number – labor as a percentage of sales tells a very different story, and it’s typically better for front-line staff to be focused on.

– In terms of line owners, each line is ideally owned by someone who can influence the line.  They’re not solely responsible for delivering on the success of the line, of course, but you want someone who will be knowledgeable about the content of the line and able to get others excited about it.

11. Line-owners answer the 5 W’s for each line 

– The 5 W’s are a great way to document the crucial information about each line.

– What is the line? (be specific: Sales vs. Total Sales, etc.)

– Who owns it? (Name(s) of line-owner)

– Where does the information come from? (Register receipts?  Accounting software?  A specific spreadsheet? Are there multiple sources?  If this is clearly defined, it makes it a LOT easier for someone else to step up as a proxy or future line-owner, because they can find the information needed.)

– What is the calculation? (Even if the calculation isn’t strictly necessary because it comes from a spreadsheet that is doing the calculating for you, it’s crucial that folks know how to calculate their number. So Labor % is “Total Dollars spent on Labor divided by Total Sales for the week, multiplied by 100.”

– Why is this line important? (Specifically, why is it important to the success of the business?  How is it a measure of success?  ** If the line-owner isn’t able to answer this question, it might not be the right line!  Or, they might not be the right line-owner.)

12. Determine huddle roles (Facilitator, Note-taker, Time-keeper, etc.)

– Huddles function much like other meetings, which means they benefit from structure and clear roles!  Even in the smallest team, it’s helpful to identify who will play the following roles:

Facilitator: this role is about the functional running of the huddle.  The Facilitator will work to keep the group on track and using the agenda and make sure everyone has a chance to participate in the meeting.

Leader: this role is about the content of the meeting – if a final decision is needed, the Leader is who everyone will turn to.  A great huddle Leader is asking more questions than they answer, soliciting input and participation from the team.

13. Revise the OBM Vision, factoring in the feedback you’ve heard so far

– Now is time to re-read your vision that you wrote way back in step 2!  Knowing what you know now, is there anything that you’d like to add or edit?

– A word on feedback.  When you shared the vision earlier, you asked for feedback – now is when you factor it in. Of course, you don’t HAVE to include or change anything that you heard!  But if there are themes among the feedback, it will help you strengthen your vision to incorporate some of that feedback – and it will also increase buy-in for those who shared their thoughts when they see their additions or suggestions in the next draft.  

14. The Facilitator & Leader work together to create an agenda for the huddle

– Often huddles use a standing agenda that will be the same every week, such as the one here.  [Sample Huddle Agenda]

– For the first huddle, the timing will be different, adding time in the beginning for a reading of the vision and time for feedback, time for each line-owner to verbally answer the 5 W’s for their line, and time at the end for feedback.  Typically, the inaugural huddle will take about 2 hours instead of 1 hour.

15. Note-taker creates Huddle Notes Template 

– Creating a Notes Template saves the Note-taker from having to reinvent the wheel each week!

– Leave room in the Notes for each agenda item as well as listing each line individually to capture the highlights.

– Notes are not the same as minutes – it’s capturing the information that is necessary for those who aren’t at the huddle to know as well as recording decisions, to-do’s, other highlights.

– [Huddle Notes Template]

16. Note-taker creates Huddle Notes for the first huddle (don’t overwrite the template!)

– Once the template is ready to go (Google Docs highly recommended for this), make a copy of the Doc and save it with the date of the huddle in the title of the Doc.  

– Creating a shared folder for Huddle Notes is also a great idea. 

17. Populate the scoreboard with Plan, Forecast, & Actual numbers

– First, determine to what degree of rounding you’ll use.  Will you include cents on the board (not recommended – it takes up a lot of space!)  Will you round to a thousand?  ($40,000 is “40”, for example)  Make a note of these decisions.

– Then start filling in the numbers!  Further out into the future, the Plan and Forecast numbers will likely be pretty close together if not the same (you don’t have more information to update the forecast yet.) 

– If a line is new and hasn’t been measured yet, there won’t be a ready-to-go plan – the line-owner will essentially get to make it up!  But you will want to have some numbers for each line, even knowing that they’re not likely to be accurate.

– Creating a shared time for this is a great way to get folks together to answer each other’s questions and for you as the leader to coach on where to find information and how to fill out the board.

18. Hold your first huddle!

– This is the culmination of all the work you’ve done so far!  It’s okay to not feel ready – no one expects you to have all the answers or be perfect at it, you’re all learning together.

– Kick off the first huddle by sharing your excitement and enthusiasm for the Open Book work then hand it off to the Facilitator to lead the meeting.

– It will be common that people will want to pause to parse how the process is working, and ask questions of clarification.  As much as possible, try to let the facilitator take the lead and work to follow the agenda.

19. Debrief with the team by reviewing the Liked Best / Next Time

– Immediately following your first huddle, ask everyone in the room to take a moment and think about what they liked best about the huddle and one or two things that they might want to do differently the next time.

– Capture the feedback either in the Notes Doc or on a flipchart page, then use the information to improve your huddle in future weeks.

– [Check out this LB/NT webinar!] 

20. Send out the notes from the huddle

– Within a day or two, the Note-taker will publish the Notes – usually this takes the form of an email to the whole staff or department, or it can be physically printed out and posted in a common area (or both!)

– For those who didn’t attend, perhaps send them a separate email encouraging them to read the notes and ask questions, and come to a huddle in the future.

21. Give yourselves a bunch of high 5’s and celebrate!

– All too often, this step gets skipped!  But you just put in a lot of work to get to this point, so pause for a moment, reflect on all you’ve accomplished, and give each other a great big high 5!

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed – you’re not alone!  This checklist is a resource, meant to be tackled over many weeks with lots of different people involved.  If you can pace yourself, get a couple of champions to help you with the most logistically challenging items, and give yourself some space to continue to learn, you’ll be in great shape!

Where to learn more:

Intro to Open Book Management Workshop (Half Day Workshop)

Want help with implementation?  We can help!  We’ve led many organizations through getting Open Book going in their businesses both in person and virtually.