An Open Enterprise Directive?

Just over a month ago, Barack Obama’s Office of Management and Budget issued an Open Government Directive by Presidential order. The principles of this directive are pretty interesting from a knowledge management point of view.

“The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government. Transparency promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the Government is doing. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise so that their government can make policies with the benefit of information that is widely dispersed in society. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of Government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the Federal Government, across levels of government, and between the Government and private institutions.”

They might be principles any knowledge management initiative within an enterprise could sign up to. There’s another development which is interesting: the US Attorney General in 2009 issued new guidelines on how public agencies should interpret the Freedom of Information Act, making it clear that “the default position” with respect to freedom of information is openness.

Too often, I’m working with organisations where the default position (in knowledge sharing) is keep it out of sight unless somebody makes a case for sharing, and then only share with the requestor. I’ve blogged before about how the US Army and State Department are seeking to shift their own default positions. The issue however is that even if senor management adopt the position that knowledge sharing and transparency are good, and come out openly and say that, there are still residual parts of the infrastructure that are designed for the closed way of working. For example, diverse policy documents that are built on the assumption (or actually state that) “all information is confidential” or “information should be shared on a need to know basis”. And from those policies spring an architecture of procedures designed to enshrine and protect that closed way of working. It’s one thing to say, and other things to do.

Which is why I think the OMB directive is worth watching, because it comes with a timeline for action planning and compliance, as well as a dashboard for agencies to report into. Now such high level dashboards can be gamed, but this is a step further than simply expressing a wish for openness and ignoring the trajectory of the current infrastructure. Should we be thinking of our knowledge management plans and strategies more along the lines of an “Open Enterprise Directive”?

1 Comment so far

Tim Wieringa

in our company we could achieve in the last six months that our main company policies are shifted from confidential to internal use only; admit this is a big step for a traditional company; and the next step is to let people participate with feedback, suggestions, etc. Thank you for this article.

Posted on January 18, 2010 at 07:57 PM | Comment permalink

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