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Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor Hardcover – May 19, 2008
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In Transparency, the authors?a powerhouse trio in the field of leadership?look at what conspires against "a culture of candor" in organizations to create disastrous results, and suggest ways that leaders can achieve healthy and honest openness. They explore the lightning-rod concept of "transparency"?which has fast become the buzzword not only in business and corporate settings but in government and the social sector as well.Together Bennis, Goleman, and O'Toole explore why the containment of truth is the dearest held value of far too many organizations and suggest practical ways that organizations, their leaders, their members, and their boards can achieve openness. After years of dedicating themselves to research and theory, at first separately, and now jointly, these three leadership giants reveal the multifaceted importance of candor and show what promotes transparency and what hinders it. They describe how leaders often stymie the flow of information and the structural impediments that keep information from getting where it needs to go. This vital resource is written for any organization?business, government, and nonprofit?that must achieve a culture of candor, truth, and transparency.
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I especially liked the quote from Francis Bacon: "If a man will begin with certainties, he will end in doubts, but if he will be content to begin in doubts, he will end in certainties." and the one from Martin Luther King Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Both of these appear in the second essay on speaking truth to power and it is in this area that I believe the most work is needed. Far too many folks in power believe that they have the answers and won't accept any others. If they read this they might see the error of thier ways.
The first essay, "Creating a Culture of Candor," provides an overview of transparency in organizations within the context of facilitating communication, cementing trust, and developing a culture that is conductive to constant improvement and reevaluation. The detailed discussion of the role played by whistleblowers in organizations gives extremely valuable insight into why transparency is necessary, often at great costs to those who take on the David role to their organizational Goliath. It also provides an excellent evaluation of the changes mitigating transparency as a result of the rapid emergence of the internet and other technologies. Borrowing many of Peter Senge's concepts of organizational structure and function, these core concepts and approaches to transparency are nestled within a complex evaluation of the role transparency plays in not only organizational culture but also information systems in general, providing a rich discussion useful to managers, elected officials, executives, and other guardians of information.
The second essay, "Speaking Truth to Power," continues to discuss the role of the whistleblower, adding novel supplements based in historical applications of transparency in philosophy, literature, and government. Merging the concepts of transparency and ethics, O'Toole delivers a riveting discussion of the challenges facing those seeking openness when an organization (knowingly or unknowingly) serves as an impediment to the flow of information. While certain examples are recycled from the previous essay, the essay remains fresh and poignant as a result O'Toole's innovative discussion. Ultimately, while not all information need be shared with all parties, O'Toole makes a strong case for loosening the stronghold on non-proprietary information by demonstrating the clear ethical obligation for transparency at all levels within an organization. This premise is bolstered by the clear and remarkable examples of best practices from a variety of public and private institutions.
The final essay, "The New Transparency," brilliantly reorganizes the previous concepts in the context of developing technologies and changing expectations. The advent of the internet, mobile video/audio recording, and electronic communications has led not only to a shift in the way information is shared, but a marked change in our culture, which has now come to assume transparency as the norm. This change is being reflected in the practice of organizations and legislation of governments. While strategies to adequately address the negative implications of a near-fully transparent society are slowly evolving, it is clear that transparency is upon us. Responsible organizations will be best served by embracing the new reality.
Those seeking a "how-to" manual may be disappointed, but Transparency is overflowing with valuable information, proactive strategies for developing a transparent organizational culture, and current examples of where various approaches to transparency have succeeded and failed. Despite the occasional political bias, the three essays should be highly recommended to anyone interested in new media, privacy, communications, information systems, organizational culture, management, and ethics.
The book is a very quick read, which makes this a "perfect" selection for leaders on the go who need to wake up and smell the coffee!
' Was humored by the jargon, adages, maxims and quips, for example some generic "none of us is as smart as all of us", "imperial nakedness", "old saw", and some specific (Clinton) "when in doubt, let it out", (engineers) "don't tell someone you have a problem unless you have a solution"
' Very relevant to today's new presidential administration, which has called for and acted towards transparency at many government and non-government institutions
' An almost prophetic book as it talks about the demise of whistle-blowers such as Eric Shinseki, who a year after this book was published was brought back to stature and power. I'm betting Obama and/or his advisors have read this book, and keep it on their shelf.
' The three-essay format is disconnected, expect for the repetition of the jargon (I heard "old saw" too much). Since all authors agree that difficult conversations are important, and since their essays-to-book is far from seamless, why didn't they just have difficult conversations among themselves, instead of parroting each others ideas and words? Again, there is irony since at least one author (Bennis) found this copying to be a characteristic of non-transparent organization.
' All authors continue to talk about companies, but never named names. I got tired of hearing about simply a "memory storage company" or "major investment bank".
' Schizophrenic in that the subject continues to switch from truth-speaker (whistle-blower) to power (leader, who also needs to be a truth-speaker). Speaking truth to power by whistle-blowing is just one means of arriving at transparency.
' Authors should state that transparency strategies can be used in many difficult conversations.
' Generally a difficult style of writing. Someone with an e-version of the book, please search for ". But"
' Focused too much on (the organizational culture of) for-profit companies.
' I wanted to hear more about inter-organizational transparency, for example between a non-profit and government entity.
' Where is the summary at the end?? It just trails off on some digital-age detail....
' Worth a quick read, but not worthy of the bookshelf