Transparency has quickly become a buzzword in today's business and startup scenes. And, for once, it isn't one that I totally abhor. The term is sometimes found with a warning referencing Big Brother, and for good reason. But, it's my belief that when transparency is done right, it has an anti-establishment effect that my inner 16-year-old self will always find badass. Let's talk about some easy ways to implement transparent tactics that are a little more cool and a lot less Orwellian.
Whoever you are in your organization, when you're doing something that's working, people take notice. Whether you're a CEO or an intern, simply put, being transparent means being honest about both your personal and business goals and failures, which inherently makes you trustworthy. People gravitate toward and want to work with someone they trust. Be that person and you'll never spend another afternoon seeing how many pencils you can stick in your office ceiling before a tile falls on your head in a shower of insulation and dead rodents.
Transparency doesn't stop with admitting to the team that you ate a whole meat lover's pizza for breakfast and that you need help. To truly implement internal transparency, and reap the benefits, it must extend into the business aspects of your organization.
What I'm talking about here is being open and honest concerning the direction, goals, successes and even failures of the organization.
Even if you aren't ready to publish your salaries and revenue online, one of the more extreme transparency trends as of late, you should still be as open as you feel is safe and necessary concerning your business. At Integrity, we keep an updated Google spreadsheet of all of our projects so that the entire company can see the big picture of what we have on our plate. It includes the timeline, budget, progress and responsible leads of each.
Speaking of leads, while we are a Holacracy, each project is headed up by a team of individuals with various roles who are ultimately responsible for its success or failure. The roles and the individuals in them vary from project to project, but we maintain clear and transparent expectations of what each role requires.
In weekly company-wide meetings, we discuss goals, successes and failures on many levels. Sometimes we're celebrating the launch of a complex web application and sometimes we have to sit down and figure out what has to give in order to meet the impending deadline on another project. And, sometimes, we're just discussing where we should all meet for happy hour this Friday.
Weekly, we also publish team wide utilization reports in which each team member's time logged is compared to how much of it is billable to a client. This allows for team members such as myself to see which developer has the most time to bug with my incessant WordPress questions.
For transparency to work, walls must come down. Both literal and figurative ones. At Integrity, we've removed both kinds.
When we acquired another floor in our building for our growing team in late 2013, we purposely designed it with as much open space as possible. Our open floor plan fosters transparency by making it easy to see what everyone is working on, and, yes, from time to time guilting that one developer who can never seem to roll in before noon. Every. Day.
Figuratively, we've done this by shifting our organizational structure to a Holacracy, where team members are their own manager. In a Holacracy, trust is everything. We trust that team members will be transparent enough to share the successes and failures of what they're working on so that we can learn and grow from their experience. And, most importantly, we trust that they'll reach out to the rest of the team immediately to address conflict head on if they find they need help.
You can't call yourself transparent if the practices stop at your front door. Clients are the lifeblood of a business, so they should also be included on your efforts for transparency. If clients are able to understand your contracts and pricing on a granular level with no punches pulled, they are more likely to trust you in current and future business dealings. We know we won't always be the cheapest option, but we maintain transparency in the quality and amount of effort that goes into every project we do – and that's what often wins us business. Even when project conflict, timeline stress and other issues inevitably arise, companies are ultimately run by people and people are always more willing to work with other people they trust.
Ultimately, it all comes down to filling your company with the kind of people you trust to be transparent in both their personal and professional lives. At Integrity, we truly believe that hiring smart people with the ability to learn and fit into our culture is the best way to achieve productive transparency.
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