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Default To Open


Default To Open

Your default mode should be to share everything...
— Eric Schmidt

I'm currently engrossed in one of the books from my Christmas holiday reading list - How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. Eric is Google's Executive Chairman and Jonathan previously managed the company's consumer, advertiser and partner products so they write with authority on Google’s inner workings.

One of the key take ways for me was with respect to business communication. Their view is that when it comes to communication, businesses should default to being open and they should maximize the velocity and volume of the flow of their information.

Two great examples stood out for me:

The Google Board Report
Every quarter, Google executives create an in depth report on the state of the business providing data and insights on the business and products (nothing particularly unusual so far). What is surprising is that this detailed report is shared with every Google employee, along with a video from Eric presenting the slides that were delivered to the board. There are some elements that are redacted for legal reasons, but the default is to provide open communication and share. Google has shared every board presentation in this manner since they listed on the NASDAQ in 2004 and they have not had issues with respect to leaking of confidential information.

The key result is that nobody complains that they aren't aware of what's going on within the company. It's all there for their consumption.

Google OKRs
Another example of transparency at Google is their OKR process. OKRs are the Objectives (strategic goals to achieve) and Key Results (the way which progress towards the goal is measured) that every Google employee defines and publishes each quarter. It's a first person account of the things that they are working on and care about. The open nature of this information allows anyone in the business to understand anyone else's business priorities.

The OKR process starts at the top with Larry Page (Google’s CEO) posting his OKRs and communicating them at a company-wide meeting. The various business and product leads will then join in to define what each OKR means for their team and to review how they performed for the last quarter. Following on from this each staff member documents their own OKRs without any doubt of what the company's priorities are for the next quarter.

Google’s OKR process helps to maintain alignment across teams even as their organisation scales rapidly (they currently have over 50,000 employees).

I've been fortunate to work in a number of fantastic organisations, and I can only see an upside for staff engagement with increased organisational transparency. 

A good summary of the book follows, it's a worthwhile read!