Sunday, November 04, 2007

Information hiding

The August 2007 Communications of the ACM has an article called Offshore Outsourcing: The Risk of Keeping Mum. In it they discuss factors that contribute to information hiding. They reference a model developed by G. Hofstede, which breaks down cultural differences into 5 factors, and then combine it with work done by Keil and Robey [ACM 44 Apr 2001] which identified fear of being punished as the principal cause of the mum effect. They conclude that the mum effect has higher probability in Asia than in the west due to these factors, but also wonder why there have not been examples of spectacular failures attributed to information hiding in offshored projects.

It also states that communication gaps occur when employees feel their views are not valued or taken seriously. That's really the point of my post today. Trust develops when we genuinely listen to views of others, and demonstrate that we understand. Understanding doesn't mean agreement. What it means is that you can use your own words to express their view, and if you disagree, you are able to articulate why. Ultimately both parties express and listen until they agree or agree to disagree, but both have the same information. Trust is necessary to be able to express potential failures and risks in a completely open and truthful manner. It doesn't have to be an offshore team or a team with a different culture, but with those factors, you will have to work that much harder to develop trust.

Without trust, your team may not tell you what is going wrong until it is too late.

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