Radical transparency

Being radically transparent in business has many benefits – both for individual employees and for the employer. It’s especially effective in written form.

Here is how full business transparency adds value:

  1. Information will be scrutinized broadly. Problems can be discussed openly. Better solutions are found.
  2. Colleagues will be engaged. Insight and ability to influence decisions lead to motivated staff.
  3. Learning is leveraged. Information is shared in a time-efficient way and colleagues can dig deeper when they wish to. When coaching feedback is shared widely everyone can learn from others’ mistakes.
  4. Lessons won’t be forgotten, and can be learnt from by many people for a long time to come, including future hires.
  5. Transparency breeds honesty and trust, which is essential for fruitful team work.
  6. Anyone can reach the truth. People should not have to guess what happened, why a decision was taken, or guess what others are thinking. Transparent leadership.
  7. Transparency brings about justice. It eliminates unfairness, inequality, favoritism, cronyism and nepotism.
  8. The time that senior professionals spend on coaching will have a high return on investment when coaching feedback is shared transparently and broadly.
  9. Large quantities of interlinked written information allows professionals to understand the background and take the right decisions. It saves time and allows the company to grow.
  10. Writing down your knowledge gives you professional authority on “your subjects”. It’s also good for SEO and content marketing.

Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates is one of the richest and most influential businessmen in the world. What is the meaning and importance of transparency according to this very successful business builder? He writes in his recent book:

Being radically truthful and transparent with your colleagues and expecting your colleagues to be the same with you ensures that important issues are apparent instead of hidden. It also enforces good behavior and good thinking, because when you have to explain yourself, everyone can openly assess the merits of your logic. If you are handling things well, radical transparency will make that clear, and if you are handling things badly, radical transparency will make that clear as well, so it helps to maintain high standards. | Radical truth and radical transparency are fundamental to having a real idea meritocracy. The more people can see what is happening—the good, the bad, and the ugly—the more effective they are at deciding the appropriate ways of handling things. This approach is also invaluable for training: Learning is compounded and accelerated when everyone has the opportunity to hear what everyone else is thinking. As a leader, you will get the feedback essential for your learning and for the continual improvement of the organization’s decision-making rules. And seeing firsthand what’s happening and why builds trust and allows people to make the independent assessments of the evidence that a functioning idea meritocracy requires. Source: Principles: Life and Work p. 323-324

How can you apply transparent practices to your business?

At LiteBreeze we embrace radical transparency within many areas of our business. Everyone defines business transparency differently, but this is what it means to LiteBreeze. Examples of what we share widely:

  1. Coaching. Software developers’ feedback documents are shared widely within the organization. Sometimes they are shared with clients as well – typically after a salary appraisal / performance review. Full transparency builds understanding.
  2. Todo lists are shared and allows staff to understand each others priorities. Read our todo list guidelines. This organizational transparency allows staff to maximize their value-creation by grabbing seniors’ work.
  3. Time entries that our staff books are available to clients in real-time through our time sheet / ERP software. Read our time entry guidelines.
  4. Time sheet overviews of how exactly our staff spends their time is shared with clients and our whole organization.
  5. Notes from management committee meetings.
  6. Continuous mistake-based learning within all departments is documented and shared.

Radical transparency is one the core principles at LiteBreeze.

A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. -Tim Ferriss

Quotes from Dalio’s book “Principles: Life and Work”

Leverage your communication. While open communication is very important, the challenge is to do it in a time-efficient way—you can’t have individual conversations with everyone. It is helpful to identify easy ways of sharing, like open emails posted on an FAQ board or sending around videotapes or audio recordings of key meetings. (I call such approaches “leverage.”) The challenges become greater the higher you go in the reporting hierarchy because the number of people affected by your actions and who also have opinions and/or questions grows so large. In such cases, you will need even greater leverage and prioritization (for example by having some of the questions answered by a well-equipped party who works for you or by asking people to prioritize their questions by urgency or importance). Dalio, Ray. Principles: Life and Work (pp. 367-368). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Even as you help people develop, you must constantly assess whether they are able to fulfill their responsibilities excellently. This is not easy to do objectively since you will often have meaningful relationships with your reports and may be reluctant to evaluate them accurately if their performance isn’t at the bar. By the same token, you may be tempted to give an employee who rubs you the wrong way a worse evaluation than he or she deserves. An idea meritocracy requires objectivity. Dalio, Ray. Principles: Life and Work (pp. 421-422). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

9.3 Evaluate accurately, not kindly. Nobody ever said radical honesty was easy. Sometimes, especially with new employees who have not yet gotten used to it, an honest assessment feels like an attack. Rise to a higher level and keep your eye on the bigger picture and counsel the person you are evaluating to do the same. a. In the end, accuracy and kindness are the same thing. What might seem kind but isn’t accurate is harmful to the person and often to others in the organization as well. Dalio, Ray. Principles: Life and Work (p. 426). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

9.4 Recognize that tough love is both the hardest and the most important type of love to give (because it is so rarely welcomed). The greatest gift you can give someone is the power to be successful. Giving people the opportunity to struggle rather than giving them the things they are struggling for will make them stronger. Compliments are easy to give but they don’t help people stretch. Pointing out someone’s mistakes and weaknesses (so they learn what they need to deal with) is harder and less appreciated, but much more valuable in the long run. Though new employees will come to appreciate what you are doing, it is typically difficult for them to understand it at first; to be effective, you must clearly and repeatedly explain the logic and the caring behind it. a. Recognize that while most people prefer compliments, accurate criticism is more valuable. You’ve heard the expression “no pain no gain.” Psychologists have shown that the most powerful personal transformations come from experiencing the pain from mistakes that a person never wants to have again—known as “hitting bottom.” So don’t be hesitant to give people those experiences or have them yourself. Dalio, Ray. Principles: Life and Work (p. 428). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

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