Transparency Could Transform Your Company

Transparency

Transparency is a core Scrum value, considered important by the agile framework as a way to ensure that everyone involved on a project has a common understanding of goals, progress, and deliverables. These days, some companies are extending the idea of transparency beyond individual teams to the larger organization, sharing corporate data that formerly was considered secret.

These details range from the state of the business, such as revenue and client-related numbers, to strategic product plans and, in some cases, even individual salaries. While some might fear this is being too transparent, many employees feel that the availability of information is empowering and allows workers to make decisions quickly and more effectively. As Thomas Malone, a management professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said, “Sometimes, the best way to gain power is to give it away.”

Naturally, increased transparency can be a hard sell for organizations that are used to limiting certain data to senior executives. But continuing to do something a certain way just because that’s the way it’s always been done is a poor justification. That’s why social psychologist and Harvard professor Ellen Langer preaches mindfulness when it comes to company practices. “When people say, “This is the way to do it,” that’s not true,” she said. “There are always many ways, and the way you choose should depend on the current context. You can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions.“ Increased transparency is an attempt to be more agile and make the right decisions in a timely manner, based on the complete information available.

While there can be downsides initially, as there are with any change, once teams adapt, the benefits become more obvious. There’s a program that makes emails from vendors available to all employees. While sharing client-related emails may strike some as jarring at first—and it definitely isn’t always appropriate, such as when handling sensitive personal or financial information—it can also make for better, more professional communication with clients.

Much like with Scrum, transparency also enforces consistency. Having a shared document listing the salaries of all employees, as some companies do, ensures fair compensation guidelines. And openness of information can extend to openness of decisions. Google delegates some management decisions, such as hiring, firing, awards, and promotions, to a committee or group of employee peers.

Transparency builds trust among all levels of the organization and helps employees do their jobs in a way that adds the most value to the company. If you are concerned about the possible negative effects of increased transparency, consider whether your concerns are based on data or fear. Taking a chance on stepping up visibility can make your processes more agile and more equal.

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