Working in the Open: What, Why, and How?

Working in the open is a culture of sharing work with others be that inside or outside the organization. As many companies are struggling with organizational silos, working in the open becomes increasingly topical as fosters knowledge sharing and deeper connections in the workplace, thus improving collaboration across teams and departments.

In this article we will explain what it means to work in the open internally and describe the ways to work more openly that you can apply in your organization.

What does working in the open imply?

Ok, let’s dive into what working in the open actually means.

Sharing team activities, updates, and course of action

Simply put, your teams expose the work they’re doing to everyone in the organization – and the easiest way to do it is through a digital collaboration tool that your company adopted.

Instead of agreeing on a certain decision internally and implementing it ‘silently’, they keep everyone updated on each work-related activity through posts or during meetings. That can be sharing recently published articles and social media posts, giving updates on the latest meeting with an account, sharing information regarding the course of project implementation, informing about blocks for closing a deal, etc.

 This doesn’t mean that your teams should tag everyone in the organization under these posts. However, this information will be potentially available for anyone, even those employees who joined the company later one, – which is key for working out loud, or in the open.

Openness from the leaders

Working in the open also implies transparency from the senior leadership. Not only will it increase the trust of the employees and foster the feeling of team spirit and belonging, but it will also set an example for the rest. Leaders should be open about their own contribution to the organization is doing, and willing to receive feedback and answer questions their employees might have.

Offering space for sharing ideas and feedback

Another important aspect of working in the open is having a space in your workplace where people can openly share their thoughts, give feedback, and offer suggestions. This way, you can leverage your company’s most important asset – its employees. They might have great ideas on how to improve different process – that can be related to the work inside their own teams, as well as their department or organization in general. And so, by offering this space you’re giving them voice and thus encourage working out loud.

It’s important to understand, however, that the lessons you share with others are just about each one’s individual work journey. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t require final authority on the matters you share. Just openness, sincerity, and desire to help others with your own experience.

Why is working in the open important?

The key purpose of working in the open is to make the most out of your organization’s talents, i.e. its employees. Learning from others, listening to their best ideas, and implementing them can help your organization increase productivity and drive better results.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the topic and outline why working in the open is so important.

Helps with learning

When everyone shares their wins and losses with the rest, it’s easier to learn from their lessons, apply best practices and succeed in upcoming initiatives. And when you learn to communicate better on what you’re doing, it helps you get a better understanding of what’s working and what’s not, preventing you from making the same mistakes in the future.

Promotes accountability

Sharing the results of your work with everyone makes one think twice before making any decision. This way, we feel more responsible, or rather, more careful with each step we take. And it’s not that the feeling of increased responsibility comes only when your work is exposed. However, from a psychological standpoint, it stimulates the feeling of accountability and the desire to do a better job.

Boosts productivity

Work duplication and overlaps are a common thing in many organizations. It happens due to lack of communication and proper distribution of tasks and responsibilities. However, when your employees work in the open and teams constantly share what initiatives they’re working on, their progress and results, everyone in the organization sees what others are doing. Working in the open is one of the most effective ways to prevent work overlaps. It will save your employees time and energy and increase overall productivity.

Helps make better thought-out decisions

Working in the open allows you and your employees to better reflect on what’s working best and therefore make better decisions. When the results of the collective effort are right in front of you, you can learn faster from previous failures, make respective conclusions, and make sure that decisions you make are based on everyone’s experience through trial and error.

How to work in the open?

Looks pretty clear and great in theory. But how exactly does one work in the open? And where do you start? Here are some ideas that might help you get on the right track.

Encourage the culture of transparency

Communicate it in your in your organization’s vision and throughout its policies. You want to make sure openness becomes a part of your working culture and identity. And it’s not only written in the guidelines – it is actively practiced throughout the day by everyone.

When hiring a new employee, it’s worth evaluating their stand on working in the open. Once you have a team who values openness and transparency, it’s much easier to implement and scale this practice.

Lead the way

One of the best ways to encourage your team to adopt a new practice is by walking the talk. Demonstrate by example what it means to work in the open: communicate on the work you’re doing, let your team members know what actions have been taken recently, what decisions were made and what value they might bring to the organization.

You can do so by sharing posts about your activities in your internal communication and collaboration tool. You may also want to reply to threads left by your team, thus encouraging opinion sharing among all your team members.

Opt for open digital collaborative spaces

It’s hard to imagine working in the open without actively using a digital tool for internal communication. In the examples below we will focus on one such tool – Microsoft Teams. And while most organizations still use Teams mostly for chats and meetings, there are so many capabilities to leverage to drive better results and streamline collaboration.

Here are some ways to take the most out of the tool for working in a more open way.

Make teams public by default

In Microsoft Teams, all new teams are set as private by default. However, you can change that setting and choose to make most of your teams public.

You can learn the difference between public and private teams here.

We’re not implying this is an absolute requirement to have ALL the teams set as public. From a security perspective, you might still require having private teams if there’s sensitive information involved. However, if this isn’t the case, just making the default switch from private to public will also make a switch towards a more open working culture.

If you think about that, department teams or certain project teams might just as well be open for members of other teams and departments. Chances are, they’re not going to join them since all of us already have quite a bit on our plate. But knowing that potentially you’re welcome in any team creates the feeling of increased trust and higher accountability.

Leverage Yammer communities

Staying connected and keeping track of all the teams’ activities is much easier if you work in a small-size organization. However, if it’s a corporation with multiple branches across the planet it’s much harder to maintain the connection and make sure your voice is heard on the other side of the world.

This is where you can take advantage of Yammer communities. It’s a great way to stay up to date with important corporate news, connect with the senior leadership and find experts from your own field across the company.

CEO connection community is there to encourage open communication between the executives and the employees. Depending on the area you’re working in – be that project management, marketing, customer support, etc. – you can create a respective community and invite everyone interested in this field to join. This way, you can share the results of yours and your team’s work, receive feedback and learn from others.

Hold open meetings and share meeting notes

You can also make sure all the meetings you hold are open for anyone (unless there are confidential matters involved). You can do so by scheduling meetings directly in channels. This way, whoever is in your team will be able to join, if needed.

Similarly, you may want to summarize the points outlined in your meetings in OneNote. Then, publicly share them in corresponding channels so that anyone could familiarize themselves with the topics raised during meetings.

Don’t forget about channels

Channels become your primary space of team communication when it comes to working in the open. Through channel posts each individual shares the results of their work with the rest of the team and organization.

To make sure the right posts are easy to navigate, ask your team members to add a headline to each post. This way, whenever you need to go back to a specific post, you could surface according to the topic you’re looking for.

You can also tag an entire channel or specific people under your posts to make sure they receive a notification and don’t miss out on things you have to share. Additionally, you can post the same message in multiple channels and teams you are a member of.

It’s a good idea to withhold from communicating in group chats and encourage channel conversations when the topics discussed concern the entire team.

You can learn more about best practices for group chats and channels in this blog post.

As you can see, working in the open is relatively easy. All you need is the desire to share your work with others and have your people onboard with you! We at SalesTim opted for working in the open and can in all honesty say that the benefits of this working mode will make any effort toward achieving it well worth it! So, you might as well want to give it a try 🙂

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