We judge ourselves by our intentions; others by their actions.
The Johari Window is a useful tool for businesses, nonprofit organizations, and communities to examine their self-awareness. It can reveal what employees, management, customers and stakeholders perceive about the organization.
So you’ve never heard of the Johari Window? Most business people haven’t because it comes from the psychology world. It was created by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955 and is used primarily in discussion groups for participants to create more self-awareness. It is often used as a team-building activity, but it can also be used by any organization that wishes to do a little self-examination. It is so-named because it’s a combination of the first names of its creators, Joe and Harry.
The window has four panes. The top-left window is known as the arena, the top-right is the blind area, the bottom-left is the hidden area, and the bottom-right is the unknown area. If a group or team was going through the exercise, each member would see it as follows: the top left pane contains things known to self and to others, the top right pane would contain things known to others and not known to self, the bottom left pane contains things known to self and not known to others, and the bottom right pane contains things not known to self and nor known to others.
It’s a great workplace tool because many employees are not aware of how they come across to their fellow workers. In the examples, below we will use organizations instead of individuals.
The top-left pane, also known as the open or arena pane, is what is known by the organization and what others know about the organization. If you were doing this as an exercise you might ask: What do we know about or organization and what do others know about our organization? Think of it as the public arena. It is here where an organization can examine its public image. For example, everyone knows that General Motors builds cars. Everyone knows that Kroger is a grocery store chain.
The top-right window, called the blind window, is where the organization considers what others know about it, but it doesn’t know about itself. For example, management may believe that it has happy employees who enjoy their work environment. However, employees may not be happy at all. glassdoor.com is a website that contains posts by employees about the culture of companies. 24/7 Wall Street examined thousands of posts on glassdoor.com and listed the “Worst companies to work for.” My guess is that the top companies on that list did not realize they were considered as such. Another example would be that management is proud of low turnover rate, but does not know that one of its prized employees has been searching for another job and is planning to resign at the end of the month. Management may not realize that the clerk talking on their cellphone while checking out a customer is infuriating the customer.
The bottom-left window, known as the hidden area, is about what the organization knows about itself, but others do not. For example, nowadays many customers do not realize that the company representative they are talking with on the phone is not in a company headquarters building, but is instead working remotely and is an independent contractor. Many organizations that go through the strategic planning process have as one of their goals to let others know about the good things or the effectiveness of the organization. The organization wishes its story was more well-known. On the other hand, some organizations have serious negative internal issues that it hopes to hide from the public. In other words, these are private issues.
The bottom-right window, known as the hidden area, is about what the organization doesn’t know about itself and what others don’t know about it. Political events might have a significant effect on the organization. An airplane crash with senior executives on board could disrupt operations. Medical conditions of key personnel may occur. No one knows what the future holds.
In summary, the Johari Window exercise is a good tool to use inside your organization to help employees learn more about how they see themselves and as a way for your organization to examine how it sees itself and how others see it.
» PHIL HARDWICK is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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