With all due respect to Elizabeth, she started down an interesting path, only to draw back just as the "gettin' was good"
I was speaking about my views on the process of corporate transparency, and how it might be practiced. That process entails us not only providing truthful (honest, accurate) information, but demands that we also question how much information is provided and when. It means providing the information behind the information. Or, to put it another way, it means sharing with our audiences how the decisions we made got made. So, yes Allan, you are reading me correctly when you say:
If I read Elizabeth correctly (and I may not be), she's arguing that corporations should not only make their decisions public, but the thinking behind the decisions. I'm all for it. But I'm thinking into which C-level suites I can bring that idea and not get thrown out.
I touched only briefly on these ideas in my remarks (I only had 20-25 minutes after all), but I was a little surprised that there wasn't more discussion about it afterward. We did indeed talk about transparency, but more in the context of choice (does more transparency lead to fewer choices (about products, services etc.)? Is this a good or bad thing? I'll post more on that conversation later, as it was quite interesting.) Then the questions moved into some other areas.
There is much more to be said, however, about this idea of making the process of decision making more transparent. Certainly, I am not going to disagree that the idea of doing this will initially strike organizations as heretical, to say the least. I doubt we are going to see this become a mainstream activity any time soon. However, that doesn't mean it is worth investigating, as I believe it shows promise.
For one, given the lack of trust in organizations overall among populations, the current way of doing things simply isn't working anymore. This lack of trust combined with the problem of gaining attention in a media-saturated environment should at least open up the possibility of doing things in a different way. Furthermore, legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley is already forcing this type of action, in a sense, by requiring that companies track their information more completely (to put it broadly). In order to rebuild trust (and perhaps even prevent the need for further expensive legislation and regulation) companies should rethink how, what and when they communicate.
But here's a challenge: decision making is messy. You should ask yourselves, was, in fact, a decision actually clearly made? Or was it more stumbled into, or made by default by letting certain deadlines pass or information pass by? Who actually made the decision? Anyone? A group vote? Someone up against a deadline who finally just did something because they had to with little or no input from anyone else?
I can speak from personal experience about how many times I made up product positioning during the course of writing the press release, having received virtually no brief from the client. When they asked how I did it, the answer was often, "I made it up." Of course, they were usually educated guesses, but still, guesses after all. And most of them were accepted with little change.
I have worked with many start-up clients and my first question was always, "May I see your business/marketing plan?" With the answer 8-9 times out of 10, "We don't have one." Scary stuff indeed! And let's not talk about the pass-the-buck style of putting off decisions at large companies that I have seen, that often ended in a negotiation between me (PR agency rep) and the corporate attorney about what the final positioning would be, 10 minutes before the release was to hit the wire.
It is worth asking if more disclosure of decision-making practices would actually improve the decisions made. I suspect it would. And that benefits everyone.
So here's an experiment for you to try. Closely track one major decision your company makes. Maybe it is around a product launch. Date, timing, naming, launch venue, etc. Actually document the steps towards decision. Who was involved? What was decided? What was the timing? I suspect the result will astonish you (or maybe not, sadly). And if you are very brave, maybe you'll share it with us.