Creating a Culture of Transparency

September 21, 2009
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200909201526.jpg I was reading an article yesterday that got me thinking again about the culture shift that is necessary for a business to embrace the social web. The article from ChiefExecutive.net discussed the adoption of Web 2.0 principals by CEOs and supported the idea that CE’s are starting to “get it” and support social business initiatives. The article is very well thought out but I’m not here to review articles so I’ll leave it at that and you can check it out yourself. If you read this blog you no doubt have read that I believe that e2.0 or social business initiatives are more about culture change in an enterprise than anything else including technology. The general leadership model used in business today is based on a model that grew up around the industrial revolution and has remained mostly consistent since then. That model, the hierarchal or top down model, is not conducive to the kind of culture needed for building a social business. It also was in general, anything but transparent. Web 2.0 has taught us that impactful change comes from democratization of interaction across a wide base. This horizontal network effect becomes the shared base of power for all subsequent actions. As .

200909201526.jpg I was reading an article yesterday that got me thinking again about the culture shift that is necessary for a business to embrace the social web. The article from ChiefExecutive.net discussed the adoption of Web 2.0 principals by CEOs and supported the idea that CE’s are starting to “get it” and support social business initiatives. The article is very well thought out but I’m not here to review articles so I’ll leave it at that and you can check it out yourself. If you read this blog you no doubt have read that I believe that e2.0 or social business initiatives are more about culture change in an enterprise than anything else including technology. The general leadership model used in business today is based on a model that grew up around the industrial revolution and has remained mostly consistent since then. That model, the hierarchal or top down model, is not conducive to the kind of culture needed for building a social business. It also was in general, anything but transparent. Web 2.0 has taught us that impactful change comes from democratization of interaction across a wide base. This horizontal network effect becomes the shared base of power for all subsequent actions. As you can imagine sharing power and control across a wide group is counter to the hierarchal leadership model where control is tightly held in a small group.

So if CEOs are starting to embrace social concepts for their businesses then that means the leadership model is starting to change in these organizations…or at least it’s starting to get very stressed. At the core of this change though is the concept of transparency. The software that enables social business has inherent transparency built in but is that enough? Unfortunately no, just because you enable information flow doesn’t mean that it will actually flow anywhere. Underneath the software there’s a need for a culture of transparency, which is fundamentally different from what often happens in businesses today. Transparency is build on trust, or maybe trust is built on transparency…frankly I don’t know which comes first, they’re inexorably linked in my mind. I suppose I could have titled this “Creating a Culture of Trust” just as easily as transparency. Building an organization of trust requires free and open access to information and a culture that encourages openness (which is IMHO a higher order level of thinking and behaving). Culture change usually happens in small increments and this may be particularly true when trust or building trust is required. Trust is also hard won and easily lost, a process that seems to be amplified in an online environment. As a leader you can start to move towards transparency by supporting openness, enabling free flow of information and rewarding actions that build and sustain trust. And this doesn’t just apply internally with employees, the concept is also critical with any relationships from partners to customers.