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Big time transparency, empowerment…collaboration

Cisco Systems is the leading supplier of networking equipment and network management for the Internet. It is a multinational corporation with more than 66,000 employees and annual revenue of $39 billion. John Chambers is the CEO. These excerpts are from the current issue of Fast Company magazine.

Power to the people; it motivates them
Cisco CEO John Chambers believes his company “is the best possible model for how a large global business can operate: as a distributed idea engine where leadership emerges organically, unfettered by a central command.”

The Cisco culture was inspired in part by management guru Gary Hamel’s ideas about the need to democratize strategy and distribute leadership to stimulate innovation. Supporters inside the company argue that the global marketplace and the ubiquity of Web 2.0 tools demand a workforce empowered to generate ideas, solve problems and contribute to the greater good without micromanagement. A vice president at Cisco said, “I think that culture is really a reflection of the CEO personality.” Collaboration works, “but only if it is what the CEO believes.”

Trust and openness are words you hear a lot in the endlessly optimistic world of Web 2.0, but at Cisco, it seems to be more than a PowerPoint mantra.…”We want a culture where it is unacceptable not to share what you know.” The open-source nature of the culture has yielded a litany of surprising results. Chambers says the ratio of distributed innovation to traditional decision making is about 70-30.

“I now compensate our leadership team based on how well they do on collaboration and the longer-term picture,” Chambers says. “If we take the focus off of how they did today, this week, this quarter, it will work.” Playing well with others is also an increasingly important part of rank-and-file employees’ performance reviews.

Read what I read to get information on this look into civility in the workplace, How Cisco's CEO John Chambers is Turning the Tech Giant Socialist
Fast Company magazine, Dec.2008/Jan. 2009

And don’t miss the voices of staff and the CEO in the Cisco blogs at http://blogs.cisco.com/news


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