The world we live in today is one of permanent, open source connectivity. Knowledge is free and abundant and there is a lot more transparency than some of us may feel comfortable with. Communication is done a lot by text messages and WhatsApp, Instagram has replaced (and upgraded) memory albums and pretty much all aspects of our life are on social media.
Some organizations have embraced the changes. We have transportation companies that do not own vehicles or hire drivers and accommodation services that own no real estate and employ no service staff. Needless to say, they are some of the most successful. Openness is becoming increasingly crucial for teams that need to achieve increasingly challenging goals.
The 4 Characteristics of the open organization
Even traditional organizations need to start thinking forward and embrace this sort of openness in order to be able to grow and be successful. Here are the four characteristics of the open organization:
The best way to start making a company more open is to ensure its transparency. This means that to the extent to which this is possible, organizations should make their data and other materials easily accessible to both internal and external participants. Of course, all this should be done under applicable rules and laws and a portion of the data may need to remain classified – staying one step ahead of the competition would be rather difficult if they constantly knew what your next step is.
Decisions ought to be transparent to the extent that everyone affected by them understood the processes and arguments that led to them. If possible, these decisions ought to also be open for discussion prior to their putting into practice.
It’s important to keep in mind that the new generation feels strongly about being valued and heard. Engagement is a big issue with Millennials who tend to swiftly change jobs if they don’t feel themselves or what they are doing is important. Work in general should be transparent so that anyone would be able to monitor and assess a project's progress throughout its development.
Company goals as well should be both transparent and explicit. Each person working on a project should be clearly aware of what his role and responsibilities are.
Another important characteristic of an open organization is its capacity to quickly adapt to the rapid changes that happen in the corporate world. Companies need to be flexible and resilient when faced with major shifts in consumer and employee preferences and demands. It’s important that company policies and technical procedures are constantly improved in order to ensure that both positive and constructive feedback loops have a real, palpable effect on company operation.
Employees should be able to control and potentially alter the conditions under which they work – yes, that means allowing for flexible schedules and the possibility of working remotely. These allowances help increase engagement and give people that sense of autonomy. Providing them with this freedom does not mean losing control over their work, but rather the opposite. They will report more frequently and thoroughly on the outcomes of their efforts and they will feel free to suggest improvements or adjustments that could lead to better or faster results.
Basically, open organizations are fundamentally prone to continuous engagement and learning.
Encouraging a sense of community is also paramount in setting up an open organization. The cliché that all employees are part of a big family that gets together at office Christmas and retirement parties is obsolete. It’s not about the general manager knowing everybody’s first name but about shared goals and values.
The new generation places less value on the monetary reward and more emphasis on the reason for doing something. People put in hours of unpaid work into projects like Wikipedia because they believe in them and feel good about making a contribution. As Simon Sinek eloquently put it: “if you hire people just because they can do a job, they will work for the money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe they will work with their blood and sweat and tears.”
When people working together share the same values and these values – rather than geographical locations or hierarchical positions help determine where the organization is going, success is guaranteed. These core values, a company’s DNA need to be clear, but also subject to continual revision because as we have seen prior that adaptability is also key.
It might be inferred from this call for common values that an open organization is somewhat exclusive but that falls far from the truth. Even though a collective sense of purpose is highly important, a truly open organization is an inclusive one. It not only welcomes diverse points of view but also implements specific mechanisms for inviting multiple perspectives into dialog wherever and whenever possible. This usually means setting multiple channels and/or methods for receiving feedback in order to accommodate people's preferences.
Leaders are directly responsible for both encouraging dialog and feedback and responding to queries from all team members, regardless of seniority or rank.
The open organization is no longer the organization of tomorrow but that of today. People need to be heard, valued and give their best when the feel they are part of something important. Companies have to adapt, share and ensure easy communication and collaboration between its members.