Transparency in organizations generally falls into one of two categories: proactive and demand-driven.
Proactive dissemination refers to information that the organization’s leadership makes known about its activities and performance. Practical expressions can range from strategic and tactical goals, third-party evaluations, and organizational risks.
Demand-driven access refers to an organizational commitment to respond to employee requests for specific kinds of information or documents which otherwise would not be accessible.
The idea of transparency can also be unpacked in terms of its directionality. Disclosure cuts both ways, channeling information upwards as well as downwards in the organization. Leadership sharing insight into decisions is an example of downwards, where idea management processes are upwards.
The type of transparency also matters:
Opaque or fuzzy transparency involves the dissemination of information that does not reveal how organizations actually behave in practice, whether in terms of how they make decisions, or the results of their actions. The term also refers to information that is divulged only nominally, or which is revealed but turns out to be unreliable.
Clear transparency sheds light on organizational behavior, which permits interested employees to pursue strategies of constructive change.
This distinction between clear and opaque is grounded on the premise that if transparency practices are going to meet their goals of transforming organizational behavior, then they must be explicit in terms of who does what, and who gets what.
Transparency requires not only a willingness, but processes to drive it.
An information gap is a known unknown, a question that one is aware of but for which one is uncertain of the answer. It is a disparity between what the decision maker knows and what could be known The attention paid to such an information gap depends on two key factors: salience, and importance.
The salience of a question indicates the degree to which contextual factors in a situation highlight it. Salience might depend, for example, on whether there is an obvious counterfactual in which the question can be definitively answered.
The importance of a question is a measure of how much one’s utility would depend on the actual answer. It is this factor—importance—which is influenced by actions like gambling on the answer or taking on risk that the information gap would be relevant for assessing.
The day is coming where parts of my team will be returning to the office. However, the days of expecting everyone to be in seat 5 days a week are probably over for a while and the definite reality of hybrid teams is something we need to prepare for.
Hybrid teams have members working in very differing situations, with differing levels of autonomy, ability to socialize and access to the team leader. It will be a key activity to ensure that all team members are treated equally and fairly, regardless of their work arrangement, moving forward. Especially since everyone will be dealing with vulnerabilities, both those back in the office and those remote partially or fully.
Here are some key steps I am planning for, based on advice from this Forbes article.
Relaunching the Team with a Kickoff: As a leader who started remotely almost a year ago, I feel an acute need to meet my team in person and celebrate with them. This will also be an opportunity to kickoff this new chapter in the team’s life.
Level the Playing Field: Ensuring everyone has equal access to me will be key. Team meetings will be fully remote, with on-site folks logging in from their desks. I’m keeping a calendar to track how much face-to-face I get with people and I’ll be looking for opportunities to connect in multiple ways.
Over-communicate: I’ll be honest, I am a little tired from the volume of communication is going on now, but going hybrid means I will need to double-down on my efforts here. I’ll be keeping my consistency meetings, my team meetings, my skip-levels, the over sharing of things I find interesting. I’ll also be looking for ways to recharge myself so the exhaustion level feels a little less.
Understand the individual work styles: It is time to update the communication charter.
Establish New Hybrid Team Rituals and Norms: Learn from what has gone right and create some new rituals. I will be looking for some real innovation from the team here.
Deliberate inclusivity will be critical as we enter this new phase. Planning now as we get ready will lead to better results. Now is the time to start updating your team ground rules.
Here is my current agenda for the team kickoff, developed using SessionLab.
9 Dimensions Team Building Activity
9 Dimensions is a powerful activity designed to build relationships and trust among team members.
There are 2 variations of this icebreaker. The first version is for teams who want to get to know each other better. The second version is for teams who want to explore how they are working together as a team.
This is a structured process designed for teams to explore the way they work together. The tight structure supports team members to be open and honest in their assessment. After reflecting as individuals, the team builds a collective map which can serve as the basis for further discussions and actions. The assessment is based around 6 dimensions. Each one encouraging the team to reflect and analyze a different and crucial element of their behavior.
A simple game that will have everyone running within minutes. Very effective to fight the “after-lunch” dip.
Engineering Your Team OS
This is designed to work as a standalone workshop or as a companion to the Team Self-Assessment tool. Using reflections and insights on your working process, your team will ‘update’ its operating system by making deliberate choices about how to work together. The goal is gradual development, not a radical shift. You will design an ideal-state for your team and slowly work towards that.
3 Action Steps
This is a small-scale strategic planning session that helps groups and individuals to take action toward a desired change. It is often used at the end of a workshop or program. The group discusses and agrees on a vision, then creates some action steps that will lead them towards that vision. The scope of the challenge is also defined, through discussion of the helpful and harmful factors influencing the group.
ISO9001:2015 states “Top management shall review the organization’s quality management system, at planned intervals, to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy, effectiveness and alignment with the strategic direction of the organization.”
Management review takes inputs of system performance and converts it to outputs that drive improvement.
Just about every standard and guidance aligns with the ISO9001:2015 structure.
The Use of PowerPoint in Management Review
Everyone makes fun of PowerPoint, and yet it is still with us. As a mechanism for formal communication it is the go-to form, and I do not believe that will change anytime soon.
One of the best pieces of research on PowerPoint and management review is Kaplan’s examination of PowerPoint slides used in a manufacturing firm. Kaplan found that generating slides was “embedded in the discursive practices of strategic knowledge production” and made up “part of the epistemic machinery that undergirds the know-ledge production culture.” Further, “the affordances of PowerPoint,” Kaplan pointed out, “enabled the difficult task of collaborating to negotiate meaning in an uncertain environment, creating spaces for discussion, making recombinations possible, [and] allowing for adjustments as ideas evolved”. She concluded that PowerPoint slide decks should be regarded not as merely effective or ineffective reports but rather as an essential part of strategic decision making.
