Digital Transformation No-No: Executives Keeping Secrets from Employees
By Jonathan Feldman
Post 4 of 10 in our series on what we think won’t work for digital organizations and what will.
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “three can keep a secret if two are dead.” This, combined with speed of communication in the digital age, means that keeping secrets is just a stupid idea.
How long does it take to get a message from San Francisco to New York City? Today, the answer is measured in the milliseconds. In the world of Frederick Taylor’s scientific management system, which (unfortunately) modern organizations are largely based on, the answer would be measured in weeks, if not longer.
What have you done by tagging something as secret in the digital age?
- The Ben Franklin effect means that someone knows
- The speed and ease of digital transmission means that many more people know
- You have brought MORE, rather than LESS attention to anything that is a sensitive topic
- You have made it so that people who could help may not know about it
- You have lost all control over accuracy of transmission
- You may have lost trust from those who feel that you should have trusted them with this information
- Since the secret inevitably leaks, you create morale and leadership issues within your workgroup
- By declaring a matter secret, you forbid others to communicate back to you. Therefore, conversations continue without you. And, by the time you announce your decision, you have no idea how sentiment or the situation may have shifted.
Secret keepers may loudly declare profound consequences if secrets are NOT kept from employees. But the framework that the secret keepers are operating under has not existed for at least 20+ years – that’s what digital transformation is all about.
If you want to operate in the digital age and avoid disruption, you need to seriously consider operating as an open organization. Becoming transparent is not magic. It’s hard. But it has huge potential upside, and most importantly, is grounded in the realities of the digital age.
Why is “digital transformation” so important? Because it is about transforming our organizations to mirror the way that society has already gone. 10 years ago, information might take days to be widely understood. Today, Twitter gets the news out before the mainstream media even has it.
If we do not match our organizations with what is already going on in society at large, our organizations will fail. They may not fail today, they may not fail tomorrow, but they will fail.
This is a post in our weekly series on what we think won’t work for digital organizations and what will. Our original tweetstorm listed 10 things. This series takes a deeper dive on those ten things — one per week. If you’d like to come along for the ride, sign up for updates at right. Or, continue the conversation with @ejaxon or @_jfeldman.
Originally published August 25, 2017
Tags: CULTURE, DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION, OPEN ORGANIZATION