The many benefits of transparency

Autonomy, Control, Feedback, Transparency, Trust, Culture

In 2008, Futurice was at a crossroads. The team was growing beyond 60 people and it was apparent that the structure of the organization needed to adapt to our size. Up until that point, the culture within the company had been very open and empowering. After trying to put traditional managerial methods and processes in place for half a year, it just didn’t feel right. We decided to scrap the idea and travel along a path less traveled - to build the organization on the foundations of trust and transparency.

Inspiration for this path came from small companies, which naturally have these characteristics: trust is abundant, everybody knows the company’s situation and what others are doing (transparency), and thus know what to do themselves. Performance is high. Together, trust and transparency build motivation and produce great results.

Trust and transparency are also interdependent. To build a transparent company, trust is needed so that the environment is safe for being transparent and information is not misused. On the other hand, transparency fosters trust. Therefore, increased trust is first benefit that comes from transparency.

Transparency does not just foster trust, which is benefit #1, but leads to many other benefits that build motivation and improve performance:

2. Autonomy: Everyone has access to the same information, which forms a solid base for autonomous decision making.

3. Positive control: Transparency fosters self-control, which is much more motivating and efficient than boss or organisation-driven control.

4. Low hierarchy: Access to information is one form of hierarchy and sign of power. There may be other natural needs for some hierarchy, but information access should not be one in an empowering organisation.

5. Feedback: Think about computer games that constantly give feedback. The feedback motivates and directs people to do the right things and improve their actions. How about taking this into corporate life: can we build systems that gives affirmative and guiding feedback continuously and automatically instead of every six months?

6. Credit and identity: Imagine a situation where everybody can see what their colleagues are doing and what they’ve accomplished. This would be a great way to build everybody’s sense of worth, appreciation and identity.

…and many more.

This is a short teaser of what I will be talking about at the Great Place to Work 2013 European Conference and Awards in Dublin on June 27th. Stay tuned for the more!