This week I have held sessions with managers of two big corporations in very different industries, but both have a common problem. Each have a big elephant in the room you’re not supposed to mention.

In both cases, the elephant is very public and widely talked about. In fact, probably more talked about OUTSIDE the company than inside. Because, yeah, you’re not supposed to talk about it. In one case the elephant consists of business practises in foreign lands and in the other IP rights and business models. Both are pretty core to the respective companies’ business models and business practises.

We live in an transparent era where some organisations put payroll information on the internet, including what the CEO gets paid, a Swedish county is experimenting with open internet development and Google have an entire section devoted to reporting their transparency in many ways. For the employees of the two companies I worked with this week, it must feel very strange to see outsiders being able to discuss the elephant, but not internally be allowed discussion in order to not make people upset or even be reproached.

Elephants are a sign that something is wrong and in any healthy organisation, the only way to approach it is – head on. Hiding in the sand or pretending it will go away by itself, allows competitors to outcompete you with better or more innovative services or employee mistrust to fester.

Elephants is also a witness to a company culture where the ceiling is far too low for comfort. Unfortunately, elephants are a very common problem in older organisations and are a clear signal that the status and peace of mind of top management is more important than the survival of the business.

In both the cases I encountered this week there are a lesson: Changing business model or business practises might not be the right way or even the only way. Staying the course because the company earns a lot of money by current practises might be right. BUT. Then that strategy needs to be clearly communicated inside and outside of the company. Just leaving a big elephant in the room, just leaves room for a a suffocating company culture.

Image by  cliff1066™ / Flickr (CC BY)