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Stop Fearing Leaks And Open The Floodgates Of Information

It’s a paradoxical time: Companies are increasingly aware of the long-term benefits of trust and yet, they hold back because they worry that employees with too much access to information can wreak havoc. On one end, businesses want to be more open internally and on the other end they do everything they can to protect their data behind multiple firewalls. After all, they’re worried that their employees will “leak” sensitive information; that competitors will get wind of their latest top-secret projects and formulae; or that it will spell the end of their growth. 

But, if company leaders were to really try and rationalize these fears, they’d realize their illusory quality. For, the real world doesn’t operate upon “leaked” information. Such information expire real fast because they’re relevant for a very short window of time. Simply put, companies will be digging their own graves if they were basing their next move upon leaked information from their competitors. They will always be one step behind and soon nobody would remember them.

Access To Information Gets Things Done

In the end, opening up your information to all your employees isn’t a bad idea at all. In fact, it’s one of the best things you could do to drive up efficiency and bust bureaucracy. Open access to information is like a tool that can help businesses be nimble in today’s fast-paced marketplace and it can help people make informed decisions on the go.

                                                                        And that’s exactly what enabled Wilson Campos, a project manager at Semco, to streamline his workflow, improve his efficiency, boost his autonomy and cut through unnecessary redtape. As a project manager, Campos interacts with multiple departments and clients acting as an interface between them. Ever since all company information was made accessible to everybody, he says he could open any document he needed, via the intranet, as and when he required it. As someone who also understands the information at hand, he had the autonomy to make adjustments to the data whenever necessary.

For instance, when a client requested to include a clause within a contract that had already been signed, he was able to do it without encountering any bureaucratic obstacles that’s typical in large organizations. Instead of contacting the concerned department for information and waiting for them to act upon his request, he could simply access the contract folder and make the necessary adjustments. In this way, he contacted departments for further information only when it was absolutely necessary.

More Than Just Facts And Figures

Here’s another case study: Semco once entered into a merger with an American company called EVAPCO. Their international laws prevented EVAPCO from sharing their financial data with employees in Brazil. However, Jose Alignani, the Ex-CEO of this merger, was able to circumvent this law by sharing the relevant information with employees without getting into the specifics. Instead of sharing the exact numbers, he was able to summarize the company’s performance and financial viability as well as set goals for employees to aim for.

He did all this by sharing contextual figures and referring to data in a relative manner. So for instance, instead of sharing the exact numbers by saying, “Oh, we did 197,6000 in sales this year,” Alignani would say, “Remember last year, in the same period, we did 100 in sales. Today, despite the crisis, we are doing 70 in sales. So, before the end of the year, we need to get to 80.” In essence, he simplified the key messages to make them more accessible and shared with employees how the business was doing even though he couldn’t share such information formally or officially.

Here are a few more examples of how Alignani shared information simply without getting into the details: “We need to bring down our level of expenditure from here (Alignani holding his hand high to mark an imaginary spot) to here (Alignani holding his other hand at a relatively lower, imaginary spot).” When things were going well for the company, the information was communicated in the same, “For Dummies” way: “This year, guys, we are doing great! Last year we probably did 100, but this year we will do 120 in sales. So this means we all will have a greater share of the company profits!”

Information Can Be Transformative

The foremost benefit of allowing unrestricted access to information is the message of trust it sends out to employees. It shows that the company trusts its people to be responsible, trustworthy and engaged employees, instead of people who blindly follow rules and further cement bureaucracy.

The access to information across the board also boosts the sense of ownership people feel towards the companies they work for. While it allows the freedom to access any information they want, it also fosters in them a sense of responsibility to use that information wisely and to the benefit of the company. In times of crisis, the information first prepares them for the coming storm and it helps them respond better to difficult decisions from the management.

Finally, when employees can access any information - as and when they need to - it renders bureaucracy useless. It eliminates the need for convoluted emails requesting information between departments; it boosts productivity and efficiency; and removes any obstacles that hinder people from doing their jobs.

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