Radical transparency

This post is the second in a series devoted to my reading notes and thoughts on the essays contained in The Culture Book, Volume 1. This essay is by the team at Buffer, a social media management platform.

Radical transparency means that we proactively default to transparency. We don’t ask “Can we be transparent about this?” Instead, we ask “What could go wrong if we are transparent about this?” Calendars, financial data, statistics, etc. are shared with all employees. And a big chunk of that is also shared with the public.

Generally, transparency builds trust, which leads to better communication and teamwork, which leads to a better work environment, happier employees, and better results. Transparency with the public can also be very good for your brand and recruiting the right people.

We share our financial data with employees and the public because we believe that the dollars we spend tell a story about what we value.

When we can’t be transparent about something, we are very transparent about why we can’t be.

Some caveats about transparency:

  • Timing is important. In some cases, the law or decency might require that we delay a disclosure.
  • Constructive criticism is best provided in private (but praise can be public).

For radical transparency to work, it has to be part of the culture:

  • Everyone needs to opt in when they join. In fact, the concept is discussed at the interview stage.
  • Once on board, everyone
    • gets a “Culture Buddy”, someone who is there to help them acclimate to the culture. Culture Buddies have weekly meeting to discuss culture challenges;
    • gets a culture guide, a living document that explains culture-related decisions made over the years;
    • is asked to set up one or two 30-minute calls with other employees to get to know each other.
  • The goal is not to assimilate newcomers into the culture. It is to learn about how the newcomers will contribute to the culture.

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