You do NOT want Transparency

Disruption and Transparency

As a custom app dev consultant I constantly get inserted into the space between organization silos – between marketing and accounting, between sales and operations, between IT and product management.  The agency life makes you a fly on the wall in meetings where groups who avoid each other are forced to work together directly for the first time. Maybe it is the nature of disruption, whether it is a lean, agile, or digital “transformation” – but it creates immense hoopla about and demands for “transparency”.

Transparency is promised all around, named as a priority in meetings, and complained about when people feel like they’re out of the loop. As the old bard said, “Ay, there lies the rub.”

Transparency is not what anyone wants.

Requesting transparency, instead, represents the desire for visibility and proper prioritization of important information as it flows to the people who will be impacted by it.  If someone doesn’t have an understanding of what information they want prioritized, “transparency” is really just an expression of distrust.

Transparency is saying “I don’t know what information is important, I don’t trust you to prioritize it for me, so give me access to all of it.”

Now don’t get me wrong, this post is not about how to allow or restrict access to data. Instead, if you are part of a disruption-in-progress, keep an eye out for communication anti-patterns.  When a complex system is creating new cultural repertoire, adapting to disruption, new information flows must be created.  New decision patterns emerge.  Some people like the change and others are oblivious to it until the day it hurts them because they personally failed to adapt. 

Examples of Communication Anti-Patterns:

  • Email notifications that are really just internal company spam.
  • Managers who request to be added to meeting invites “just in case” they want to pop in.
  • Sending someone a raw (and sort of meaningless) export of data in spreadsheet form as an “answer” to their question.
  • Stakeholders who demand access to the agile tool (JIRA, Rally, Trello) but never look at it.
  • You get a casual question about status and answer by forwarding several email chains.
  • Making up new KPIs and performance metrics that don’t matter.
  • Virtually every version of reports on “utilization” that I’ve seen.
  • Anonymous complaints to executive leadership about secrecy around financial status.
  • Weekly meetings that review numbers that only change quarterly.

I’m sure you have another hundred examples, just like I do.

So whether you adopting a new tool, some kind of “enablement” software, in your aspirations for lean scalability, changing your agile or DevOps processes to encourage innovation, or embracing digital transformation as a path to new business models and potential revenue: be human.  When nonsensical requests for transparency happen, let it inspire a dialogue (or several) about what information is most important to each person and the best way to present it.  If you didn’t see the future and have all those conversations up-front, guess what?  No one does. Start driving human dialogue as soon as you notice there is a communication anti-pattern.

Visualize Your Work – and Show it off!

And, if these aren’t problems you’re having right now, you should still think about the best ways to visualize your work in progress. You will benefit psychologically, someday you’ll be able to answer new but important questions to a manager or colleague more appropriately, and you’ll discover what you can teach to other who are earlier in their professional journey.

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