What Are Some Obstacles to Achieving Transparency in Organizational Communication, and How Do You Address Them?

Communication World, January-February 2009 | Go to article overview

What Are Some Obstacles to Achieving Transparency in Organizational Communication, and How Do You Address Them?


Netherlands

Organizational communication is paid for by budget holders. Unless there is an unusual degree of latitude given to the communication practitioner, the content of communications will reflect the intentions of the budget holder. Most of the people overseeing the budgets are quite senior and have become protective and careful with their work with their budgets, with their decisions and with their career positions. Why should they switch mental models and start unnecessarily dishing out information that could result in questions, adverse opinions, internal squabbling, delays and ultimately risk?

Forward-thinking leaders can see that open relationships get better results. Removing obstacles to transparency depends on the ability of communication practitioners to show, and the capacity of budget holders to learn, that transparency can give you leverage. Communicators and budget holders are interdependent, which comes back to the importance of open relationships in how we go about our business.

Lindsay Bogaard

Organizational communication consultant

Bogaard Arena

Delft, Netherlands

Belgium

While some may see total transparency as the only truly "ethical" communication, most communication falls onto a Boston Matrix that plots the intersection of how proactively information is communicated with the completeness of that information.

There are a number of drivers along both axes. The dominant business culture--even more than national culture, in my experience--appears to be a driving factor. A company led mainly by marketers, for instance, will be more proactive, but have an emphasis on communicating positive messages. A company run by accountants may be similarly selective, but would likely be more defensive.

Organizational ownership is a second key driver. Publicly held companies, while under obligation to divulge certain specific information on an annual schedule and any share-price-impacting news immediately to the markets, cannot divulge that information internally in advance, even at the cost of having staff operate on the basis of missing, inaccurate or even misleading information.

Private ownership, or a noncommercial organizational structure, has its own transparency issues. …

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