How open are you? Conduct an Openness Audit to find out.

When “Groundswell” came out, I was frequently asked the seemingly innocent little question “How open do I need to be?” It was asked in the face of managers and executives being asked to engage with customers and employees for the first time. It seems fairly obvious to those of us steeped in the world of social technologies — you just are open, authentic, and transparent.

But for many people where Facebook and Twitter represent alien planets fraught with danger, this is a very valid question. For organizations in particular, being open brings with it the reality that business — and people for that matter — simply cannot be completely open and transparent.

Ten Elements of Openness from the book "Open Leadership".So to answer the question “How open do you need to be?”, I first define what it means to be open in 10 different areas. Those areas are laid out in the graphic here, and are divided into two areas: 1) Information sharing; and 2) Decision making.

The next step is to then conduct an Openness Audit that looks at how open your organization is across these 10 areas. The six Information Sharing elements of Explaining, Updating, Conversing, Open Mic, Crowdsourcing, and Platforms in particular can be evaluated on a simple numerical score, giving you an openness score.

That score and the detail behind it becomes a powerful tool for aligning your organization — it provides a starting point for discussing how open you need to be because you’ll start from an understanding of how open you ARE.

And I’ve seen the Openness Audit in action, using it within companies to create alignment, and at conferences with a diverse group of attendees. Last week, I rounded out a keynote speech at Buzz2010 in Washington, DC with an openness audit, and I thought I’d share some of the observations:

  • Some people were astonished at how low their scores were, especially in areas where they thought they were fairly open. The Audit became a task list for them to go back and understand if they were appropriate open, or if they needed to be more open to accomplish their goals.
  • Two people from the same organization, but two different problems, arrived at radically different scores. It was interesting as a group to hear how this was possible, and also a warning that such disparity can lead to tension within the organization on how to approach engagement with employees and customers.
  • And several people planned to take the Audit back to their organizations, to use it as an assessment and change management tool, aiding discussion around how open they needed to be.

So to that end, I’m making available the Openness Audit from the book and workshops so that you can run an audit directly. You can download it directly from or use an interactive version on this site in the Resources section. Of course, I’d love it if you’d also buy the book to get more detailed explanations on what each of these open elements entail, and also how to craft and execute an open leadership strategy!

And please comment back with your observations on how the Openness Audit helped you better understand how open you are. And if you’re brave, share the results of your openness audit!

Openness Audit PDF Download

19 thoughts on “How open are you? Conduct an Openness Audit to find out.”

  1. I would love to believe that this is in fact THE new rules but it’s not reality in most companies today. Let’s look at each one of these:

    (a) Respect that your customer and employees have power – There are a lot of companies that do not respect their customers. Let’s take Apple for example; rather than acknowledge a problem with the new iPhone they tell customers that they are holding them wrong. As for employees ? With the unemployment rate so high a lot of employers are not respecting employees they are making them work harder, longer and often they do more work and get paid less.

    (b) Share consistently and build trust – I have always gone to people who work for me when I am working on a new proposal or marketing program but that is rare from what I have heard. All too often senior level executives sit in their offices and are afraid to share what they are doing because to them knowledge is power. Let’s not forget the senior managers who are afraid to share and build trust because they are in over their heads. How can you build trust with your boss when at your review he/she brings up something you did over 8 months ago and tells you need to improve ? How can you build trust when your manager won’t go to bat for you and cover your back ?

    (c) Nurture curiosity and humility – Sure that’s why you have closed door meetings all the time and you have an office and I have a cube.

    (d) Hold openness accountable – There aren’t many companies that are willing to this especially within matrix organizations where decision making is spread among a lot of people.

    (e) Forgive failure – “sure companies can forgive failure, by firing you, demoting you or making your life hell so that you’ll get so stressed out your blood pressure will go off the scale.

    I would love for every company to adapt Ms Li’s principles of Open Leadership but forgive me for being in the Dilbert camp when it comes to believing in management. Over the course of my career I have worked for 2 really good managers the rest were horrible including one PR manager who was booted to corporate because he screwed up the local business unit so much.

    Still there is hope that eventually companies will get it and start to be more open and forgive failure but we have a hell of a long way to go.

  2. Rich: All excellent points, and I agree, we have a long way to go. But I think we all know and remember those few managers/leaders we’ve had in our careers that we would follow to the ends of the earth — and they live by these new rules. In fact, I would say that these are old rules, but they are made even more clear and urgent because of the pressure of social technologies.

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