Update Employees: Why It Matters & How to Do It

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Great Game of Business" by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why is it important to update employees? How should you keep employees in the loop?

If your employees don’t know what’s going on at your company, it could harm your business. In The Great Game of Business, Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham note that employees need a constant flow of information.

Find out how to update employees to keep them aligned with your goals.

Update Employees

A company’s goals and numbers are always in motion as it adjusts policies, tries new manufacturing or marketing techniques, and adapts to any changes in the market. If employees make decisions using outdated information, they can harm the company, meaning it fails to meet its goals and may stagnate or even collapse. This is why it’s important to always update employees.

For example, let’s say last year, a car company focused on making as many types of cars as possible to keep up with customer demand. However, over time, the market shifts as customers decide they want higher-quality cars, rather than a greater number of options. To keep up with the market, the company has to shift its focus to improving the quality of just a few of its cars. However, if employees only have access to information about last year’s goals and policies, they won’t realize this shift has occurred. They’ll continue manufacturing as many types of cars as possible, leaving the company stagnant and failing in the wake of a changing market.

(Shortform note: Having a constant flow of updated information is arguably important because it encourages employees to develop a flexible mindset. This is an important trait for modern companies because, as Stack and Burlingham allude to, the modern market is constantly shifting—likely due to rapidly updating technology. To survive in this environment, leaders need to view their companies as constantly evolving, rather than as static entities undergoing temporary changes. By continually sharing information, companies equip their employees to evolve with the company, instead of being left behind.)

To mitigate the risks of employees having outdated information, the authors recommend creating a schedule of regular staff meetings to keep everyone updated on the company’s evolving status. These meetings should be frequent enough that everyone in the company remains informed. Stack and his management team met once a week to discuss the company’s progress toward its annual goals, and managers scheduled meetings with their subordinates in turn. This short time frame kept everyone informed and let them adjust their plans and strategies in real-time.

(Shortform note: Stack and Burlingham recommend holding weekly staff meetings to keep everyone updated on the company’s overall progress, but some experts argue that some types of updates call for meetings of different frequencies. They say weekly meetings are primarily suited to short-term updates and day-to-day issues, monthly meetings to managerial or departmental meetings, and quarterly meetings to the company’s larger goals and progress.)

Posters, scoreboards, and charts are valuable tools for keeping employees updated, Stack and Burlingham add. These provide a clear visual of the company’s current status and what employees must do to meet their goals.

(Shortform note: This is called a visual management system, and it caters to humanity’s natural affinity for processing information visually. Humans can process colors, shapes, and pictures faster and more accurately than words. These systems are used in many industries. The most well-known is likely traffic control: Every driver in the US knows a red octagon means “stop”, while a double yellow line means “do not cross”.)

Update Employees: Why It Matters & How to Do It

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham's "The Great Game of Business" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Great Game of Business summary:

  • The best and most efficient way to create a successful business
  • Why employees should see the company as theirs rather than just somewhere they work
  • The principles of fostering employee ownership

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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