The Workforce Gap & open calendars

There are two kinds of people in organisations. Those that keep their internal calendars open for all to see, and those that don’t. I make this distinction because I’ve noticed that this is a rather good indicator of other behaviour as well. Most particularly, it is indicative of the side of the Workforce Gap you prefer. The Workforce Gap is that widening divide between those who embrace transparency and the new collaboration tools being made available to organisations today, and those that don’t.

Here is a great rule about calendars: if you have to mark more than half of your appointments as private, then you should make your whole calendar private. If that’s not the case, the next question is just why, exactly, is your calendar not available to your peers?

In my work, I’ve found immense value in having my calendar open to all. I like people to know what I am doing. In fact, I regularly get comments from my team that they scan my calendar to see what I am up to, “in case I want to come along to any of your meetings”. They are welcome to come to most of them, of course, and quite often invite themselves, but consider the value to me: they know what I am doing without me telling them directly.

They need that information, because we often do things which are dependent on each other.

Then too, there are the other people, outside my immediate team, who like to go through my calendar just to see what we are working on at a particular time. Is this a bad thing? Most definitely not: this kind of transparency provides them almost as much insight as if I were writing a daily blog explaining everything.

The fact of the matter is, there’s rarely stuff in my calendar which is so confidential that I don’t want it shared. The benefits of sharing vastly outweigh any downsides. I am confident that most people will think I am spending my time well.

Bu there are lots of people who aren’t comfortable with this. Some individuals, of course, actually do need to keep their calendars private, but that is not most of us. An objective examination of the way people spend their time can be quite scary for some.

When I previously wrote of the Workforce Gap, I was talking about the effect that social media has as a dichotomising agent in organisations: those that get it and support it, and those that don’t and can’t see how social media in a corporate is anything but a waste of time.

As I mentioned, open calendars are a very good indicator to which side of the Workforce Gap you’re on. But this diagnostic goes even further: it is also indicative of how willing a particular organisational unit is to embrace transparency in all its dealings (and by extensions, how likely they are to be using social media tools at all).

I’ve worked with some business units where the culture is not to have a single open calendar. Such organisations are very command and control, they have strict hierarchies, and the powers-that-be must never be challenged. You’d wonder what a new recruit, straight for the world of openness and trust that characterises the new working generation, might make of it.

But there are others where almost all calendars are freely available. These are also, coincidentally, the same groups where wikis, blogs, forums, and other collaborative tools are being adopted quickly. When you look at the outputs of such groups, they are almost always the ones challenging the status-quo, wanting to do new business differently, and trying to push the agenda of the organisation along.

They are the noisemakers (and therefore, a bother to everyone else with closed calendars), but interestingly, their noises are usually in unison.

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