Perceived Leadership Support via Transparency

The readers that have been following my posts realise that in our company we are thinking seriously about our Knowledge Management strategy. One of the major threads we are following is gaining a sustainable leadership support and creating a culture that encourages sharing of knowledge.

How can this be achieved? What do we leaders need to do that we create a knowledge sharing culture? It shows that these questions don’t have simple answers. After some serious thoughts and based on the various from different areas I think I can come up with a suggestion: Transparency.

We always talk about barriers to knowledge sharing. Here some of them: I only look at my own benefit and progress; my boss is only telling me things based on a need-to-know principle; we always follow a strong top-down hierarchy with many rules. All these elements prevent conversations between hierarchy levels and departmental boundaries; they prevent building relationships.

I start to believe that with a mindset focusing on transparency we could abolish most of the above barriers. If we start to allow to make as many information and data accessible in an unlimited fashion, people start to gain trust and share their activities and information as well. And I strongly agree that with more transparency, we managers can make better decisions; therefore, improve the efficiency in the business we are in.

Very often during our KM initiative, I receive the question: “How can we limit the access to these documents/ discussion forum/ etc.?”. I am always startled and investigate on the reason for limiting access. I then start to ask “Is there really an essential need to hide?”.

Will employees start with this transparency move? Various KM tools might help and the odd person will provide their information and knowledge willingly. But most people will wait for their managers to do so. I heard of a company that is making the minutes of board meetings public within the company; I think this creates trust and a new kind of relationship with their employees. I suggest, managers should lead this movement and start to be a role model; a role model in sharing their activities, their information, their knowledge and be role model for a transparent behaviour.

With this movement for a more transparent mindset, KM tools can then help to create new relationships outside of hierarchical structures, actually avoid those; KM tools create a new channel that allows everybody to be open with what they have to share.

Is this a reasonable approach to gain a perceived leadership support?

2 Comments so far

Hello Tim,

Some off the cuff thoughts from beating my head against this wall for a while. My organization has wrestled for some time on defining a social media policy and recently decided to do despite loud objections. It seems that transparency is wonderful in principle but fails quite quickly in practice. Each step towards opening more vaults or letting more people cross the boundaries to the outside world will introduce some avenue of exploitation. Exploitation can be good or bad; perhaps it is both with one or the other simply being more visible.

As a result now the policy is out, we seem to be talking more of risk instead of transparency. I’m not convinced that is the best alternative, for while it leads to more informative discussions, it is no longer as clear a beacon as transparency was. I’m afraid that I haven’t found a better way of framing a principle or practice that is half-way as effective as transparency seems to be.

regards, tony

Posted on September 10, 2010 at 05:25 AM | Comment permalink

tim wieringa

Hi Tony

Thanks for your comment. Actually, when writing this short essay, I was thinking about internal communication and collaboration; social networking within a company. Taking the concept of transparency outside of the company borders changes the perspective, I agree.

Within a company, people tend to have a common goal and although exploitation happens, its impact is not big for the overall company.

When dealing with clients, partners, etc outside the company borders, the goals are different, sometimes diametrically. Then, exploitation can have a negative effect on your company.

Just yesterday, I have followed some presentations about risks in social media. The ‘nutshell’ summary was, it’s too risky to not! engage in social media but the risks of engagement in it has to be carefully evaluated. The focus was on guidelines and internal regulations which shall be considered case-by-case.

In social media, transparency needs to be very carefully applied; maybe honesty is more important but not full transparency. In a long-term future, I could imagine that this will change.

Posted on September 10, 2010 at 01:58 PM | Comment permalink

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