Close the ‘Spin Room!’

Organizational culture Organizational leadership Respect


Key Point: I think it’s time for almost (if not completely) full transparency in organizations. There may be some information that should be closely held, but I’m hard pressed to identify what may qualify as a legitimate “secret.” Perhaps a pending merger or acquisition in a publicly traded company? I guess an organization restructure where people’s jobs are impacted deserves confidentiality out of respect to those impacted? Even the sacred world of compensation could use more visibility. In public companies, the compensation of top executives must be disclosed. Why not for all of us internally? If it has to be kept a secret, I wonder why. 

At Google, TGIF stands for a weekly meeting with ALL 70,000 full-time Google employees. It’s hosted by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google. The meeting now happens on Thursday to accommodate the Googlers in Asia. According to Google people, it’s usually the best 45 minutes of the week. Larry and Sergey NEVER miss a meeting and using Google tools, Googlers anywhere are encouraged to ask any question on any topic. According to insiders, it is always an authentic, unvarnished, open conversation. In fact it is so transparent, ALL Google employees are considered insiders and can only trade stock in restrictive periods based on the rules applied to what constitutes inside trading. Another example of this transparency is that any engineer has access to Google source code. (Of course if someone tried to download it to an unsecured non-Google device, Google security would likely unleash some serious consequences). Being open doesn’t mean being naïve, or weak in the matter of protecting intellectual intelligence. It does mean trusting people to navigate through and sort through what’s important to them.

At the company I work for, we are really opening information up. As an example, non-execs are given an opportunity to attend our top management meetings, board committee sessions and even full board meetings. Every Monday and Tuesday we share what’s going on in the company by having our top execs available for a virtual, company wide town hall. The social platform tools are now robust enough to share information in real time and to trust people translating and interpreting the key messages. The idea of top management going into the “spin room” to manage a company wide message is becoming very old school. In fact, if one of our execs sends an email or even a video, we are often surprised by the low “open rate.” We just haven’t got time for “spin,” regardless of how well intended it may be. We want it real, open and straight up so we can make up our own minds.

This week 100 million people are likely to tune in and watch the U.S. Presidential debate. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook will give us instant, real time evaluations on the event. The pundits in the back room trying to “spin” the outcome after the debate are likely too little, too late and probably irrelevant. Millions of viewers will decide and trend the outcome. The “spin room” is losing it’s luster everywhere, and rightly so.

Character Moves:

  1. Confront old ideas and “truisms” regarding information. If information is power, why not empower everyone? The “need to know” guideline may be an outdated idea? Most of the time, we are far from having real “state secrets.” The more people know and understand context, the better can they contribute.
  1. Being open and transparent doesn’t mean all of us running around sharing our most personal matters. The last thing I want to know is the “dark web” in most people lives. Please keep that locked in your mind where it safely belongs. However, in organizational life, I deeply believe a company gets more done by sharing openly on all the initiatives. It builds trust, and treats team members with respect.

Transparency in The Triangle


One Millennial View: I completely agree. I know my company is trying to be more transparent, and it’s helpful… If I can better understand how my actions can further the goal of another department as well, then that’s only going to help strengthen the success of the entire company as a whole. Isn’t that what we’re all ultimately trying to do? Trouble is, if we don’t communicate or inquire, we’re all just on separate islands… It’s time to build some bridges, not sink ships.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis