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Why You Should Almost Never Operate in Secret

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Remember the Enron scandal? Yeah, us too. There are so many lessons from that episode. One of the most intriguing relates to process management: how to pick members of a committee.
The Securities and Exchange Commission rejoiced in the public interest for finding corruption on Wall Street. To address the concerns, Mr. Harvey L. Pitt, SEC Chairman, formed the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. Unfortunately he opted for a poor process for choosing members of the board.

According to the New York Times:

It appears that in considering candidates, Mr. Pitt [S.E.C. chairman] had his chief accountant, Robert K. Herdman, evaluate any potential problems [with potential members of the new Public Company Accounting Oversight Board] and reach a conclusion [about any conflicts of interest]. If Mr. Herdman concluded there was no problem, that was where things ended.

That was a mistake. Even without the political brawl that appointment process had become, every member of the S.E.C. deserved to know what issues could be raised, and to have the time to review them. But no commissioners were told that William L. Webster, now the chosen chairman of the board, had served as the chairman of the audit committee of a company with significant problems. From the public record, the conclusion that his role was not disqualifying may have been an acceptable one. But it was a decision for the commissioners to make with full knowledge.

Indianapolis consultants discuss Enron

© Flickr user hanneorla

Let’s review. Enron, the company that kept their books secret and swindled countless shareholders, customers, and employees—was investigated by a government board whose members were vetted in secret.

There are some places in business where you should keep details under wraps. These include confidential information about employment, contracts that are in process, and trade secrets. But for the most part, the more transparency, the better. The more people know what’s really going on, the more they can be involved and feel comfortable about what’s happening.

Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant. Deciding when to use the right process for the situation — at the right place and the right time — challenges all organizations. If you need help designing or modifying an important process within your organization, talk to the Indianapolis speakers and consultants at AccelaWork today !

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
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