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Effició Intelligence Report – Transparency, too much or too little can damage visibility.

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INTELLIGENCE ISSN 2834-6238, Report #2 Published: Friday, July 7, 2023, 8:00 AM Eastern
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For this issue, we’re discussing transparency. Too much or too little can damage visibility.

Section I – Report Format

Getting to the CORE is about a digging process. Our focus is to excavate relevant business questions investigated in academic, practitioner, and industry research that provide direction, sources, and opportunities that small firm leaders can use in their strategic planning and execution.

Our objective is to find impactful questions answered through research and real-world application. The goal of our CORE inquiry is to share findings on key business questions that are compelling, and relative to business operations, systems, strategy, and marketability.

To find these questions, we collaborate with stakeholders who align around common goals, metrics (ways of measuring achievement), theories of change, and areas of practice. And, our most valued collaborator, you! We want our community to thrive through discussion and participation.

Each issue will have a questionthe findings, and a list of sources. Each quarter, we host a live discussion to review and share strategies for how to apply the findings to your business.

I hope you’re ready to push yourself, move yourself, and achieve extraordinary results. We’re ready to inspire you to high achievement and help you excavate your Red Diamond Business!

Section II – CORE Question

How should expectations of transparency be managed?

In the context of business, transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed. It implies accountability, openness, and clarity for the business. Normally, transparency is driven by the company and it’s management, however, employees have begun to take it upon themselves to share beyond transparency; there are new trends in the younger workforce to share salaries, to air grievances, and to showcase “a day in the life” inside their respective work environments.

For example, in a recent article in Forbes CxO, the author shared how employees’ growing willingness to air their organization’s laundry externally, in addition to going more public about what they think of their leadership teams, their colleagues or their CEOs requires attention and evaluation.

Digital transformation has provided an additional layer of transparency or “visibility management (Flyverbom, M. 2016).” Employees and other staff have transparency tools at their fingertips which can lead to internal and external issues. On the other hand, it can provide positive and profitable brand engagement.

These insights, takes the intention of transparency to a another level of review of professional norms that may be outdated and uncontrollable. Our question is, how do we manage the expectations of transparency for our workforce and our clients?

Section III – CORE Findings

Surprisingly, most of the research we found that was compelling is from 2016-2018. During those years, transparency was maturing as a key topic for executives, and it was gaining momentum among small firms who took advantage of showcasing an inside look through social media. The research from 2018-present mostly presents data on accountability and transparency to fight against corruption, political restraints, and managing trust.

It is noted that a growing number of scholars, advocates, and practitioners have begun to raise hard questions about the costs and limits of the transparency movement.

Academic Findings

Research Article: Digital age| Transparency: Mediation and the management of visibilities.

Main argument: “That transparency is conditioned by the techniques and mediations through which it is produced, and that the results of transparency efforts are rather managed visibilities than insight and clarity (p.112).”

This article discusses the technological and mediated foundations of transparency and the dynamics of visibility practices resulting from efforts to make people, objects, and processes knowable and governable. Their findings suggest that we shift our attention away from providing information as a transparency goal; instead, evaluate social processes and dynamics that affect our companies specifically in our transparency efforts. We need to look at the political, technological, and power effects of transparency.

We like this research because it provides a perspective of visibility vs. just sharing information. For example, you could incorporate a more robust visibility strategy internally so that all team members are heard, and understand what professional guidelines are required. This will require digital policies that reflect the company culture.

Research Article: Organizational transparency: Conceptualizations, conditions, and consequences.

Purpose: “To provide a more structured conceptualization of organizational transparency, this article unpacks the assumptions that shape the extant literature, with a focus on three dimensions: conceptualizations, conditions, and consequences (abstract).”

We like this research because it does a great job of reviewing the current literature, its weaknesses, and uncertainties, to allow additional questions and solutions for transparency. Understanding current directions of research on the topic of transparency inform our own organizational policies on transparency. We can define, organize, and transmit information deemed transparent efficiently and effectively.

The two research articles above provide an abundance of knowledge to begin answering our question this month.

Practitioner/Industry Findings

We also found impactful articles on HBR, McMcKinsy and LawFare that we think round out our question this month:

The Transparency Trap by Ethan Berstein via HBR, gives a wonderful account of how we can set boundaries and find the sweet spot between privacy and transparency. He noted, “In my research, I found that individuals and groups routinely wasted significant resources in an effort to conceal beneficial activities because they believed that bosses, peers, and external observers who might see them would have “no idea” how to “properly understand” them.”

The Dark Side of Transparency By Julian Birkinshaw and Dan Cable via McKinsy & Company Insights, shares that “Excessive sharing of information creates problems of information overload and can legitimize endless debate and second-guessing of senior executive decisions.” This article is a great companion during your strategic planning brainstorm for transparency; it will help you think through positive, negative, and neutral scenarios.

And, we must include a source from a regulatory standpoint. As we continue to conduct business, we must stay abreast of legal issues affecting our business. Getting Transparency Right By Daphne Keller, Max Levy via the LawFare blog is a good one. They begin by stating that transparency is essential, and share perspectives on the new legal models for platform transparency. It is not only a good read, but an essential read to expand our “visibility management” strategies to include community responsibilities.

Section IV – CORE Discussion

What do you think of all this? How will you begin addressing transparency in your business?

We have many more sources and insights on this month’s question. Additional findings will be shared during our LIVE dialogue and conversation about “the CORE findings” webcast for network members. Webcasts are held on the third Thursday of each quarter in January, April, July, and October. If you’re a network member, no need to register, set the reminder on your calendar. We’ll send the link to join one week before the event.

If you want to subscribe to email updates only, use the form below, it is free.

Section V – CORE Sources

Remember: We investigate research from all sources. Your goal is to dig into the findings so that you can create solutions.

Academic Articles

Flyverbom, M. (2016). Digital age| transparency: Mediation and the management of visibilities. International Journal of Communication, 10, 13. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/4490

Albu, O. B., & Flyverbom, M. (2019). Organizational transparency: Conceptualizations, conditions, and consequences. Business & Society, 58(2), 268-297. https://doi.org/10.1177/0007650316659851

Practitioner/Industry Articles

McGregor, J. (2022, June 22). Open Letters, Petitions, Twitter Feuds: Employees Increasingly Go Public With Internal Complaints. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenamcgregor/2022/06/21/open-letters-petitions-twitter-feuds-employees-increasingly-go-public-with-internal-complaints/?sh=2990b5027689

The Transparency Trap. (2014, October 28). Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-transparency-trap

Birkinshaw, J., & Cable, D. (2021, March 1). The dark side of transparency. McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-dark-side-of-transparency

Getting Transparency Right. (2022, July 11). Lawfare. https://www.lawfareblog.com/getting-transparency-right

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