Lately we have been posting many links on our twitter feed to articles about open communication. I’d like to summarise some of the main points here.
Give Away My Secrets?
Some people think that the knowledge they hoard is what gives them power. True, but does it justify diminishing the knowledge of the team as a whole? Exercising that kind of “power” is detrimental to the entire team.
Per Aspera Ad Astra*
By communicating and sharing your work openly with all your peers, you are putting it under much more scrutiny, which can be intimidating initially, but you will find that getting more feedback about your own work will ultimately help to improve its quality. And here’s a sobering discovery you might make: people are not as interested in your every move as you think.
In an organisation where open communication is pervasive, people who don’t contribute and don’t do their job well will quickly be recognised as such. Scary for underachievers, good for CEOs you might think, but this is not about punishment and shame: learning about your shortcomings is the first step to improving your own work quality and performance.
What’s more, you can spot idle time more easily and make sure people can work to their full potential (one important reason for people quitting is that they don’t feel challenged or appreciated). Likewise if they are over capacity, you can help to alleviate the workload by involving others.
*Through hardship to the stars
Humanity’s Oldest Recipe for Success
The information that isn’t shared in a team, is essentially being taken away from everyone else. Through sharing everyone benefits from your knowledge. Knowledge sharing is how the human race went from caves to skyscrapers, it’s what made us the dominant species on this planet.
This means a departure from valuing people by the knowledge they’re hoarding, to valuing them by the knowledge they’re sharing with others (which provides more value to any company or even community). Open communication itself can greatly increase your opportunities to share knowledge, because you can contribute even to topics your co-workers wouldn’t normally consult you on – topics to which you might have valuable input to offer.
The more you communicate openly the more you will get proper credit and recognition for your work (it also makes it harder for managers to get away with selling subordinates’ ideas as their own). With open communication you finally get a chance to be heard in the company – this will do wonders for your motivation.
When you know what is going on in the company (beyond the confines of your daily scope of work) you will feel much more part of a greater whole. Being part of the process that forms your company will make you take more ownership of your work – it’ll be “your baby” and not just something you’re asked to do.
Another way to supercharge open communication is having a flat(ter) hierarchy. Positive group dynamics work better if you are part of a team of equals. Being stuck in a rigid hierarchical bureaucratic structure tends to hinder the free flow of exchange and on-the-fly decision making, which is crucial for agile development. Open communication is a good way to even out the hierarchy and lead to a cooperative more productive working style.