The Purest Form of Organizational Communication

Last month, I spoke at the Gathering of the Games, the world’s largest conference on open book management. Hundreds of open book leaders and communication practitioners from around the world were in attendance to learn, share and celebrate the principles and practice of open book management.

OpeBusiness people in conference roomn book management is a leadership philosophy that’s grounded in the notion of creating businesses of business people where everyone in the organization thinks and acts like business owners.

People in open book companies are steeped in business literacy and have huge amounts of financial information available to them. Their rewards and recognition are tied to financial performance, and they work daily to improve the financials.

Clients who witness open book for the first time often they tell me they’re blown away. “I can’t believe how much business knowledge these people have,” one person exclaimed.

I’ve worked with several communication professionals to help them improve their business’ performance using open book concepts. Heather Sandoe, communication leader at an ITT operation in Pennsylvania is one of them.

Heather Sandoe photo
Heather Sandoe

Heather understood that people needed more information about the business and how it works. The operation’s primary measure was operating income (OI). However, few employees understood what OI meant to them and what they did every day. Working with her finance department, Heather and I developed a business and financial management communication strategy that taught every employee what OI is and how they could influence it every day.

In just a few months, on-time delivery increased 38 percent. Productivity increased 7.1 percent. The return on investment was 1,148 percent. So, in just a few months the communication function went from a cost center approach to a discipline that dramatically helped improve business results and value.

What’s open book management look like inside an organization?

  • Communication is future focused—”through the windshield” so to speak. Most companies manage communication historically by reporting what has happened—through the rear-view mirror. Sure, we want to know if we’re winning or losing but the emphasis should be on the numbers that we can do something about, not about numbers that are dead and gone.
  • Top down and bottom up thinking is out. Lateral conversations—people collaborating to get the job done better – is in. We/they thinking and language is banned.
  • All focus is on improving the critical number—the one that provides organizational focus and that everyone can influence. So-called “messaging” becomes outdated when the focus is  more on the numbers that represent the real game being played in business than talking points.
  • Trust blossoms.   Open books build trust.  Leaders who refuse to open the books—even a little—create or perpetuate a trust problem with their employees. Can you continue to lead effectively if you’re not trusted?

KEY TAKEAWAY: ITT’s Heather Sandoe learned quickly that managing communication inside a company is not about newsletters and videos. It’s about having the information people need to make the right decisions that influence positive financial results.

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