Friday, June 08, 2007

Transparency and and values

The news today of reserach by Dr Brad Rawlins of Brigham Young University's Department of Communication, as reported in Internal Coms hub showing a link between corporate openness and employees' belief in the companies they work for should come as no surprise.

On the other hand it does have wide implications.

Transparency is not a nice to have. It does need strategic consideration in its implementation.

The first thing to note is that transparency is the enemy of hype, hyperbole, spin and bling. Making the values systems of an organisation transparent is perhaps the first step and then making a clean breast of the values the organisation can honestly support for its products, services and brands is next in line.

As part of the strategic decision making package what should be openly transparent (radical transparency) is a big question for the organisation. Indeed explication what should not be transparent and why is also important and part of the transparency package.

I remember when a company I was working for was taking over its competitors at the rate of one per year, journalists would spend a lot of time trying to find out who was to be the next target. My response was that it would be unfair on all parties to disclose the M&A thinking of my organisation but that if a suitable opportunity arose we would take it. I disclosed the extent and limitations that the organisation was prepared to go to in its efforts to be transparent.

Part of this was internal communications with just about every employee singing the same song partly because it was the habit of managers to tour the factories and store rooms with visitors from bankers to customers, school kids and journalists and where visitors could freely hold conversations with all employees (incidentally, the best press spokesperson for a company is a line fitter on a production line - earthy or what!).

So, in thinking about transparency, one might think of bloggers in companies or employees blogging (Porosity); Microsoft's Channel 9; IBM and other organisations.

What we are seeing a strategy that is taking organisations closer to radical transparency set in a communications setting. The values of the organisation are available to all (as well as a mass of Intellectual Property). It offers people with similar (convergent) values to make a contribution and helps motivate them.

The alternatives to transparency are not very pleasant and range from uncontrolled disintermediation to low productivity with associated loss of competitiveness.