How boardgames made me a better business man

I'm an avid board and card gamer. I love the interaction, I love the playing... and I love the winning.

When I sit down in front of a new game, the first thing I set out to understand is the Victory Condition - what I need to do in order to win. All games have this. Once you understand this, learning the rules becomes a whole lot easier.

I remember once driving to the office after a games night, and realising the following, "If I played games the way I ran my business - I'd never win." There are a few reasons for this, not least of which is that more often than not, in an established business, we often play to not lose. The other reason for this is that in business, until you sell, or go under - there's no natural end game. This is problematic.

Stick with me a bit while I explain.

Let me ask you this. Do you know how to play Chess? Cool, now what do you have to do in order to win?

If you answered, capture the opposing King - you'd be correct.

Now, let me ask you this; if I told you that we were playing a new version of chess in which the way you win is by killing all the pawns, would you make different decisions?

Of course you would.

What if I said you win by getting a pawn to the opposing player's home row? Again, you'd make different decisions. So what do we learn from this?

It is the VICTORY CONDITION that dictates how we play the game, not the rules

Now let me ask you this, if I sat the leadership team of your company down in front of you, and asked them to write down their perception of a unified victory condition, do you think you'd get one answer? A clear, measurable, specific one?

I've ran these facilitations all over the world and I have never once had this happen. It turns out that leadership teams often confuse moving forward, with moving toward. Here’s a quick video on the importance of a shared destination:

This is what I want to remedy for you.

I want to make sure that every move made by you, or your management team is intentional. We want to give you a yardstick from which to measure tough (any) decisions we you will have to make i.e. will this help me achieve X? If yes, do it, if no... let's rethink.

We used this at Missing Link for three years, each year we had a specific Victory Condition - and it transformed our company. By hacking the success criteria, you hack the decisions you make regarding your business. We're now completely productised. We have built multi-department relationships with our clients, and we are working on changing which part of our business profit comes from. Had we carried on doing what we were doing (make more money) all we would have done is sell more stuff.

Feel like giving it a go?

The first step is simple, send a mail with the chess example above to the members management team and ask them two questions:

  • What do you think the Victory Condition of our company is this year? i.e. If we don't achieve X - we have failed. Define X.

  • What is the Victory Condition for your team specifically? Note, this must be a path to victory for the condition set above.

Make sure that the conditions are specific enough for you to measure exactly how they are doing. Winning should not be subjective eg. If someone says, I want to grow our outgoing calls significantly, that’s subjective and not great. Who’s deciding on what’s significant or not? However, If my goal was that my sales team increases their outgoing sales by 25% for the year, well then, that’s an easy one. You did it, or you didn’t.

This tool alone is a fantastic starting point for you. It will help you create meaningful discussion within your board/management team, and it will help you define that Victory Condition for your year going forward.

I hope this will be helpful for you. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Hasta la victoria siempre…!

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