Culture & Competency

On Working Transparently

Jessica contemplates the idea that greater transparency in the organization will result in rudderlessness:

Managers may worry that employees won’t know where to focus with information about so many initiatives washing over them. Command and control ensures coordinated action on limited priorities. Without strong, top-down signals about what to work on, your company will be like a ship without a rudder.

This fear may sound plausible, but it ignores the reality that in the current high-tech, fast-paced business environment, organizations that have the agility of an old Spanish galleon with a single crafty sea dog (and maybe a few trusty mates) at the helm are probably going to get sunk.

“Social tools provide a tremendous amount of freedom of movement of ideas and information,” Salesforce executive John Wookey explained earlier this year. “The workforce is more dynamic, meaning it moves across projects more quickly. The ability to quickly align around goals and what you want to get done is important.”

Letting information flow up, down and across the organization allows less biased feedback to reach decision makers, ensures that teams aren’t working at cross-purposes or duplicating work, and enables more rapid adjustments when the competitive environment changes. Operational models that are less flexible and transparent “have become increasingly stressed as companies get more global and as the market moves faster,” according to Wookey.

Transparency may explode the metaphorical rudder, but only to replace it with a more advanced system that sensitively relays feedback about the course you’re on and allows agile adjustments – more modern heat-seeking missile than slow-moving imperial warship.

Read more: Busting the two biggest fears about working transparently

Michael’s Comments
1. I’ve always loved the comment by Martin White – “Collaboration tools show work-in-progress; that there is no work, and there is no progress.” I say it often during workshops, for a bit of fun. But … clearly if that dynamic is really playing out at your firm, you have a much bigger problem to deal with – and is likely to involve firing some current employees and hiring employees that show diligence, dedication, and aren’t afraid to work hard. Transparency has a role in here too.

2. I like the emphasis Jessica takes in her blog post – that transparency isn’t something that’s just demanded of employees by managers, but equally / more so that transparency is from the top.

Categories: Culture & Competency