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OPEN DOOR PRACTICE BY PUBLIC SECTOR

ORGANIZATIONS – A CONCEPTUAL PAPER


Introduction

In any countries, there are various types of organizations created to achieve certain goals.

These organizations can be private or public in nature. Both of these organizations vary

in terms of administrative authority provided to them. Private organizations is wholly

administered and managed by the private sectors, consisting of business people.

However, for public organizations, the main administrators are the government of the

specific country.

The incorporation of a public organization is for the purpose of achieving goals to

support the development vision of the nation in various sectors. In Malaysia, there are

numerous public organizations such as the Armed Forces, the Legal and Judiciary

Services, the Police Forces, the Railway Authority, Allied Public Service, State Public

Services and the Education Services.

Roles of the Public Organizations

Public organizations are formed to manage resources such as physical, financial, human

and information resources effectively and efficiently towards attainment of targeted

goals. In addition, public organizations also play a significant role to implement

developmental goals and take care of the peace and prosperity of the country. In other

words, the public organizations are the right hand of the government as they administer

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the journey of the nation towards Vision 2020 through the nation’s developmental

policies such as National Vision Policy and the Ninth Malaysian Plan.

The public organizations are administered by officers and staffs appointed

through the Public Service Department and adhering to the Federal Constitution. These

organizations have a major role as they ensure that the legislative, judiciary and executive

powers of the country is exercised efficiently, effectively and according to the national

development blueprint.

Public Organizations’ Structures

The organizational structure of the public organizations implies the line and level of

authority, the chain of order and work relations between one member of the organization

and the others (Abdul Mua’ti Ahmad, 2003). The organization is formed to play specific

roles or to run administrative, implementation, evaluation and monitoring functions.

There are factors – external and internal – that influence the efficiency and

effectiveness of the organizational management. External factors include leadership,

communication, work skills, technology, motivation, management and others, which

form part of the organizational culture that colors the administrative engine of the

organization.

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It is without doubt that public organizations are important as the main thrust of the

nation’s development. Thus, the structure of the public organizations is mechanistic in

nature. A mechanistic organization is an organization that is considered like a machine or

a tool to achieve specific objectives. This necessitates the deployment of staffs in certain

departments of the organization to perform tasks and responsibilities according to

specific policies and procedures.

Public organizations in Malaysia has a mechanistic structure which implies a top

down management system, starting from the headquarters in Kuala Lumpur (or Putra

Jaya) and expand to states, districts and local governments.

This type of organizational structure causes a high level of bureaucracy whereby

the decision-making process has to undergo various procedures which is time consuming

in order to arrive at a decision.

Communication Structure in Public Organizations

Based on the mechanistic structure of the public organization, the communication

structure is also a top-down process. It implies that external and internal communication

within the public organizations needs to be innovated. This is because the success of an

organization depends on the effective communication process in the organization.

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The organizational communication structure is important as it ensures information

dissemination necessary to carry out roles and responsibilities in an effective and efficient

manner. Besides, it ensures that there is communicative relationship between the staffs

working in the same or different departments.

Organizational communication happens internally and externally when the

organization interacts with its environment. This environment is dynamic, always

changing with time. Thus, organizational communication must be effective to address the

changes in the environment (Kitchen and Daly, 2002). In fact, Matheson and Matheson

(1998) noticed in their study on effective organization that secrecy and ineffective

communications are factors that create failures in change management programs.

For the public organization, the communication structure is rigid, with formal

communication exercised according to policies and procedures. Communication from the

upper management to lower staffs is normally executed by circulating memos which are

published their web sites or on other information boards. Communication from the lower

staffs to the top management is normally done by memo signed by the Department Head

or assigned executives.

External communication occurs when the organization communicate with other

organization or the public, of which the process of communication is based on the

policies and procedures. The organization’s representative such as the department head,

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District Officer and the Director, in some organizations, the Corporate Communication

Personnel, are given the authority to disseminate information to the public.

