5 Ways To Introduce Transparency

Last week we had a look inside Hanno - the radically transparent design studio - at how their commitment to transparency has changed their team for the better. We’ve distilled the lessons from Hanno and many other transparent companies into 5 easy steps that we can try out in our own teams.

Firstly to recap what exactly transparency in the workplace means:

Transparency is unimpeded access to information

Unimpeded access to information means that it is there, open and available to anyone who needs it (this could just be your internal team.) Even the smallest of barriers can hurt team transparency —like having to ask for access to a document. Having to constantly ask for access builds many subtle emotional barriers that are harder to see but more damaging on team dynamics.

Before dismissing transparency as something radical that only the Buffers of the world do, it’s important to understand that it can be implemented at different levels: internally & externally. The push towards transparency doesn’t mean we all have to open up our salaries, equity and revenue to the world’s eye. However applying these principles of transparency within our teams can have radical effects on autonomy, purpose and ultimately team happiness.

To sum up what many others have said the most important part about adopting transparency into your team culture is:

Defaulting to transparency first, then asking, “does this need to be private?”

The easiest way to thinks about this is simply as flipping the traditional order of information. Usually information is deemed private unless cause for sharing, but defaulting to transparency means that everything starts of shared and becomes private where necessary.

Whether you’re wanting to go full transparent or just improve your team culture, here are some easy ways to start moving towards a culture of transparency.

  1. No Email. No Private Chats
    Moving away from internal email is a great way to desilo your team's communication. It means that everyone can easily see the discussions that have been happening from all parts of the company. Buffer have a great in depth look at how to make your communication transparent.

  2. Shared Document Storage
    Moving your team’s documents and files into an online sharable folder that everyone has access to will mean that anytime someone in your team needs access to a piece of information to do their job, they won’t have to wait around for you to grant permission.

  3. Public Playbook
    If your company provides a service, you could take a leaf out of Hanno’s book and put document how you run your company and what clients can expect clearly and openly for future clients to see. This will also give clarity to the team about what we expect from each other and what we are expected of as a team.

  4. Open Equity
    To often in startups we see the topic of equity becoming a taboo. Everyone keeps their own equity a secret but this simply drives behind-the-back gossip about what others equity might be. Opening up your equity distribution cuts this team tension with a knife. There may be some conversations that need to be had at first but after that, people find no point in gossiping about it because it’s in the open.

  5. Revenue
    This doesn’t have to be publicly accessible, but openly sharing your company revenue within your team can have a huge impact on individual team members motivation and ownership.

You’d be surprised how many people in small teams don’t know the company’s revenue. It’s often guarded from them like a secret. Opening up your revenue internally helps people make decisions: e.g. should we upsize our infrastructure now or wait a few months, should we look at improving hosting costs or develop new features? Having an understanding of where the company is revenue wise enables team members to make the right decisions for where the company is currently at.

Worried about de-motivating your team instead of the opposite? Try releasing the first revenue figures in a team meeting where people can ask questions about its relevance and plans for improving it. The slight down from not being as cashed up as expected can also help to motivate team members as they see how their daily actions are contributing to the needed growth in revenue.

HighlightTransparency @ HannoHow much of our operational ‘data’ really needs to be private? Wouldn’t we be forced to be better, fairer, and more ethical companies if we put more of ourselves out in the open? Those were the questions that Jon Lay, the founder of Hanno, a “radically transparent remote design. Read now