Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage

mix-administrator's picture


Most organizations control information in order to control decisions and people.  Yet developing the most prescient view of tomorrow’s threats and opportunities, or of today’s most pressing issues, requires open and uncensored decision-making processes that exploit the organization’s collective wisdom.  Moreover, organizations where employees lack the data to act quickly and intelligently will inevitably be slow to adapt as conditions change.

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frederic-jleconte's picture

Everyone seems in agreement with the value of transparency.
As well as the need to move organizations to help this "sharing share".
I am promoting transparency with passion.
Although I know some fair elements can be opposed to it, and must enter the balance in different practical cases.
I believe absolute target value should not be 100% for all topics.In order to respect psyche, change management or real business drivers. Such as patents regulations to give one example.
Monitoring the level of transparency on a corpus of knowledge at a certain date is quite a simple example of what can be done to overcome such resistance.
Shooting for instance to reach 73% of light and 27% of dark energy is a very realistic way of looking at the balance in a specific scope, as opposed to call for transparency as a principle, without defining it.
A clear correlation with any adaptability ranking / scale or factor would easily emerge with a sufficient business cases sampling.
And encourage the increase of transparency.

Transparency is key to adaptabilty, transparency of decisions and data. It is critical to have the systems that allow transparency, that allows ready access to the data. This then forms the structure that allows and supports authenticity, openess etc. The structures that provide transparency is a balance between accessible information and information dumping/overload.

If you allow me to borrow the Wikipedia definition of business transparency as "openness, communication, and accountability," I would argue that these characterisics will be absolutely crucial to the success of tomorrow's agile organization. To Martin's point, this doesn't mean opening up the floodgates of Big Data to anyone. As Clay Shirky reminds us, too much information without proper context or filters is just as dangerous as not enough - maybe even more dangerous in a business context, as it will likely be mis-interpreted or simply tuned out, which could have disasterous results. Perhaps one of the keys to success for future business leaders will be the ability to curate and push the right data at the right time to those who need it, then empower them with the tools and authority to assemble on demand and act on that information appropriately. At the same time, those in the trenches will also require the ability to pull information they need to plan and respond to the demands of a rapidly changing work environment. It's this two-way flow and open sharing that speaks to me of the need for greater transparency, from the perspective of giving up control, building trust, and arming employees with the information they need.

frederic-jleconte's picture

I fully agree the ratio of transparency must be in some cases a real decision.
As much as it can be principle and an attitude.
No need to oppose the two approaches.

peter-cheese's picture

I also think transparency is key. Openness, authenticity, proper empowerment all seem to be critical attributes of agile organisation. But it requires openness down and up the structure. Employee voice has never been more important for reasons noted and the failure of too many corporate cultures, and we need to be able to reflect and channel that voice. It begins with openness in relationship with immediate boss, but also other channels. Social media is one of these when used effectively, but regular consultation, good open management practices, surveys and soundings are all part of it as well.

andy-gilbert's picture

And openness requires open mindedness which requires a solution focused mindset - one that is open to possibility thinking, involving others, the overcoming of obstacles and the challenging of possible assumptions. Please see my proposed principle of "Solution Focused Thinking at all levels". Without these thinking skills openness and empowerment will either not happen or become embedded. The "thinking behind the actions" of transparency needs addressing first.

marc-west's picture

Totally agree Andy, possibility intuitive function is key, If we look at the four jungian functions as four intelligences, sensory intelligence, predominantly used for 65k years of human development, cognitive intelligence probably evolved from the gnostic mindset and renaissance, emotional intelligence a more current paradigm and intuitive intelligence now coming into the fold as we gather speed towards post conventionalism. I like you all levels concept as it also draws on integral theory and the post conventional mindset.

marc-west's picture

Thanks Fiona, Peter I totally agree, and remember everything is a metaphor for the underlying social psychology... The reason we are even having this conversation is because there is a need for change, psychologically, the underlying culture values are shifting, a need for relativisim and plurialism, and egilatarianism is becoming the way of the worlds mindset, it just depends on how the 74% want to follow the tipping point and either bifurcate towards the new world or back to their left and rights, and ups and downs, and boss and employee psychology, its this polorizations in the fracture of the human psyche that is beeing asked to change, we just dont know it because we are too caught up in our metaphors and trying to create meaning of our experiences.

fiona-savage's picture

Andy and Marc, I total agree, the ambiguous activates of organisation are being revealed. Karen Hudes senior legal counsel for 21 years with the World Bank recently stated she was an was an internal whistle blowing at the World Bank since 2000 and to the US Congress and the rest of the world since 2007.
We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in the traditional media, however the alternative media (internet) is reporting weekly on these dubiousness activates.
Opaque dealings are concealed by organisational structure such as silo and hierarchical management these structures enable the control of both employees and information both internal and external.
Transparency, silos busting and matrix management within organisations get my vote

marc-west's picture

So I am hearing a couple of aspects around transparency one around information, decision making, and open cultures and behaviors.
I believe some of the most important areas that will enable transparency is the shift from systems of record to systems of engagement. BPM systems of record in many cases records reduces transparency to information to each of the functions of the business, where as systems of engagement changes the organization to become transparent across the value chain within the organization.
Secondly I believe that the need for transparency across the value chain will need to shift to enable a holistic view of organizational value and impact on economies, resources, ecology, politics. I would even go as far to say that share holder transparency will need to become transparent, putting more of an emphasis on ethical transparent business practices and shareholder accountability.
Thirdly transparency requires a redesign of the organization from the hierarchical to the holonical,organization where roles and responsibilities based on best fit and skills and competence serve and drive performance for the organization.
All of this will require is a mindset shift, evolved by greater awareness and a resolution from the internal organizational discourses.

martin-sutherland's picture

The two challenges I've noticed with transparency are complexity and attention. The complicated financial instruments (Credit Default Swaps) that were created by investment banks, didn't lack transparency (in the traditional sense), the complexity made them opaque to all but the most specialized skill set.

The second issue is that transparency increases the amount of information that has to be shared, and with so much information competing for our attention, we tend to not read or pay attention to the content. When you install software, how many of us read the Terms and Conditions before hitting the "Agree" button?

This is not to say transparency is not vital for adaptability, it's just a caveat that every solution comes with it's own set of challenges and the more we think about the reasons it might fail, the more likely we are to make it succeed.

Transparency and the encouragement of an 'open'/authentic culture will help build real trust. This will encourage employees to get involved in decision-making, engage with the organisation, take responsibility for their actions & attitudes, propose ideas and feel a sense of permission to innovate. It's the combination of trust and freedom to generate innovative solutions/products that will help organisations start to take on true Adaptive characteristics.

andy-lippok's picture

I believe this one will be key in that more and more people are demanding transparency in politics, in government, in our large corporations, in our communities. Note what's been happening with the furore over executive bonuses, the tax paid or not paid by corporations and wealthy individuals. The internet enables people to share information like no other time, people will demand more transparency or they will turn! Economies, Governments, Corporations, Communities - beware!