Informal communication or grapevine does not follow any procedures at all.

However, government staffs are not allowed to enclose any information that does not

abide the Official Secret Acts. It seems to point out that the process of communication

within the public organization is heavily constrained by rigid structures which lead to

ineffective and inefficient organizational communication. The high bureaucracy rate due

to the mechanistic organizational structure and the close communication structure might

render the public organizations to become inefficient and ineffective.

The ‘Open Door’ Concept

Definition

The ‘open door’ concept in the organization is a communication practice that encourages

the process of communication from bottom to top of the organization (Missouri Small

Business Development Centers, 2006). It ensures that the staffs know what is expected of

them and the time frame they should complete a certain task. This open door practice is

able to increase the level of trust in the organization and address the issue of office

politics in an open and honest manner. In general, this practice provides more rooms and

opportunity to the lower level staffs in decision-making process resulting from work

distribution based on empowerment and high level of delegation.

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The open door practice ensures that communication in the organization is not top-

bottom but two-way communication happening vertically and horizontally. This

communication structure gives a more flexible communication process that lessens the

strict administrative structures and ensures decision-making process is fast. Thus, work

process is efficient.

Characteristics of ‘Open Door’ Concept

The open door concept means the communication ‘door’ in the organization is wide open

to ensure two-way communication (vertical and horizontal) can be practiced effectively.

When information channel in the organization is flexible, decision-making is faster and

there is no constraint from bureaucracy.

The open door practice focuses mainly on bottom-up communication. It ensures

that information dissemination in the organization is transparent and fast. This practice

increases the confidence and trust of the upper management on the capability of lower

staffs in performing their tasks in an effective and efficient manner. Thus, work is

accomplished faster and accurately.

One of the main characteristics of the open door concept is the significant

decrease of bureaucracy or the organizational structural layer that has to be penetrated in

decision-making. Therefore, organizational communication supported by information

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channel and relations among individuals in the organization can be further enhanced. The

final product is work accomplished fast, efficient and accurately, which directly increase

productivity of the public organization.

Open door policy adheres to the total quality management (TQM) which focuses

on management aspect that improve the system capability status and not the process. In

TQM, the organizational structure is somewhat lower, wider and less hierarchical.

Relationship between the top and bottom staffs is characterized by co-independence, co-

controlling and mutual trust and commitment.

The open door policy ensures a decrease in bureaucracy so that the basis of

decision-making is on facts and systems and not subject to the whims of the upper

management. Decision-making process can be done by the lower staffs because open

door policy provides a way for important information channel from top to bottom, vice

versa.

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Benefits of Open Door Practice

Effective and Efficient Organizational Communication Process

Work environment now has become more dynamic, forever changing due to external and

internal factors. The effects of political, social and economic changes in and out of the

country have subjected the mechanistic type of organizational structure no longer suitable

in our country’s public organizations. A radical change that targets on higher level of

organizational communication should be given emphasis. Berger (1987) states that the

processes of addressing change depend on minimizing uncertainty level. Wilson and

Malik (1995) agreed as the need for information is more prominent when there is a high

degree of uncertainty.

A good organizational communication and information dissemination at the right

time about important issues can minimize such uncertainty. Quirke (1995) stated some

requirement of the communication contexts:

• Thinking, participation and idea stimulation;

• Relationship network with all staffs in the remedial process;

• Identification of ways to give more added value to customers; and

• Development of practical and realistic ideas.

The organizational ability to address environmental changes in an effective way

depends on the communication process that encourages openness, dialogues and honesty.

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Francis (1989) stresses on two main goals of the organizational communication, which

are: (i) to inform all staffs about their work and policies as well as issues in the

organization; and (ii) communication as a means to create a community within the

organization.

In general, the organizational communication structure of the public organization

should have the following characteristics: top management as the information sender and

the lower staffs as the information receiver. Based on this context, total communication

which includes the sender, information, channel, receiver and noise cannot be applied.

