By Dale Rensing, Senior Market Analyst at Porter Consulting
At the start of my career many years ago, I had an opportunity to work for an incredibly forward-thinking company, a company that was connected worldwide through its electronic communications before anyone even coined the term internet. It was the Star Trek Academy of its day, inventing many of the technologies that we now take for granted.
I was star struck. Fresh out of college where I took one computer programming course involving the use of punch cards, I couldn’t get over how easily everyone interacted with one another through computers. Email was the preferred method of communication; forget about the phone. There were forums and chat groups, very similar to the social networking websites of today. Members would chime in on problems, resolve issues and share common interests. We communicated quickly and easily from our keyboards, often with people whom we had never met in person, but people we came to respect due to their demonstrated expertise.
A potential consequence of this ubiquitous communications network was the company’s open door policy. We were encouraged to share our ideas, issues and concerns, bringing them forward to our colleagues, peers and management. Now this is pretty heady stuff for a young kid coming from a traditional hierarchical background where one never questioned a teacher, professor or administrator.
But here I was, interacting with engineering managers, product managers, department managers and, notably, even the head of engineering. No matter who or what level they were, they all seemed interested in hearing what I had to say. I had the opportunity to sit with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, discussing things which often led to incredibly interesting projects. As a result, I gained the confidence I needed to put forward some radical proposals and the support required to bring them to fruition.
Such was our open organization. Some argued that the ability for people to chime in no matter their position also made it difficult for us to move ahead with projects that may have been critical to our success. They probably had a point, but that was not the downfall of the company. No, the downfall of the company was that it was too far ahead of its time. It invented some of the neatest things, but the world just wasn’t ready for them.
Now, fast forward to today. This world is ready for more open organizations. The infrastructure is already in place. Anyone now entering the workforce has already experienced this open environment. Everyone communicates freely and openly with friends, teachers and family across geographies with their mobile apps and social media. They’ve been taught in the universities how to use the electronic resources at hand to question and explore. This ubiquitous ability to communicate breaks down all sorts of barriers – we can communicate with anyone regardless of race, religion, or status.
I consider myself very lucky to have experienced what I did. Not everyone in my generation had that chance. But many of today’s potential employees have experienced nothing but this openness. Businesses need to recognize this and consider changing their organizational structures to accommodate what has become the new norm. Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, addresses this in his book “The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance”. Companies that need bright, energetic talent will do themselves a great favor by looking at how they might adapt to becoming more open organizations, engaging their talent in a mutually beneficial way.
This is actually something millennials are starting to look for when they decide upon job opportunities. My colleague, Michael Airosus, will be covering more of this in his upcoming Millennial blogs.
What do you think an open organization could do for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Dale Rensing has been helping customers envision the benefits of technology, from local area networks to cloud technologies and IoT for over 25 years. You can find more blogs and content from Dale at www.porterconsulting.net. Porter Consulting is a marketing services consulting company who can you help you grow revenue.