To Get the Value of Transparency, Don't Have a Blame Culture

By: Mark Robinson, Kimble CMO

Sometimes ‘transparency’ is something business leaders pay lip service to but they don’t actually understand why it matters and therefore they don’t deliver on it. Transparency essentially means sharing information across the organization. This is vital to strong business growth for a variety of reasons. One, it can be aggregated to evaluate trends, and two, it is the basis for enabling delegated decision-making throughout the organization.

Sometimes, a business may be successful at sharing information widely – but because they also have a blame culture they don’t experience the full benefit of this. A blame culture is one where single points of data are over-used and individuals are blamed for poor outcomes – as opposed to taking a more measured approach, where business leaders look for trends and take a team approach to improvement. A blame culture tends to lead to a situation where nobody is prepared to take responsibility or to actively surface risk in the business.

An example of this kind of culture is given in the book ”Transforming Nokia” by Risto Silasmaa. He recounts how, although problems at the mobile phone company were evident to everyone in the development team, nobody felt able to raise a red flag with the board. In these kinds of organizations, employees might be able to see issues arising – but nobody wants to stick their head above the parapet and tell the boss.

In an empowered culture, information is shared openly so that people can use it to make informed decisions. The opposite of a blame culture is one where learning from mistakes is emphasized. Rather than looking for the culprit when something goes wrong, it is more productive to focus on improving the decision-making process going forward, to try and understand the reasons why the incorrect decision was made. Even a bad process will sometimes lead to a good decision. By focusing on the outcome and not the process you won’t be able to create a more consistent outcome for the long term.

For employees to make informed decisions, they first need to know what is going on. If they don’t have access to the data they will not be able to contribute effectively. And if your employees can’t contribute effectively, the business will struggle to improve, as I explained in my presentation at the TSIA Virtual Summit “Executives Don’t Make the Most Important Decisions“.

Many organizations today still use the structures of the past. Most companies last century were very hierarchical, operating with a rigid management structure in which knowledge wasn’t shared very far. But that model is not well suited to the era of disruption and rapid change. Few start-ups grow into multi-billion enterprises while keeping their workforce in the dark. It is not a scalable model – as the company grows, if every decision is pushed upwards, bottlenecks arise and progress is blocked. The digital workplace operates better with autonomous individuals who can take responsibility for their own contribution.

Collaborative workplace technology can help to support people across the organization to work together effectively to meet the challenges of rapid growth. It can be used to share real-time information across the organization, to nudge people towards the next best step and to provide visibility of what is being done. Businesses with an empowered, learning culture are best placed to take advantage of these possibilities.

For more insights into how to create a transparent culture, encourage autonomy and delegate decision-making download our Best Practice Guide “Five Steps to Creating a Consultant’s Eye View”.

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