Learning Curve: Transparent communication

David Cameron may be keen to precide over a transparent Government - but can businesses adopt the same strategy?

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

What is it?

This is the 'nothing-up-my-sleeve' school of management: getting as much information out into the open as soon as possible, whether it concerns finances, personnel, strategy or innovation. Some bosses do this for positive reasons. They believe in the 'wisdom of crowds'. They feel that 'none of us is as smart as all of us'. Others go transparent for more defensive reasons. They worry about leaks and the unexpected disclosure of confidential information. They tell the truth because, as Mark Twain observed, you don't have to remember anything that way.

Where did it come from?

Information used to be shared by managers on a militaristic, need-to-know basis ('... and you don't need to know!'). After World War Two, this started to loosen up. Training organisation the Industrial Society pioneered a technique called Team Briefing, which involved the formal spreading of news and information on a monthly basis. This became a popular practice, updated to use verbs such as 'cascade' (eg 'time to cascade this information down').

Where is it going?

It's spiralling out of control. December's WikiLeaks extravaganza was a warning to any complacent manager that what you write down - in emails, memos, even tweets - could come back to haunt you. Better to keep things out in the open. As Acas's chief conciliator, Peter Harwood, said before Christmas: 'If you lose the communication, you lose the control to deliver information ...

What you'll have instead is an informal, different source of communication such as a Facebook group of your employees. There, things can get out of hand. It's really a kind of enhanced grapevine and people will often listen to the grapevine rather than official information.'

Gradient: Steep, possibly vertiginous

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