Transparency is a Sign of Efficiency
Transparency within organizations is a good thing. It means that teams and functions are communicating freely. It's a sign that decisions are being made with more information and more scrutiny. It indicates that the organization is executing efficiently.
When problems arise in transparent organizations, people can see them immediately and from different perspectives. The organization can respond quickly to unexpected events and save valuable time. Organizational goals can be modified, and the people can quickly realign their activities.
Why Aren't Organizations More Transparent?
There are three main reasons that keep organizations from being transparent. The first is that most organizations have unintentionally developed a "culture of opacity". You can see this when people say their information needs to be filtered and controlled because others can't understand it out of context. You can also see this when people don't trust their own teams to report information. Some organizationl roles exist simply to filter and throttle information.
A second reason is that it can take a lot of effort to be transparent. There may not be an easy way to communicate what's happening or why. People may not even be able to track all of the information that's being generated by their teams, creating a kind of opacity by default. Technology, however, has advanced to the point where this should no longer be an issue. There are tools that can reduce the effort of tracking and presenting information so it's less than negligible (i.e., they actually cut the effort of what you're doing today as they provide transparency for your team).
The third main reason is that...
Transparency Requires Trust
One of the things I said about breaking a "cycle of distrust" was that someone had to go first, to make the first gesture. Transparency is a perfect example of this. We can't say we want transparency within our organizations if we ourselves are not willing to reveal how we make our own decisions. Someone must take the first step.
Why is it so hard to do this? If we feel the need to hide something, we should question that. If it's because we don't trust others in the organization, we should question that, too. Get to the root of distrust and eliminate it. If it's beyond your authority, find someone with more clout. There are always people with influence that want the organization to run well. It's likely that they aren't able to see where the problems are. Build a window into your team so they can see for themselves.
(originally posted on Management Revolution)
Rino Jose is the principal co-founder of Lakeway Technologies, a startup that develops web apps for automating engineering and project management. He has developed software and managed software teams professionally for over 15 years. As a manager and management consultant, he has led turnarounds for multiple engineering teams. Rino holds a B.S. from U.C. Berkeley and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania with cross-disciplinary focus between Engineering, Computer Science, and the Wharton Business School.