So, the open door practice ensures that communication is not focused on one way

communication – top bottom only but also enhance two ways communication that

emphasized as much as bottom up communication. The existence of two way

communication is brought by the open door practice that increase organizational

communication and lead to several impacts as stated below:

• Ensures that top management understand the problems faced by staffs in doing their

assigned jobs and thus trigger discussion to solve problems;

• Open up opportunities for staffs at lower level to voice out their opinions and ideas to

solve problems or to improve work process in the organization.

• Ensure information channeling that is needed to make effective, efficient and accurate

decision on time and fits the situation

• Decrease the workloads of upper management to make trivial decisions, whereby

delegation and empowerment to lower staffs can ensure that it is done with minimal

supervision

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• Creates an organizational culture that is highly resilient to aggressive and dynamic

environmental changes

Therefore, organizational communication at a high level can ensure higher

productivity from all staffs and achievement of organizational goals.

Reducing Bureaucracy Practice

Open door practice creates a communication process whereby the manager understands

what is going on in the organization. Through open door policy, the head of department

can evaluate the work spirit among staffs in terms of motivational level. Also, open door

practice provides a channel for proposal to improve work process, work procedures and

increase productivity. The management is also able to ensure effective communication to

the lower bottom of the organization whereby the management can tell whether work

order has been received, understood and executed by the workers. Thus, open door policy

identifies any ambiguity in work order and improves the communication gap before it

damages the information in a bad way.

McMaster, a management and communication expert in the organization suggests

several ways to improve communication to the top. These include: management getting

rid of information screening by having face-to-face communication with executives and

middle managers through short and frequent discussions (Abdul Mua’ti Ahmad, 2003).

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When organizational communication has been enhanced by open door policy,

decision-making process no longer has to go through complicated and time-consuming

bureaucracy. Trusting one another and a high degree of transparency in the organization

will make the decision-making process based on evidence of facts and concrete system.

This will directly reduce bureaucracy in the public organization. This means that

decision-making process need not necessarily be referred to top management who might

be out of the state (or country) but can be done by staffs at their own level.

The government management system is moving aggressively towards using high

information technology to support the open door policy. Work processes which deal with

fulfilling public demand as customers to these public organizations can be done at a faster

rate. For example, identity card processing, myKad no longer requires months to

complete but can be done within a week or two due to the reduced level of bureaucracy.

Conclusion

The implementation of a communication system in an organization that is effective,

efficient and timely is a challenge. A communication system consists of the

communication channel to use, the information content and communication rules as well

as relationship among these factors. The effectiveness of the communication system to

manage information creates a communication environment in the organization that

generates a communication culture in such organization. Such a communication culture

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will then standardize all functions in the organization and channel values into the

organization (Tukiainen, 2001).

In conclusion, organizational communication must be created in such a way,

based on total quality management concept through open door policy so that public

organizations are able to carry out their functions to realize national developmental goals.

Open door practice encourages communication relationship which enhances transparency

in the organization and thus, increases the organizational cultural values based on

honesty, leadership, cooperation, tolerance, sincerity and trusting each other. So, as

indicated in the workers motivational theory based on X-Y theories, the public

organization’s strategic management in Malaysia should give emphasis on roles and

sturdy human resource that are highly competitive, resilient and highly competence

towards achieving national developmental goals in an effective way. Such a human

resource management regards public organization workers as a high value organizational

asset, whereby work capability, creativity and innovation are taken into consideration as

their significant contribution towards achieving the same organizational goals.

Therefore, open door policy should be encouraged because it ensures a complete

communication cycle in the organizational communication, whereby dissemination of

information from top to bottom and bottom to top happen spontaneously, transparent,

accurate, fast and effective. Bureaucracy basically only lengthens the time of work

process which can be minimized so that decision-making is fast and timely to fulfill the

public’s demand from public organizations.

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