Widespread transparency

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Photo by Arenamontanus

Everybody who ever worked in any kind of an organization has felt the same way. “What the hell are the guys up there thinking?”; “I do all the work down here and I am not sure how what I do relates to what the company does?”; “How do I make a difference?”.

Here is how Anthony Tjan from the Harvard business review blog describes it:

Here’s a test. Ask five to 20 of your employees to explain what your company’s customer value proposition is. How many different answers do you guess you’ll get? Answer: somewhere between five and 20. This is, of course, in addition to the response, “What the heck do you mean by a value proposition?”

When is the last time you thought about how much your team understands about what is your business and about what the team actually does? When I was in the Israeli Air-Force I headed training for new soldiers. I had a couple of new instructors working with me and before the course started we sat down to have a chat about what the new course is going to be like. I planned to have a short discussion of what we were generally trying to accomplish and then move on to the urgent administrative staff. But when we started the discussion I realized, after a few short questions, that was what obvious to me regarding the training, the way it is built and handled and its objectives, was not that clear to them. We ended up spending more than two hours just talking about the big pictures. After a few weeks on the job, one of my teammates came up to me and said: “you know, if we haven’t had that discussion, I would have handled a lot of my daily interactions totally differently. Thanks for that”.

I remember thinking after that about how things that are obvious to me as a manager of that team were not at all obvious to my teammates. Years later I was reminded of this story when I read about the “curse of knowledge” in the great book “made to stick”. The curse of knowledge basically means that we have problems explaining things because we already know them, which makes it hard for us to imagine how someone who does know what we know see it. This means we need to actively seek where our assumptions about the knowledge of other people are wrong.

However, I think that if we look at it from a broader managerial perceptive, it is about creating a culture of widespread transparency. It could be, as Anthony Tjan claims, that it will be about transparency in what is our value proposition It could be financial transparency that helps low level managers and employees make decision. And it could be leadership transparency. But all of these are part of the same mechanism of creating a widespread transparency. A way to engage our teammates, employees and followers and a way that allows them to make the right judgment calls and decisions. To implement strategy below the c-level strategy. In this complex but highly fast paced and fast communicated world, this kind of culture will have to be the norm.

So, what have you been doing to create a widespread transparent environment?

Elad

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