With Transparency Comes Responsibility

August 18, 2023 Jamie Notter

I am writing a chapter for our upcoming book, Culture Change Made Easy, and the focus of the chapter is transparency. Specifically, we focus on the “lagging transparency” culture pattern that we identified in our research. Many cultures suffer from lagging transparency, where they are too reactive in their information sharing, rather than being proactive about it. So they are actively trying to be transparent, yet too often the information shows up too little too late.

The case study that we profile has overcome this pattern, and they are extremely proactive in their information sharing, but they also revealed an interesting relationship between transparency and a seemingly unrelated part of their culture: how they develop their employees.

If you’re going to commit to true transparency in your culture, then you also have to commit to focusing more deeply on employee needs and developing them.

Transparency makes more things visible, and when your people can see more, they have the opportunity to make better decisions. But if you are not developing them and ensuring they are learning continuously, then their decisions are less likely to be effective anyway, so you will have wasted the opportunity that transparency provided you. In other words, you have a responsibility to develop your people if you want to reap the benefits of transparency.

Making things visible also will inevitably reveal some flaws in your operations. When you shine a light on things, you’ll end up seeing areas where the processes are off or things aren’t working well. And once you’ve made the flaws visible, you have a responsibility to fix them. This, ultimately, is about focusing on employee needs as well, because you are continuously improving things in order to make them more successful in their job.

So take note: with transparency comes responsibility. If you want to create a truly transparent culture, then you’ll need to focus more on employee development as part of the process.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is a co-founder and culture strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders create amazing workplace cultures that drive greater performance and impact. He brings thirty years of experience to his work designing and managing culture, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is the co-author of four popular business books, including the award-winning Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement, and his fall 2023 release, Culture Change Made Easy. He holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.