Want to condemn the business to premature demise? Dis maklik. As easy as falling off a log. Simply give your workers information on a need-to-know basis. Sanitise the data before you send it down the line. The less the peasants know, the better.

Lack of critical information about what's going on in the company embarrasses employees, particularly those who interface with customers and suppliers. So, it you're planning a long, healthy life for the business, communicate clearly, completely and regularly with your employees. Tell them the situation like it is - warts and all.

To be more motivated and productive, workers need more and better information about their jobs, general business conditions, customers and competitors. Some companies, like Apple Computers, hold regular teleconferences to inform staff members about new products as well as developments in the company and its marketplace. Other companies send employees brief weekly or fortnightly updates and new products and processes to both staff members and customers.

While many companies publish regular newsletters for staff and customers, some businesses, like Pick 'n Pay and Toyota, produce regular video news reels to impart information.

However, not a lot of companies release the whole unvarnished truth. Like governments throughout the world, they tell die manne only what they want them to know. They keep the unsavoury bits under wraps for as long as possible. This leads me to recall a purportedly true story related by a bloke who worked as a clerk in Britain's Ministry of Defence.

My friend, a dyed-in-the-wool civil servant, always did what he was told without question. He was instructed to order thousands of uniforms for a regiment that had been disbanded five years previously. So he placed the order.

The manufacturer duly delivered the uniforms. That's when the muck hit the fan. There weren't any bodies to put into the uniforms, which were then transported under the strictest security to an isolated warehouse, where they provided fodder for a swarm of moths.

Meanwhile, back at Defence Ministry Headquarters in London, my friend, acting in the best bureaucratic tradition, stamped the order file: "Top Secret". In terms of the Official Secrets Act, it apparently may not be opened for 30 years.

An obsession by business management with secrecy is based on idea that what you don't tell your employees won't hurt them. It's what they find out from other sources that causes the trouble.

Let me set the scene for a little illustration.

Two young guys, obviously upwardly mobile trainee executives, complete with obligatory cell phones, were seated at the table next to me in a Sandton City restaurant. One of them, Rob, worked for a company rumoured to be in hot water.

"How's business?" asked his lunchtime companion, Cecil.
"Great. Fantastic. Never better."
"Really?" said Cecil. "I've heard that it's going bust. Have you read Business Day?"
"Of course," Rob replied. "Otherwise how would I know?"

If you want to avoid this sort of situation, communicate the business's problems and your fears to your workforce. Ask them to share the load and help you find the answers. It may not keep your business afloat indefinitely, but it will keep the company healthy for a lot longer than an organisation that adopts CIA techniques restrict the release of information.

Pundits for the free flow of business information suggest that you open your books to examination by employees ... that you ensure that they know as much about the business as you do.

In most businesses built on the traditional pyramidal structure, an employee knows little more than his immediate task. He doesn't have a clue about how his little cog meshes with the big wheel that drives the corporate machine. To keep him and the other staff happy, allow them to step back from time to time to take in the overall picture so that they understand how all the pieces fit together.

This view of the big picture is intensely motivating. It gives each worker a sense of purpose ... it defines winning in terms he can understand.

However, if you don't want your business to win, follow the principles adopted by national secret service organisations.

You can put your business on a losing streak by following these 10 simple guidelines:

 

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Throw an impregnable blanket of secrecy over mceverything to create anger, tension and resentment, which will permeate the business from top to bottom.
 

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If no one knows what anyone else is doing, quality will almost certainly suffer.
 

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To restrict all-round knowledge, make each department a watertight compartment.
 

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Publish a staff newsletter by all means. But restrict the content to inconsequential inanities.
 

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Personally censor all information before it is fed to the masses. This ensures that nothing of substance ends up in the wrong hands or even the right hands.
 

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Encourage rumour mongering. This magnifies fears that could doom the business to failure.
 

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When anything of significance occurs, always see to it that your staff, customers and suppliers are the last to know.
 

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If possible, refrain from discussing company financial results with your workers. If you must, interpret them so that they paint a false picture of the situation.
 

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Firmly discourage any staff meetings or forums where anything of substance may be discussed.
 

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Make "what you don't know won't hurt you" your most important commandment. Write it into the business policy statement.
 

   

  Introduction
     
1. I thought I made it clear
     
2. Let's not rock the boat
     
3. We tried that once before
     
4. Who cares? It's the company time after all
     
5. I'm the boss. Do as I say
     
6. I can't stand change
     
7. We made the cuts, now lets get back to work
     
8. I'll do it as soon as possible
     
9. I prefer to work alone
     
10. Speaking as a Nestlé man
     
11. Get him on the line!
     
12. I've got 20 years experience
     
13. Let's keep it confidential
     
     
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