"Transparency" is so opaque

August 18, 2022
What does "transparency" even mean? What decisions could you make differently if you had it?

“How can we increase transparency?”

I hear this question all the time.

The ironic truth about this question is… it’s completely lacking in transparency!

What does “transparency” even mean?

In my experience, this question is practically always shorthand for:

Someone (probably in management) is frustrated by something. They cannot identify the cause of something, so they ask for “transparency”, so that they can more effectively micromanage something.

My approach, whenever asked about increasing “transparency” is to take a step back, and ask what actual problem needs to be solved. This is usually met with blank stares. In a recent conversation, then response was, “There’s no bigger problem, we just need to know who is working on what, and when.”

Except that does point to a bigger (percieved) problem. Why do you care who is working on what, and when? What decisions might be made differently if you have access to that information?

Determine the actual problem to be solved first. Then maybe the solution to that problem does involve some sort of “transparency”. But at least then your definition of “transparency” will be… transparent.

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