Open elements: Information sharing and decision-making
The three organisational models present general options. In order to choose the right degree of openness and to plan the use of social technologies, it is necessary to analyze an organisation’s current structure based on the way it shares information and makes decisions. Management can then decide how much control and how much coordination it desires. Neither this decision nor the selected model is irreversible. The status quo of the organisation should continuously be reviewed in order to adapt to changing needs.
“Transparency can spark a virtuous cycle.”
After modeling the organisational structure, specific decisions on information and decision-making policies need to be taken in a second step. How will information spread inside and outside the organisation and how does the open flow of information affect decision-making?
Describing different ways of information sharing and decision-making show the different degrees of organisational openness.
Jeff Jarvis, a self-proclaimed advocate for openness, claims that „transparency can spark a virtuous cycle: Publicness demonstrates respect, which earns trust, which creates opportunities for collaboration, which brings efficiency, reduces risk, increase value, and enhances brands.”
He imagines a radically open organisation that„would encourage all its employees to use the tools of the public net to have direct and open relationships with customers - answering questions, hearing and implementing ideas, solving problems, and improving products. The clearest lesson of the social web is that people want relationships with people, not with brands, spokesman, rules, robots, voice mails, machines, or algorithms.”
Jarvis argues that the management of open organisations should open up as much data as possible, including design specifications, sales and repair data and customer feedback. He also points out, though, that management has to make a decision on „whether greater value lies in its secrets or its relationships. It needs to calculate what benefits might accrue from transparency.“
Jarvis envisions complete openness, but openness can also be realized on a smaller scale. Open information sharing and open decision-making does not necessarily mean „total transparency and complete openness, whereby everyone from customers to competitors has access to all information and everyone is involved in all decisions.“ It would be equally unrealistic to run a „completely closed organisation, in which information and decision-making is centrally controlled and everyone follows every instruction.“
In her book Open Leadership, author Charlene Li defines ten elements of openness that can be divided into information sharing and decision-making. Just like the organisational models described above, the distinction between different types of information sharing and decision-making can be used in two general ways. First, as a guide for the analysis of organisational openness. Second, as a guide for the development of the ideal balance between openness and control.
About the Author
Daniel Michelis is professor at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences and visiting lecturer at the University of St. Gallen, where he received his PhD at the Institute for Media and Communications Management. The focus of his work is the usage of online communications and social media in companies and organizations.
He is the editor of the Social Media Handbuch (Nomos Verlag) and in 2013 he initiated the masters degree programme Online Communication at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences.