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Business - Written by on Friday, August 29, 2008 11:30 - 1 Comment

Organizations want be to open, they’re just not sure how to get there

Over the past year we have been working with a number of organizations from both the private and public sector and they all seem to have a similar problem. They want to be more open and transparent in the way that they operate, but they don’t know where to start. A lot of times struggling to define what being open means and requires in the Web 2.0 era.

Today openness and transparency are lauded as being not just good for your brand and public relations, but good for business too. (I think Don was just a few years to early with his book The Naked Corporation) The thing is that when companies jumped on the transparency bandwagon a few years ago, openness translated to sharing information on a website. The emergence of Web 2.0 tools changed the landscape overnight and stakeholders not only expect timely access to information, but a channel to engage and interact with the organization. What seemed like a simple task even three or four years ago has now transformed into a more complex exercise.

From the standpoint of the organization the bar has been raised in terms of the resources, policies and diligence they need to undergo in order to successfully engage stakeholders. Organizations aren’t used to committing the effort and resources to these initiatives, and even more troubling for many is the question “once we engage stakeholders, do we have to listen to them?” Organizations are used to functioning in a vacuum, formulate a strategy, develop offerings, communicate with customer, measure success, evaluate and repeat. Being open means that you have to do things like co-create offerings, collaboratively manage your brand and image, engage customers and listen and respond to feedback.

At first glance it seems as if the stakeholder is the only one benefiting from the changes as organizations fumble to get started. However, when an organization thinks about having more channels, detailed information, deep access and the potential for real relationships with stakeholders it sounds like the ideal situation they have always been trying to create.

So what’s the problem? For our clients it’s too much all at once and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed at the seemingly limitless possibilities and countless problems and pitfalls. In order for organizations to succeed the need to approach this new era of stakeholder engagement like they do a product or service rollout. Try a pilot, use a test market. I mean you would launch a new product simultaneously across the globe without running a pilot, so why would you try and engage and satisfy all of your stakeholders in one fell swoop? In this age of openness and transparency your stakeholders are not going to expect perfection or polish, they expect you to be honest and upfront. It’s not if you make a mistake, it’s when you make a mistake, how will you respond.

1 Comment

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Kin Lane
Sep 2, 2008 23:24

Even some of the companies that want and try do not wish to be open or how to deal with it once it happens.

Every organization should have a plan for transparency and opening up their company to the public.

The plan should include a monitoring of the conversation and building an awareness of what the public is saying.

Listen….Adjust Your Plan…Repeat if Necessary.

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