Why not use open-book management to inspire peak performance during crunch times? It works. And unlike a lot of motivational efforts, it rarely provokes a backlash of cynicism. When the books are open, employees can understand both what's at stake and what has to be done.

Consider the situation at Omega Point Labs, based in Elmendorf, Tex., a fast-growing fire-testing laboratory. At the close of February a few years back, says accounting/systems specialist David Robbins, Omega wasn't close to its profit and current-ratio targets, which also happen to determine employees' bonuses. In March, however, they pulled the quarter out.

The secret? Employees could understand how the company makes money. Omega tests building materials, furniture, and the like for flammability. But from a production standpoint, explains Robbins, "all we ever generate is a report. There's no revenue until we write the report and send it out the door." That March, everyone knew that the company's #1 priority was to catch up on those backlogged reports. "We had employees staying until 7:30 one night, sitting on the floor and getting the reports together. I had a date by which I had to have billing memos in, and they stayed late cranking them out.

"Next morning I put them all in as invoiced, and they wanted to know how we did.We made the profit goal with only 0.12% to spare. On the current ratio, wewere well above the target. We closed up shop at 4:00 the day the bonuseswere handed out and bought chips and salsa and beer. They thought that waspretty cool."

Copyright 1999 Open-Book Management Inc.