To understand the concept of Transparent Integrity in organizations let us draw an analogy through the characters of The Wizard of Oz and Dorothy; The Wizard put on a public face that suited his mission in his mind. It was not the real Wizard. Dorothy had a purpose (and subordinate mission) to return home, but used Intelligent Self Interest and a well founded, non-contrived ethos in her journey to accomplish her purpose: she was open and transparent in her motivations, constantly and rightfully denied what doubters assumed were less heroic motivations, and while needing others to help in her journey, never sublimated nor contrived their interests for hers or hers for theirs. Her companions were put to tests to support their true motivations while in some measure those tests were also a test of Dorothy. Dorothy was not only open about her purpose and mission, but engaged others in it.
Dorothy’s purpose stood the test of sarcastic scrutiny.
Now, The Wizard. In a mild way (to be able to tell a children’s story), he eventually had the curtain pulled aside by a neutral character; Toto. His reality was revealed for all to see. And it was not what he had made people believe. It lacked integrity.
Over the course of the last few decades, the value structure within a fundamental business operating plan changed from the assumption of integrity in all “Participant” dealings (employees, vendors, customers, board, community) to “We need to have a Public Face (conjured set of values) to keep stakeholders happy”.
Much of the “public versus private face” logic was due in part to and covered by the assumption that any endeavor the company embarked upon was prey to the competition. It could be turned, twisted and re-publicized as a weakness or as a point of comparison used in marketing between the two organizations, and where one company lacked a true competitive edge, they could make one up or twist a competitor’s positive into a negative.
Still more of the shift was due to an assumption that the end customer and other participants would understand convenient “end justifies the means” thinking. After all, the “Stake Holders” (old term) were really only interested in the end results, not the process.
And, in many privately held or closely held companies, the “Chief” is afraid to show any personal weaknesses or corporate weaknesses. That could reduce the desired projected image of the organization or diminish the Chief’s desired personal power with all participants. We do in fact equate the strength of a company with the persona of the CEO or public figure of an organization. Sometimes the public is not very bright.
Recently, the “public face” has been invoked frequently to protect short term stock prices, competitive advantage, and liabilities.
Although “transparency” is not an exercise in revealing true competitive secrets, many organizations have taken non-transparency as a blanket rule for all that characterizes the organization and have preferred NOT to make the distinction between “core integrity” (a reflection of those values the organization has put forward as their Ethos) and core secrets (products, pipelines, customers, vendors, processes).
Solution for A Great Workplace?
First; work on assuring that the 12 other attributes of being a Great Workplace are solid: Purpose being a great starting point. Then make sure the Purpose is reflected in your Values (Ethos). Both Purpose and Values answer the “Why?”
When you have “Why” nailed and “Purpose” to drive your direction, almost anything can be accomplished. And you will sleep better.
The Integrity part of the equation comes from doing in reality, what your Purpose (and mission) say that you will do.
And yes, it is okay to have a “mission” as long as you understand that is has a time frame, is totally self-centered and is not a substitute for Purpose.