Transparency Is More Than a Policy; It’s a Value

Transparency, value, businessIn the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, we often take a look at ideas that have become the idée du jour. Transparency has been gaining steam for the last couple of years due to the influence of social platforms.It is so easy for information to get out publicly about nearly everything and everyone. But transparency seems to be more than simply a way for a business or organization to appear ethical and engaging. There is a quality to it that makes it akin to a value, much like honesty or freedom. With this lens, it is deeper than a set of policies or even a practice.

Please join us Friday, January 17, at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT for the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz as we discuss “Goal Setting.” Not sure how to participate? Please click here for tips and advice.

Beyond good ethics

In a recent post on Entrepreneur.com, Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market is quoted as saying, “customers want transparency.” (Whole Foods Market is a grocery store that focuses on organic, sustainable and ethical food and health products). For a company like Whole Foods Market, transparency can be a selling point for customers. This goes beyond simply ethics as companies have to pay attention to revenue and profits. When a company appears consistent in its behavior and message, customers want to do business with it.

Support for being more than ethics

Transparency has to be more than being an open book. Customers want to know that their information is protected. In “Privacy in the Age of Transparency,” Jeffrey Rothfeder writes, “the companies that are open and honest in their communications, adopt privacy policies, and are very clear about how they use collected data discreetly to further corporate growth, efficiency, and performance will benefit from wider consumer acceptance in international markets. This…is what leads to increased revenue, less litigation from the aggrieved, enhanced reputations for their brands, and more prospective partners willing to enter into lucrative cooperative ventures that require a deep well of trust.”

But it isn’t just consumers who are wary…

In a 2013 study by Tiny Pulse, it was noted that employees are have higher happiness levels with greater levels of management transparency. This points to organizational culture requiring real adherence to the stated mission, values and management practices. This includes managers clearly stating expectations and duties of employees, there are abundant conversations about the company’s mission and values and even day to day interactions support the authenticity and commitment to transparency.

Combination of relationships with consumers and employees

The digital age has made it easier for people find all kinds of information. Glen Llopis writes that “We are all living during a time when people want and expect their leaders to be more human, less perfect and at times a bit vulnerable – regardless of hierarchy or rank.” This affects both the way a business conducts itself which, as you know, is actually people. Consumers and employees want their companies to be transparent. This requires the people of the company to not view transparency as a policy but as a way of being; the same way we live by our other values.

What do you think? Has transparency become a value? Join us Friday, January 17, 2014 on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT

What benefits do you see when a company embraces policy of transparency?

How does transparency get articulated as part of a value system?

Can “true transparency” ever be a realistic objective or are there acceptable limits?

When does transparency go too far for a business?

What types of behaviors demonstrate transparency?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, executive coach, trainer and international expansion consultant, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.

 

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Opening Up the Search for True Transparency

Transparency, KaizenBiz chat, Steve BirkettTransparency is a buzz word that has spread rapidly into the common parlance of the social media era. Prompted initially by individuals sharing more and more of their personal lives online, and the blurring thereof with our professional lives, the creeping call for transparency has now reached the global corporate level.

Advocates assert that any and all organizations must embrace the concept, share more of their operation, and become open to letting this increasingly connected world see what goes on behind the curtain. “Open kimono” may well be business bingo lingo that predates the digital era, but it takes on new meaning with the sheer number of channels now available to businesses.

Just how much should be revealed before crossing the lines into overexposure? 

Furthermore, can the “true transparency” that many believe is required to become a fully social organization ever be achieved?  Or is this a naiveté destined to remain in the realm of aspirational blog posts and academia?

Defining “True Transparency”

Initially, we have to understand what is being asked of organizations pursuing greater transparency, then extrapolate a spectrum of just how far down that path they might go, both in theory and in practice. At the one end we have a closed, inaccessible attitude, unwilling to disclose anything of value. At the other, a truly transparent organization will answer any questions about their operation and publish as much of value as possible, open for all to access.

But there are, of course, limitations on this spectrum…

First and foremost, some companies operate within strictly regulated industries that will restrict the level of transparency. Even if a company in the financial sector wants to air everything to its interested parties, for example, it is bound by overarching regulatory bodies and compliance requirements. Similar limitations exist for pharmaceutical companies, law firms, and many others. So can such organizations ever be wholly transparent?

Secondly, the question arises as to exactly what an organization gains by pursuing all out openness. There are clear advantages in sharing some information, ranging from increased connection with customers to greater trust in how they do business. It can be argued, however, that there also exists a point of diminishing returns, after which the incremental benefits gained are outweighed by the risk that comes from making one’s operations available for all to scrutinize.

Teasing Out the Transparent 

In Friday’s #KaizenBiz, we’ll seek to understand what true transparency means conceptually, what limitations exist in the real world of business, and whether or not it is beneficial for an organization to pursue complete openness.

To that end, please consider the following questions:

Is organizational transparency an option or an obligation in the digital era?

Can “true transparency” ever be a realistic objective or are there acceptable limits?

Does a culture of openness equate to a transparent company?

Are there specific industries and/or organizations that have a right to maintain opacity on their operations? 

What do you want to see from organizations that open themselves up for all to see?

About the author: Steve Birkett is a senior marketing associate at Brooklyn-based agency Esvee Group (http://www.esveegroup.com/). Specializing in translating brand identity to new media channels and content, he is a passionate advocate of building online networks and openly contributing value to the resulting communities. You can further connect with Steve on Twitter via @EsveeGroup, or on his more musically-inclined personal handle, @AboveTheStatic.

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