Since May 26th I’ve been traveling; first to Munich, then to Tbilisi (in Georgia), and then to Milan where I will be keynoting a conference on the future of work mid June. Thus far it’s been an exciting trip. My family is actually from Tbilisi and hasn’t been back in almost 40 years so my grandmother, mother, and now fiancee (who I proposed to in Tbilisi) traveled there to see where they grew up and what has changed. Georgia is a beautiful place but there is a of corruption and political instability which leads to a high unemployment rate and poverty level. One of the things that the current president of Georgia did was to create a glass administration building so people could see what goes on at the government level. It’s not purely transparent from the outside but I’m told that once you go into the building it’s easy to see into offices and rooms throughout the building. That got me thinking, how open is too open?
We talk about openness, transparency, and sharing, but how far would we be willing to go with it? Would you feel comfortable working in an all glass building where people can see everything you do and every move you make? I do believe that organizations need to be much more open and transparent but there’s a balance that needs to be struck here. There’s a big difference between showing everything to everyone vs making things open to people should they want to see it. To use an analogy it’s the difference between constructing a glass building vs constructing a regular building that just doesn’t have locked doors.
Can everything always be open to everyone? I’m talking about product development, financial statements, investor meetings, etc? I’m not too sure actually; especially at the enterprise level. It might be a bit idealistic to expect that a company like Apple, Disney, or GE will just open everything up to everyone internally. This is the key difference between building a present day company from the ground up based on the idea of openness and transparency vs trying to make an existing enterprise more open and transparent. I’ll explore this more in an upcoming post.
Being open and transparent is a scary yet interesting thing but as with everything else there needs to be a balance. In a more corrupt country like Georgia, extreme measures are taken to force transparency but this approach would do more harm than good in many other parts of the world.
But, what is the purpose of being open and transparent to begin with?
This topic alone can easily take up several blog posts but simply put the purpose is to:
- Keep everyone on the same page
- Build trust and foster better relationships
- Allow employees (and customers) to contribute ideas and value where they see the opportunity to do so
If the strategy and approach that your organization is taking isn’t doing these things you may be doing more harm than good.
So, let me ask you. How open is too open?