“When you hide information from your team, you limit their intelligence to that of your own, crippling the smart people you hired”
Avishay Abrahami, Wix.com CEO
Managers understand that transparency is important, they understand that to move faster and smarter we need to harness everyone’s intelligence. When companies hide information, numbers, roadmap or plans from employees they limit their employees ability to help, they limit their team intelligence to the intelligence of the one’s who know.
This is why companies and managers today are advocating and practicing transparency and sharing, Unfortunately not all of them do and not in all areas.
In this post I’d like to cover transparency in the realm of business execution $ numbers, KPI’s and roadmaps. Sharing what we do in dapulse.com and what we learned from thousands of customers about transparency practices.
What does it mean to be transparent
Being transparent is mostly about building the right company culture around it. For me in dapulse it means that every piece of information is available to everyone, from the $ revenue, customer feedback — good and bad, money in the bank, all performance metrics to what every employee is doing at any given time.
One of dapulse’s core culture traits is to know and understand the numbers we work with and to make decisions by them.
To achieve KPI transparency we’re constantly improving our internal BI system we fondly call BigBrain. BigBrain has everything, every $ spent and every $ received, all the product behaviour data and all the KPI’s. It also drives the dashboards that are spread across the office showing that information. As a result of that investment — every employee in the company has BigBrain in some way or another part of their daily work.
Roadmap / Weekly work
To share the work we do, our roadmap and all communication we obviously use dapulse. And one of the best ways to mesure transparency in work is when someone asks a question about anything — people respond — it’s in dapulse — without specifying where — it’s obvious where it is!
In contrast with email communication that is inherently not transparent you usually get answered — i’ll send it to you.
Benefits in being transparent
- Freedom: When you share everything, you don’t have to take note on who knows what — YOU ARE FREE — you’re not scared that something will slip and and you don’t need to watch what you say and in front of whom.
- Politics: When some people know and others don’t, it becomes a hot bed for organisational politics to thrive. It’s easy for groups of people to differentiate themselves and there is a constant chase of those not in the loop to try and get into the loop. This is not something that helps the organisation move forward. In contrast, when everything is out in the open, you don’t have those groups and there is no politics around it.
- Motivation: When information is available people share more and their ability to understand the impact of their actions improve, they are more happy and engaged in their work as they feel that they matter, they actually make a difference.
4. Reduce Management Energy: When you limit the information people have you still need to make sure they do the work they need to do, and you are the one who needs to understand if that work did the right impact. You are the one responsible for adjusting the course of every team or employee who’s information is limited — this is exhausting. Instead, when all information is available and clear, anyone can understand the impact of their work and adjust, your job as a manager is to make sure they get the information, understand it properly and improve — much easier and more rewarding.
5. Share Responsibility: Much like the last point, when you limit an employee information it keeps you in charge of reaching goals and keeps RESPONSIBILITY solely in your hands. By limiting information you lose the ability to relay on your team to improve and reach goals, essentially making you struggle alone with that burden.
6. More Eyes: When things don’t work it helps to have everyone’s eye on the ball, NO EYES = NO BALL, sharing all information rallies everyone to find problems and fix them faster.
Difficulties In Being Transparent
- Letting go: It’s simply hard to let go, it’s always an easier decision not to share, people rationalise not sharing business data in fear it will leak out. They rationalise not sharing roadmap data in fear they won’t be able to change it. They fear sharing goals in fear they won’t reach them.
From my experience being afraid never helped me, not even once. When we’ve added a dashboard in the main hall with all our business data people asked me if I’m not afraid to be exposed like that. When we’ve had articles written on our dashboard and photos of it shared on the web I got lots of emails asking if I’m not scared competitors will see. The truth is it helped us a lot, it made the team proud and it attracted job candidates and investors — showing information tells something about your confidence — it attracts people.
2. Having to answer questions:
When information is out there, it’ll draw questions: why didn’t we reach that goal?, why are the signups going down? and you’ll need to find answers, people like to avoid this situation. At dapulse we like it, because it helps us improve. It forces us not hide the bad stuff and it that’s a great force towards dealing with it.
3. Justify decisions: similar to answering questions it also means your mistakes are visible and you’ll need to answer for them as well. The answer is still the same, In a world that everyone says you need to make mistakes on the path to success there is no sense hiding from them. If you live in an environment of being penalized for mistakes, transparency is a great way to change that. When everything is open you can openly discuss your decisions before hand and share responsibility later, disarming finger pointing by making it clear beforehand (again for that we mainly use dapulse to show roadmap and highlight big milestone decisions, it’s there and you can’t say you didn’t know).
Technical access is not enough: you need to make sure people know, not only have access to information but actually use it, lots of tactics for this one I‘ll try to cover in future posts.
Practicing transparency for some requires dealing with internal politics and letting go of fears. There is a price to pay for transparency, but it’s a far less then the one you pay for not practicing it.