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This chapter is from the book

Have No Secrets

Now that you know what your choices are in designing your organization it is time to spend the last few pages of this chapter on the communication flowing through the structure you created.

As I wrote earlier, most problems in software projects are the result of bad communication. For proper communication people need good information, good relationships, and good feedback.

In many organizations, people lack good information, which usually results in people inventing it themselves. When they don't know how well their project is doing, they will try to guess. When they don't know how other teams are performing, they will make assumptions. When they don't understand what their colleagues contribute to the organization, they will invent their own reasons. And when they don't know anything about their manager's personal life, they will gossip about it.

To prevent such problems, you should make information available and accessible. And in general, more is better. Give everyone access to the Internet, all network folders, project information systems, and source control systems. Make books and magazines available, promote your company's intranet, and publish time registration reports, project burn charts, profit and loss figures, and other kinds of corporate information. Withholding information is (in general) a bad thing. Don't just assume that nobody will be interested in something. You may be right, but keeping information to yourself is not a good thing, because people will communicate something, and it can only mean that other (mis)information gets passed around. And opening up not only applies to your information systems. You have to be honest yourself as well because talented people want to hear the truth about themselves and about the organization. [Kaye, Jordan-Evans 2008:204]

I have often tried to make sure that plenty of information is available for everyone. I want people to see who is working on which projects and which features, bugs, and issues are handled by whom, and what the team members' evaluations are of those projects.

In tough economic times, it is particularly important to make everyone understand what the organization's financial performance is. As Jack Stack wrote in The Great Game of Business, only when employees care about financial figures, they will think of ways to improve them [Stack 1994].

Some great managers argue that, ultimately, even people's salaries should be made public, including the salary of the manager. After all, if you cannot explain a person's salary to everyone else in the organization, how can you expect people to trust you as a manager?

I think I can agree with that. But I also understand that you cannot change an organization's culture overnight. It would be unwise to start communicating people's secrets when there's no culture of doing so. But you have to start somewhere. Jack Stack lists ten "Higher Laws of Business," of which the last is called "Shit rolls downhill." It means that changing an organization begins with changing management.

Well, someday I hope to be a great manager. So I have made sure that my personal "secrets" are published throughout this book. Have you spotted them?

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