More information is better

More information is better
When my partner and I started our own business, our vision of decision making was not limited to just the ones with the most authority. We wanted decisions made by whomever had the good idea, the information relevant to the issue, or the solution to the problem at hand.

Extending decision making out widely invited every employee to help run the business and gave each one a personal sense of responsibility for what went on every day and how every month turned out - yes, I’m talking about ownership.

It required a culture of lavish sharing of information and accountability. So we armed our people with every bit of information they might ever need, then held them accountable to share it with one another and with customers. Our employees weren’t just cutting cheese; they were helping move an organization forward, and they felt motivated, inspired, and happy because we valued and respected them.

We knew that would lead us to the best decisions. And by every bit of information, I mean every bit. All financial information - where every dollar comes from and where it goes. All "code reds" (complaints) that come in. All the terms of our loans and lines of credit. All annual plans, budgets, and forecasts.

To be honest, we floundered a bit in the wilderness until we found Jack Stack’s book, “The Great Game of Business,” that provided the map we needed and became our holy grail - a system that makes room for everyone to hear, see, and participate. We’ve adapted and tweaked the process to fit our style but our management practice is essentially Jack’s “Open Book” approach because we share everything - the good, the bad, the problems, the solutions, the stress, the joy, and the profits and it’s proven to us that sharing information makes things better and the more you share, the better it gets.

I know that this approach can seem scary and it’s certainly not easy, but we believe that this radical sharing of information is going to be the norm at every company in the future.

Paul Saginar is a Zingerman’s Co-Owner and Founding Partner

Editor’s Note: To read some interesting research on transparency in other settings, check out Dr. Marty Makary’s research on transparency in hospitals.