Visibility: Alignment or an Orwellian Dystopy?

peak-view

Visibility on the work being done throughout the organization is one of our core values and the key value proposition of Agilefant. By default everyone should have visibility to the work that is planned, in progress and being done everywhere in the organization.

Occasionally, we find people who question the premise of whether this type of visibility is preferable in the first place.

 

Sure – the argument goes – being able to see what everyone works on may yield some benefits. But it can also lead to a digital Taylorism, where everyone in the company is monitored and measured for their efficiency leading to potentially a productive and certainly miserable organization.

And considering for instance the recent scandal at Amazon, such a scenario certainly is plausible.

At the other side of the coin we have the more benign benefits that organizational visibility can bring. Visibility is a crucial enabler for self-organization of work and alignment, which again are linked to improved productivity and a happier workplace. Some of today’s hot organizational ideas like lean and agile won’t reach their full potential if visibility on what is going on in the company is lacking.

Visibility is not good or bad in itself. The underlying issue is about trust. Some organizations have a low trust culture where visibility can turn into a tool to control employees. Other organizations foster a culture of high trust where sharing what you are working on is both natural and seen as contributing to the common good.

We believe that the share of organizations with a high level of trust and visibility will increase because of the following reasons:

  1. History shows us that there is always some level of moral panic when a new technology is introduced and that the concerns quite rapidly dissipate. For instance, cameras were originally seen as a huge threat to privacy and there was serious debate about banning them altogether. A more recent example could be Gmail which was proposed to be banned because the service scans the inbox to serve targeted ads.
  2. However, there is clear generational shift in how people think about sharing information. Younger people are in general much more accustomed for instance to share personal things in social media, and they tend to see more value in doing so.
  3. Companies with a low trust environment will have a hard time achieving a high level of visibility because people can game the system by reporting less than truthfully or resist reporting their work. This leads to lower productivity, and ultimately, lower business success.
  4. The companies that are best in creating self-organizing high trust environments will be the winners of tomorrow, as they can respond quicker to changing market conditions and get more things done; not to mention the gains a happier organization will bring about.

So, we see that visibility is not only agility – but the way of the future.