Enterprise architecture develops, documents, and communicates the baseline, target, and transition plan for an organization. EA makes information transparent to enable better decision making. Transparency leads to self-correcting behavior.
Here’s one case where transparency may be better left under wraps.
The Wall Street Journal, 9 April 2008, reports: “Candid Camera: Trove of Videos Vexes Wal-Mart.”
“For nearly 30 years, Wal-Mart stores Inc. employed a video production company here to capture footage of its top executives, sometimes in unguarded moments. Two years ago, the retailing giant stopped using the tiny company. At first, the decision threw Flagler Productions Inc. into a panic. Now, it’s Wal-Mart that’s squirming.
“Flagler has opened its trove of 15,000 Wal-Mart tapes to the outside world, with an eye toward selling clips. The material is proving irresistible to everyone from business historians to documentary filmmakers to plaintiff’s lawyers and union organizers.”
So what’s the problem with exposing some tapes of Wal-Mart executives?
“Among the revealing moments: a former executive vice president and board member challenges store managers in 2004 to continue his work opposing unionization. Male managers in drag lead thousands of co-workers in the company’s corporate cheer. In another meeting, managers mock foolish or dangerous use of a product sold in stores.”
“Unlike the polished presentations delivered at business forums, the videos provide an unvarnished look at Wal-Mart leaders…the videos deal with ‘everything anyone would want on Wal-Mart…They’ve got 30 years of people winging it.’”
A labor historian says, “When they are talking to themselves, and there aren’t any shareholders present, you get a level of things being revealed.”
This is a treasure trove for lawyers on various cases, unions delving into personnel policies and practices, and critics of the company. The question from an EA perspective is whether information transparency is really a good thing or not?
- On the positive side, only by getting the information out there or having the “threat” of the information getting out (like on the cover of the Washington Post or in Congressional hearings) are organizations and people forced to ensure they are doing the “right” thing, and therefore self-correct when they are off track.
- On the other hand, when information is too transparent (like the unscripted videos of Wal-Mart executives), the enterprise can be put at competitive, security, economic, judicial, and political risk, thus jeopardizing any future plans for the organization.
There are certainly risks to an organization when it makes information transparent. It is these very risks of “exposure” that breed and are the impetus for self-correction. While, self-policing mechanisms (like internal controls, inspections, and audits) can achieve similar self-correcting behavior without putting the organization at risk with external entities, it does not have the same potency as full transparency. Indeed, nobody wants to wake up in the morning and find their organization on the cover of The Washington Post as the poster child for organizational fraud, waste, and abuse!