Visibility and Openness (MIT Sloan Mgt Q&A)

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Q: What is the difference between normal change management and digital initiatives?

J: Digital changes your vision of the world.

“So many questions, so little time!” This series of posts is based on the questions I had no time to answer after my MITSloan Management Review Webinar in July 2018: Don’t Let Politics Back Your Digital Initiatives. I suggest you first check out the slides I used in order to understand the context for the questions in this series. Or you can listen to the webinar ($).

I’m not sure what you mean by “normal” change management. First let me say that I do not believe in using the word “management” and strongly prefer “facilitation”. One cannot manage change: you can only attempt to make it easier, thus facilitate it.

Digital initiatives are a special challenge. They eventually impact everyone in the organization. They change how people work, and how people think. That’s a difference between digital initiatives and most other change efforts in organizations.

Digital brings value through increased transparency and visibility across the organization: bottom-up, top-down and horizontal. Much of what used to be apparently hidden can be made visible. New flows of information and ways of working open up: senior people can communicate on the digital platform directly to all the workforce, people on the edges of the organization can share what they see in the external world, people can ask a question on the social network and get multiple responses within hours. All this visibility and increased “horizontality” are signs of a successful digital initiative. But this also makes people uncomfortable.

Open but be vigilant

Openness should not be applied automatically to everything even when digita

People must understand what confidentiality is, and when to open and when to close information and work spaces. The slide above (from the webinar slide deck) shows how to analyze confidentiality and not fall into the trap of thinking everything should be open.

There’s good openness (as per my examples above) and risky openness. Encourage the first and watch out for the second. Confidentiality is often used as an excuse not to share information, to keep things closed away. When someone says “it’s confidential” be sure to ask them why.

Photo credit erlend-ekseth Unsplash


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