In an typical organization, information tends to be hoarded because restriction of access creates a need and need creates power. This power is used to create coercive social capital for individuals or groups in an organization. These hoarding events actually happen at the expense of the organization.
The more barriers to access people have to information, the higher the transaction costs. Those transaction costs are real and quantifiable. They add to product costs, to cycle time, to training time, to additional policies, to unnecessary layers of management, to lost productivity, to decreased job satisfaction, and to a stifling of creativity.
That sounds pretty nasty, doesn’t it?
See if this org chart doesn’t look generically familiar to you:
Here we have Amalgamated Suckup Dot Commmmmmm, a company which inconceivably yet predictably has achieved their second round funding and is now blasting forward creating an object of limited value for a market that is unwilling to pay for it.
XMind is nice enough to automatically put a little dot at each juncture of this org chart. I love that, because it should be there. Each of those dots is a point at which information stops flowing. They are structurally sanctioned bottlenecks.
Each point of subordinance in a org chart is a point where someone makes a decision whether or not to supply people at the next rung with certain information.
While some organizations are better than others, few have free flowing information from anything other than the official trickle-down management channels.
Under an information poor regime, special policies and procedures need to be created to allow people in one silo to communicate with another silo. Each silo is individually funded. Each silo has data it hoards and metes out to other silos. Each silo guards information because it is the primary metric of in-company value and directly impacts its funding. Every person at AmSuck actively works to maintain silo integrity by withholding valuable information from their colleagues.
Why? Because everyone at Amalgamated Suckup is, to some extent, either scared or clueless. If they’ve been there a while, they know just enough to be scared - but never enough to actually do anything about it. Information is not freely available and therefore it is not freely offered.
People stop participating. People come in clueless, but ready to work. As they are there for a while they try to help a few times, but are neither rewarded for their initiative or given the information they need to make better decisions.
They figure that the best way to then help is to move up to a lead, which is promotion from clueless to scared. As a lead they are provided with enough information to let them know how rickety their ship of state is, but again are not given enough information to repair it.
Soon they are moved to a manager role where they are asked to institutionalize their fears. They actually begin to make bad policies and withhold information because “that’s how things are around here.” A few months or years in this position makes them more than ready to take the reins of upper management where their job is to not tell anyone anything whatsoever.
Note that what is happening here is a gameable sytem. The game quickly becomes “how to survive at Amalgamated Suckup” and not “how to actually build the product”. Success in an information poor environment is entirely based on individual survival.
The illusion of a healthy business comes from sales, progress on projects, and the ability to get funding. However, no one has put a dollar value on the increased turnover, loss of motivation, and loss to tacit knowledge the organization has suffered due to the poisonous corporate culture that has been at least exacerbated by the routine withholding of information.
UPDATE: An Bui has published a business analysis report for Amalgamated Suckup.