Now that the turkey and pies are gone, I guess it’s time to jump back into the blog. Recapping from my last post:
- Companies who differentiate on customer experience are more likely to succeed in the face of shrinking margins and discretionary spending.
- A highly engaged customer-facing workforce will deliver a consistently better experience.
- An “Open Organizational Culture” is necessary to drive employee engagement.
So what exactly is an Open Organizational Culture? Fundamentally, it’s one that fosters transparency and accountability to its employees, customers and the public. This is in contrast to traditional organizations that operate in a hierarchical model with an authoritarian culture that seems to foster privacy or secrecy.
An Open Organizational Culture has several unique characteristics:
Transparency and Open Communications
Leaders of high performance organizations nurture a culture that allows for people to question openly and have honest dialogue. They create a climate of candor throughout the organization. They remove the organizational barriers — and the fear — that cause people to keep bad news from the boss. They understand that those closest to customers usually have the solutions but can do little unless the organization encourages open discussions about problems. When people can raise objections when when necessary (and without reprisal), it paves the way to higher engagement.
In an Open Organization, the leader’s beliefs and values create the direction and the boundaries that people need to perform well. The values are clearly defined & communicated, and reviewed periodically for relevance. More importantly, the organizations practices, systems & processes are clearly aligned with the values and management ensures that employees’ day to day experiences are consistent with the values. You can quickly identify an organization that does not adhere to its stated values by gauging the level of cynicism amongst the staff. Open Organizations really walk the talk and it is reflected in their employees’ attitudes.
Empowerment in Organizational Culture
In “Good to Great” (2001) Jim Collins asserts, “good-to-great companies built a consistent system with clear constraints , but they also gave people freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system.” Open Organizations not only actively engage members of the workforce, they rely upon their contributions to on-going improvement. Driving Empowerment and responsibility down to the lowest appropriate levels within the organization, especially to the customer-facing members, has many benefits:
- It provides employees the opportunities and incentives to shape the company experience. Encouraging involvement in this way fosters a feeling of ownership on the part of employees.
- It promotes organizational creativity which leads to innovation. As I stated above, customer facing associates are typically the ones with the best insights regarding the customer.
- It allows decisions to be made without unnecessary or authoritarian approval process which can lead to a more responsive organization.
- Encourage continuous learning which in turn improves decision making.
So in summary, an organization’s culture is shaped by and reflects the values, beliefs, and norms held by its founders, leaders, and organizational members. In Open Organizations, values are aligned and honored, transparency and open communication are the norm and decision-making is informed by a process of continual learning. Cultures that embody these characteristics demonstrate them in the organization’s structures, standards, policies, and systems. They shape the work environment, staffing practices, and organizational performance, all of which influence the employee experience and by extension, the customers they serve.
If this sounds like your organization, great. I’d love to hear about it. If not, I’m curious about that things you see are barriers to getting to an Open Organization.
[image: Open 24 Hours on Houston Street]