There are also several dozen Fortune 500 companies that have adopted the Great Game in some form, including Federal Express, General Motors, Harley-Davidson, Amoco (before its merger with BP), PepsiCo, and Alcoa. However, their experience tends to be limited to one or two semi-autonomous factories. Harley-Davidson, for example, used SRC’s Great Game course to instill workers and managers in a startup factory with a sense of the financial implications of their day-to-day decisions, and then moved on to other forms of training.
To truly emulate the SRC approach requires an overhaul of a large company’s disclosure, training, compensation, stock-option, and planning practices. And that may explain why Mr. Stack is almost invisible to many mainstream big-business people. “He is credible with entrepreneurs,” says Harvard Business School’s preeminent organizational change expert, Rosabeth Moss Kanter. “But I don’t hear his name come up in the corporate world.”
Next year may be Mr. Stack’s moment to cross that threshold. His ideas about building a family of businesses, and thus shepherding a company’s long-term profitability, may turn out to be highly relevant to corporate managers shell-shocked by turbulence, trying to build a stable but resilient base of talent.
“Here’s someone who can tell big companies how to do the thing they most want to do: to grow an entrepreneurial spirit from within,” says John Case. “They miss it because — well, because they don’t know Jack.
A remanufacturing plant looks much like a conventional assembly line operating in reverse. Discarded engines, generators, and other industrial detritus appear on the loading dock of a cavernous, noisy hall. Moving from station to station on conveyor belts or hoisted by cranes, these defunct machines are systematically stripped of bearings, cables, gears, and bolts, all with different degrees of wear and tear. The components are shunted through kilns and cleaning devices that look like airport luggage X-ray scanners, and then are replaced or recut on lathes. Ultimately a new engine or generator is assembled from the renovated parts, at a cost 70 percent or less of the cost of an entirely new replacement. Several thousand companies are engaged in this relatively hidden industry.
About a dozen such plants exist in Springfield, Missouri, under the SRC umbrella. One is ReGen, the joint venture with John Deere. Another, called Megavolt, is a joint venture with CNH Global NV, an agricultural and construction equipment manufacturer, set up to produce alternators and generators. Then there is the original Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation (SRC) plant, founded in 1983 by Jack Stack (then a manager at International Harvester) and 12 other managers when they purchased an engine-rebuilding plant owned by Harvester. That company still exists (now under the name SRC Heavy Duty), but the management has moved on to the SRC Holdings Corporation, with 50 to 100 percent equity interest in all 22 of the affiliated companies. Others include SRC Automotive (which produces passenger car engines), the Avatar Components Corporation (a maker of powertrain gear), NewStream Enterprises (a packing and shipping company), and Encore, which outsources SRC’s core remanufacturing expertise — the recrafting of old industrial equipment into fully functioning new machines
The SRC crowd has also tried, with mixed success, to develop less capital-intensive businesses. Among them are the Great Game of Business Company, which markets the SRC open-book management training; PlentyofParts.com, an Internet-based exchange of surplus goods; and The Bank, a local bank (in which SRC is only a minority shareholder) created to fill in the gap of community banking in Springfield after several local banks were acquired by out-of-state chains. Some of the SRC ideas foundered before starting, like an attempt to open a Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich restaurant, and one or two businesses have been sold