Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Information Hoarding--Building Personal Empires at the Expense of Others

Quick, what's the I in IT stand for? If you said information, go to the head of the class. In the days when computers were mainframe rather than personal, the IT office would have had the initials DP, which stands for data processing. Processing data is not enough in today's economy, however. For an organization to function efficiently requires that people have information.

Because information confers power on those who have it, there are likely to be many information bottlenecks in an organization. Some people build empires by hoarding information. It's a way to ensure job security. It's a way to increase a budget. It's also a way to ensure that an organization remains backward and inefficient. But for information hoarders, what's good for the organization doesn't matter.

If EconOpinion had a magic bullet to cure organizations of information hoarding, EconOpinion would be out on the lecture circuit rubbing shoulders with Zig Ziglar, Tom Peters, and Tony Robbins. One obstacle to joining the lecture circuit is that information hoarding is invisible. It's not obvious, nor are its effects on the bottom line. To be interested in a cure for a disease, you have to be aware that you've got the disease.

There are a couple of steps that organizations can take to reduce information hoarding. One is to create a culture of collaboration. When people are working in teams, all striving to achieve a common goal, information that bears upon the reaching of that goal is less likely to be kept secret. The second involves the leadership style of top management. When the group at the top freely shares information, it sets an example.

Perhaps the best way to strike down information hoarding is to flowchart the ideal flow of information. The technique, which you should be warned is EconOpinion's untested innovation, starts with identifying the ideal set of information that a group of people within an organization should have in order to do their jobs well. Survey them to test their actual information against the ideal. Then investigate why they lack the vital information that they do not have. Track the flow of information backward to identify bottlenecks.

Information hoarders are a drag on economic efficiency. They are thieves just as much as the burglars and shoplifters who sit in our jails. They need to be rooted out and counseled to change. If change is not forthcoming, they should be shown the exit. The others in the organization--those who strive to make it better--deserve no less.



At 10:04 PM, Blogger biomechanique said...

So would your national Geographic collection be catagorized as information hoarding?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home