Corporate Secrecy and Transparency

Today has been a long and busy day. I haven’t had a chance to write until now. And, it’s late, so I am simply going to point you to a provocative article on corporate transparency that ran in the March Issue of Wired magazine. It is called The See-Through CEO by Clive Thompson. (Thanks to Michael Gamma for bringing this article to my attention.)

Fish Bowl

Don’t dismiss this article because you’re not a CEO. Thompson’s observations and insights apply to everyone in leadership today. He says,

Transparency is a judo move. Your customers are going to poke around in your business anyway, and your workers are going to blab about internal info—so why not make it work for you by turning everyone into a partner in the process and inviting them to do so?

This is an article definitely worth pondering and perhaps even discussing with your colleagues.

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/PeteNikolai Pete Nikolai

    First an operational issue on this posting: Since it does not have a link for a page specifically on the posting, it was a bit confusing as to how to post a comment. I’m here now, but it is not consistent with other postings…

    Now for the comment:
    The article is exciting and scary at the same time. I am an executive at Thomas Nelson and my boss’ boss is the author of this blog. So I am torn at times as to how much of this 2.0 stuff really is allowed. Sure we want to be open and transparent when it helps our business. And it is probably okay to expose your own weaknesses and mistakes. But is it really okay to point out the weaknesses and mistakes of the company and/or other executives? That is the edge of the cliff.

    Where are the areas where Thomas Nelson needs to be more transparent? One example that has come to light recently is our use of SharePoint (collaboration software from Microsoft). We do not make our SharePoint homepage accessible to employees because it has links to confidential information on it. So employees don’t know what information is available on SharePoint. And it appears that non-employees have no access to our SharePoint site at all…

    Now the IT team is considering how to open this up and probably will in the near future. But things need to be built from day one with transparency as a higher priority than secrecy and that will take a cultural change from the top down. Information is perceived to be power and some folks just don’t want to share the little bit of power they have left in this world. Once that is gone, all that is left is performance, relationships, and contracts–and contracts seem to be losing their power in an age where Google and others are allowed to take what they want…

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Pete,

    I’m not sure what you mean by the operational issue. In the e-mail, toward the top of the page, there is a link that brings you right to this page. It is the title of the post. What am I missing?

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/PeteNikolai Pete Nikolai

    It is the posting itself. Normally there is a link on the blog home page to “Continue reading ” below the introductory text of the posting which takes you to the page for just that posting. The comments interface is below the text on the page for the posting so this is where I was familiar with entering my comment. The “Corporate Secrecy” posting did not have a “Continue reading…” link (probably because it was a brief posting) and therefore I had to figure out that I could click either the comments or Permalink link to post a comment.</p> <p>Not a big deal, but it was an example of the minor confusion and angst that comes when things are not the way we expect them to be. I don’t know that it prevented anyone from leaving a comment, but it was a good reminder for me on the consequences of not having things where people expect them and the strange expectations that develop in the digital world where people are flying a million miles an hour and want the interface to support that flight speed.<br />

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Pete,

    Okay. I get it now. This is very helpful.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://www.larryadowns.com Larry

    Mike,
    Good stuff, one of the after glows of transparency many times is the quiet from the crowd.
    I remember just over a year ago we were all sweating bullets with our new warehouse system. For our channel we were getting pretty beat up everyday at customer service. We sent iout a letter admitting that we were struggling, asked for their help in understanding etc… almost overnight the Customer Service calls concerning shipping for our channel dropped off.
    People know, many times they just want to make sure you know.

  • http://thedoubleu.blogspot.com Thom

    I was really glad to read this article on transparency, and to see a bold statement like this from my CEO. One thing that wasn’t mentioned was Thomas Nelson’s reputation as a corporation that should reflect a certain value. Transparency is just another word for humility, honesty, integrity, and the realization that all of us, if we are truly involved with others, need constantly to both receive and give forgiveness.

    Changing the subject only slightly, one of the things I have valued most about the Nelson Leadership University experience has been the opportunity of meeting people from other parts of the company. Many times when I listen to them I do not recognize the company for which they work. Their perspectives are so very different than mine. And every time that happens I realize how much more there is to learn. It is impossible to know everything, but often the realization that you don’t know and that you need to pick up a phone and dial an extension is knowledge enough. As a consequence of size, of geography, of habit, or of history, there are many fault lines that keep people apart. Some people work on Macs all day, some on Windows machines. Some people know what Great Plains is, and some think it is a Western. I confess that a lot of “Production Speak” is still totally foreign to me. I always thought PMS was a bad thing, but apparently that is a very contextual term. And I certainly wish that Sales didn’t feel like some dark continent.

    Thing is, none of these fault lines is uncrossable. The English channel has a tunnel under it. I’m told there are plans to connect Russia and Alaska across the Bering Straight. We just need to be intentional about crossing them. Never miss an opportunity to overcommunicate. Find ways of telling our stories to one another. Some might even mistake such a mission for the pursuit of hospitality. (So anyway, if any salespeople are reading this, feel free to call me about any W or (now) Spiritual Growth & Christian Thought titles–2248. And if you have any tips for how Editors can work with you better, let me know and we will pass your list around.)

  • http://thedoubleu.blogspot.com Thom

    …can better work with you. (They should make comments editable.)