Kaplan’s findings are not isolated, there is a broad wealth of relevant research in the fields of genre and composition studies as well as research on material objects that draw similar conclusions. Powerpoint, as a method of formal communication, can be effective.
Management Review as Formal Communication
Management review is a formal communication and by understanding how these formal communications participate in the fixed and emergent conditions of knowledge work as prescribed, being-composed, and materialized-texts-in-use, we can understand how to better structure our knowledge sharing.
Management review mediates between Work-As-Imagined and Work-As-Done.
The quality management reviews have “fixity” and bring a reliable structure to the knowledge-work process by specifying what needs to become known and by when, forming a step-by-step learning process.
Quality management always starts with a plan for activities, but in the process of providing analysis through management review, the organization learns much more about the topic, discovers new ideas, and uncover inconsistencies in our thinking that cause us to step back, refine, and sometimes radically change our plan. By engaging in the writing of these presentations we make the tacit knowledge explicit.
A successful management review imagines the audience who needs the information, asks questions, raises objections, and brings to the presentation a body of experience and a perspective that differs from that of the party line. Management review should be a process of dialogue that draws inferences and constructs relationships between ideas, apply logic to build complex arguments, reformulate ideas, reflects on what is already known, and comes to understand the material in a new way.
Management review is a textually mediated conversation that enables knowledge integration within and across groups in, and outside of, the organization. The records of management review are focal points around which users can discuss what they have learned, discover diverse understandings, and depersonalize debate. Management review records drive the process of incorporating the different domain specific knowledge of various decision makers and experts into some form of systemic group knowledge and applies that knowledge to decision making and action.
Alvesson, M. (2004). Knowledge work and knowledge-intensive firms. Oxford University Press.
Bazerman, C. (2003). What is not institutionally visible does not count: The problem of making activity assessable, accountable, and plannable. In C. Bazerman & D. Russell (Eds.), Writing selves/writing societies: Research from activity perspectives (pp. 428–482). WAC Clearinghouse
Edmondson, A. C. (2012). Teaming: How organizations learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy. Jossey-Bass
Kaplan, S. (2015). Strategy and PowerPoint: An inquiry into the epistemic culture and machinery of strategy making. Organization Science, 22, 320–346.
Levitin, D. J. (2014). The organized mind: Thinking straight in the age of information overload. Penguin
As we build quality culture we need to question our basic assumptions and build new principles of every day interactions. At the heart of this sits a culture where change is viewed as a good thing.
Willingness to change
To what extent are employees willing to continuously review and adapt their own behavior in response to a changing environment? The ideal scenario is for the entire workforce to be willing to change. This willingness to change should not be confined to situations where changes are already being implemented. It means that people should look at environment with open eyes, recognize when there is an opportunity or a need for change and initiate the relevant actions themselves. Willingness to change should be the first principle of culture and is a key enabler of the popular concept often called agility.
To what extent do employees think that their actions should be guided by data- and fact-based knowledge? The term “knowledge” encompasses any knowledge acquired through targeted observation, by chance, through data-based analysis or from practical experience.
Learning cultures attach great importance to mistakes. These organizations have understood that learning and change processes can only be triggered by mistakes. Mistakes provide an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the company’s processes and uncover previously unknown cause-and-effect relationships.
The way an organization deals with mistakes is therefore a key aspect of its culture. Two fundamentally different approaches to mistakes exist.
A negative attitude towards mistakes is reflected in a strategy based on the systematic avoidance of errors, strict penalties for making mistakes and the correction of errors as rapidly and unobtrusively as possible. Employees of companies where this culture prevails are not usually willing to disclose mistakes. This attitude inhibits their willingness to change.
On the other hand, a culture that recognizes the value of mistakes is characterized by open discussion of mistakes when they occur, systematic error documentation and a determination to find both the causes of the mistakes and their solutions. When investigating mistakes, it is critical to focus on understanding the causes rather than on finding out who is to blame.
Openness to Innovation
Openness to innovation and new ways of doing things is an important capability that is required in order to initiate change and adopt the right measures, even if they may sometimes be rather unconventional.
An environment characterized by trust and social relationships provides the basis for open, uninhibited knowledge sharing between employees. Social collaboration, helps to accelerate knowledge sharing within the organization. Good strong social networks build resilience and enable the ability to change.
In order for companies to respond rapidly and to be able to effectively change, employees need to have access to the necessary explicit and implicit knowledge. While explicit knowledge can be provided through the appropriate communication technology, the sharing of implicit knowledge calls for direct communication between the people who possess the knowledge and the people seeking it.
An effective organization needs to abandon the “us and them” mentality. Employees have acquired the capability of open communication if, having taken on board the fact that openly sharing knowledge and working together to achieve a vision increases the total sum of knowledge, they then also act accordingly. Once the organization’s entire workforce is willing to share knowledge with everyone, it becomes possible to significantly accelerate learning processes within the company.
What Does This Look Like?
Social collaboration exists between employees and with customers and partners. Confidence in systems and processes results in high process stability. People are willing to document their acquired knowledge and share it with others. The democratic leadership style values people for the contribution they make and there is a culture of open communication. The workforce is both receptive and willing to change. They learn systematically from the captured data, are open to innovative approaches and participate in shaping change processes. Employees are also conscious of the need to continuously develop their skills and competencies. While mistakes are still made, people recognize that they are valuable because they have the potential to trigger improvements.