Change the Way “Transparency” is Interpreted

IBM’s “roadmap” – its stated lofty intent to deliver US$20 per share in earnings come hell or high water by 2015 is clearly in trouble. IBM has just abandoned its roadmap.

The way I see it, soon, IBM will suffer yet another near-death experience.

The way some corporations operate, it is a marvel how they haven’t collapsed already.

Huge dinosaurs roamed the earth at one time, but they weren’t nimble and fast, they survived based on sheer might and size – their brains were tiny – and soon they too all perished.

Indeed I often wonder how some corporations can survive the passage of time.

Take Ericsson for example; though official appointed “regional supplier” for its leadership and management development programs, internal problems mired within Ericsson has prevented the Swedish corporation from awarding me any business so far.

I am only “regional supplier” in name only.

People at the helm of institutionally short-termist corporations often fail to grasp the endless damage they inflict on themselves and their corporations by the way they interact with others.

Often, the self-flagellation is not their personal fault. They are just pawns and cogs in mammoth, bloated bureaucracy the machinations of which they have little control.

The first victims are often those they should be nice to.

Ginni Rometty, Chairman and CEO of IBM has not been able to articulate a convincing reason why the colossal corporate behemoth she heads has to abandon its roadmap. Meanwhile, typical of IBM culture, deadwood and hangers-on continue to rely on internal relationships and networking to cruise in the organization. I am reminded of the Malcolm Muggeridge saying that only dead fish swim with the stream. Look at IBM today, all the good, talented people are gone, most of those who are still there survive by riding the coattails of their “godfathers” and hiding in the highly matrix organization, just as they have been doing for years.

Serena Marriott, Ericsson’s Head of Learning & Development – South East Asia & Oceania, has so far not been able to come up with a cohesive explanation of how their internal complications have transformed Ericsson into a failed corporation in the eyes of their external business partners and stakeholders like me. When I expressed my dissatisfaction all she said was “I have already made our APAC Head of Sourcing, Rocky Varbaro aware of your feedback and you are welcome to contact my manager, the global Head of Learning & Development, should you feel the need. I will forward your mail to him. His name is Bradley Samargya.” What an easy way to problem-solve – just pass the buck! Is this how some people continue to stay secure in their jobs?

All multinationals – oh, by the way, now they all want to be known as “globally integrated corporations” – claim to be big advocates of transparency.

How many actually walk the talk?

Transparency describes the extent to which a corporation’s actions are observable by outsiders. From the perspective of those not in the corporation’s inner sanctum, transparency is simply the perceived quality of intentionally shared information from the corporation.

There must be increased transparency and accountability, not just for overstuffed corporations like IBM and Ericsson but for everyone. Cover-ups and lies should not be part of your life. What a terrible burden it must be to live a lie. The world is a small place, imagine what happens when an IBMer meets Ginni Rometty face to face, what can she say that is not gibberish, what can she say without sounding condescending? Imagine when I see Serena Marriott in person –  has she, with a job title longer than her name, what it takes to look me in the eye and admit that her corporation’s internal quagmire has caused her to fail her business associates in a most dismal way?

Has it ever occurred to leaders to put themselves in the shoes of the other parties?

Corporate leaders must be called to answer for broken promises. They didn’t get fancy job titles to impress their neighbors’ three-year-old kids.