Record all information that is valuable for the organization and make it accessible to everyone in the organization, unless there is a reason for confidentiality, so that everyone has the information they need to understand how to do their work in a way that contributes most effectively to the whole.

Transparency in an organization helps people understand what’s going on, what to expect and why things are done the way they are. It reduces uncertainty, supports trust and trustworthiness and fosters accountability.

Adequate transparency means that people either have direct access to the information they need, or that they at least know where to go or who to ask, to get access to it. Transparency helps everyone understand when they can safely and effectively decide and act for themselves and when they need to involve others to respond to dependencies they share.

Transparency supports us to learn from, and with each other. It helps to reduce the potential of small problems growing into big ones because we are more likely to spot mistakes and negative unintended consequences more promptly.

Transparency facilitates the ongoing development and maintenance of a coherent and adaptive learning organization. Having access to relevant information helps us to quickly identify important needs and changes and respond fast.

Clarify motivation for (more) transparency

Transparency is a means to an end, not an end in itself, so if you’re looking to increase transparency in your organization, take the time to clarify the reasons why. What are the challenges you are trying to solve by introducing more transparency and/or what are the opportunities you wish to pursue?

Introduce more transparency into your organization as a way to support learning and to free people up, not as a way to control them. Use it as a way to improve performance, not leave people feeling unsafe to do anything because they are anxious about being watched. Transparency can enable co-creation and innovation but in a context where failure is treated as negative, rather than an opportunity to learn, it will impede people’s willingness to take risks and experiment.

Consider reasons for confidentiality

Be clear about information that is inappropriate to share. While secrecy can be associated with illicit or dubious affairs, there are many legitimate reasons for confidentiality in organizations. Sometimes secrecy is necessary, for example, protection of people’s personal data and affairs, security of assets or protection of intellectual property that helps an organization achieve its goals.

Identify what information is valuable to record and share

Consider carefully what information is worthwhile to record. Valuable information worth recording typically includes:

  • decisions that have been made, along with the information they were based upon, who made them and the reasons why they were made
  • any information that supports people to make effective decisions, such as details about the context, possibilities explored and any important constraints
  • information that helps with evaluating progress and outcomes, including evaluation criteria, metrics, descriptions of intended outcomes and details of any hypotheses upon which decisions are being made
  • information that reduces uncertainty and supports the development of trust, such as finances and future plans
  • useful insights and learning
  • meeting minutes

Create and maintain a coherent system for recording information

Documenting relevant information in a way that is coherent and accessible is an ongoing task that relies on everyone in the organization playing their part. Developing a system for recording and sharing information and keeping it up to date takes time and effort. Choose tools that make it simple to create, update, and cross-reference records, as well as to search and retrieve information when it’s required. Make clear which information is recorded and updated, by whom and when, and structure records accordingly. Take the time to regularly check through your records, ensure your system remains helpful and keep an archive of historical information for reference.