50 shades of transparency

Published on
July 13, 2015
Chris Taylor
"Ideas are only valuable when applied."
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“Transparency” is one of those buzz-wordy terms that’s been permeating the business lexicon as of late. The concept that no longer does “knowledge equal power” but rather that “communication equals agility” and that, in turn is the new business advantage. But what does it actually look like, in practice?

We’re scaling up operations at Actionable over the next 18 months. Fairly dramatically, in fact, and certainly in context to our pace of growth in the past. And so I’ve spent a lot of time as of late involved in intensive strategy sessions, building out budgets, timelines, targets and process. On average, I’m spending two hours a day in such conversations. Which amounts to a ton of plans. Reams of documentation. And the thought of then packaging all of that insight into consumable, relevant data packs for the entire team, positioned in such a way that it resonates with each team member is, frankly, exhausting.

But I believe in the importance of transparency. In trusting each team member fully and completely. After all, if I didn’t trust them, why would I invite them to join the team? So, ideologically, I want to be “fully transparent”. Practically, it’s next to impossible. And may very well be overwhelming for the receiver of the information anyway.

So, “transparency”, I’ve decided, is not about sharing everything, proactively. It’s about sifting through the collective knowledge to determine what does impact each individual and sharing that in a timely fashion, in a way that resonates with the individual(s) on the receiving end. And then being willing (and organized enough) to share more as they ask. I can make a first stab at identifying what’s relevant to someone, but ultimately each individual decides what else they need to know and can ask, knowing confidently that I’ll share anything and everything that they feel is relevant.

I also appreciate that I’m on the extreme end of the spectrum. And I personally hired everyone who works at Actionable. As new senior leaders come on board, they may not have the same natural comfort with sharing. They won’t have the same established relationship with the team, even the team members that report to them directly. That will take time. But, like any good relationship, I believe the onus is on each individual to take a proactive approach to sharing—in turn building trust—rather than waiting for the other person to prove themselves first.

And who knows, maybe it won’t be an issue. Maybe everyone in the future of Actionable will be comfortable sharing, asking for information they deem important and, in turn, providing answers for those who ask them. I do know it will take professionally mature people making the effort to foster trust in the organization. It’ll take work and we won’t always get it right.

Then again, who’s perfect? What relationship worth having doesn’t take work?