Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Is total transparency good?

I'm finally catching up on some backed up reading, including a month-old Wired magazine with the titillating cover story "Get Naked!".
No, it's not what you think. The main story and some ancillary ones are about corporations who become totally transparent (naked) in relation to their staff, their board, their customers and their stockholders. Well worth the read. It's issue 15.04.

The stories range from coming out a bit, to total transparency and the resulting benefits. All of this led to some long discussions with people I respect, and some careful thoughts about this concept.

I've long advocated sharing much, much more information internally, including all of your financials with all of your staff (unless you have a union). I've told dozens of clients to share their draft strategic plan with their community. I tell everyone to post a link to their current 990 and most recent audit on the first page of their website.

But share everything? Nah. As a former ED, I can tell you that sharing MOST of my thoughts got me in trouble at times. Imagine this: income is down, you are thinking about a long term restructuring, and you muse about this in your blog. The action is 10-15% likely and perhaps a year away. EVERYONE, and I mean EVERY ONE on the staff will immediately assume that they will lose their job in the next 37 minutes. Same for the people you serve.

Some stuff you just have to keep to yourself.

In one article, a CEO blogged and dissed his peers and some subordinates. Ohhh, bad idea. Have your dissing face to face, and keep the arguments inside the family. And, think of the HR implications!

Bottom line for me: sharing--good. Lots of sharing--better. Financial transparency--essential.

Get naked? Could get ugly. Fast.

No comments: