Is chain link transparent

Working in teams or teams of teams is a fact of life in today’s corporate environment.  Gone are the days when software developers were relegated to the basement to labor away in solitary cubes.  Today’s work environment requires collaboration between team members, other groups and sometimes even the business. Collaboration requires three prerequisites; time, transparency and trust.  Each of these areas is complex in its own right. Transparency, the middle component in the prerequisites, is the sharing of all relevant information, including motives. In order to collaborate effectively, people need to know what they are working on, why they are working on it, the background of what they are working on, and more. Unpacking the concept of transparency exposes six important attributes that further refine and contribute to the concept of transparency.

Motivation provides the rationale and the energy for collaborating. Without motivation, there are very few reasons for groups to work on a common problem or toward a common goal.  One mechanism that is useful for creating motivation is creating a common vision and goal. Most teams spend time “team building” in order to establish a shared vision and to help identify the differences/nuances in personal motivation that every human exhibits. Minimizing and then understanding the differences in motivation helps teams and individuals interpret behavior in a better light so that small differences don’t cause larger misunderstandings.

Disclosure is needed because everyone has a backstory from which knowledge and ideas are drawn through a filter of cognitive biases. The context in which collaboration occurs will dictate what part of that an individual’s or team’s backstory needs to be shared.  All relevant Information that influences a situation needs to be shared (we will deal with the tricky word relevant in a moment).  Information that is controversial should be shared preemptively, especially if it will likely be discovered later. Hiding information that should have been shared will destroy credibility. I watch a lot of British television (crime and drama shows), the British version of Miranda rights says it well:  “You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”  

Participation is a kinetic form of transparency.  Getting involved enriches how, what, and when information is shared and then how information is perceived.  Participation reduces the friction between people by creating a shared experience. Reducing the friction in collaboration reduces the financial and emotional costs of collaboration.  Note: This assumes participation is in good faith.

Relevancy of the shared information is important but needs to fit the collaboration context. Relevancy in the context of collaboration is defined as information closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered.  When deciding on design considerations for a new website, information about the weather forecast for the weekend lacks relevance. Relevance is very contextual, in the design conversation, if the discussion turns to a potential weekend meeting the weather forecast might become relevant.

Clarity reflects the need for the shared information to be coherent and intelligible so that it can be understood. Obscuring the meaning of information and ideas makes effective collaboration nearly impossible. Try collaborating with someone with whom you don’t share a language or culture.  It is difficult to collaborate except at a very basic level. In a similar vein, people trying to collaborate need to have clarity on their motivation and the vision for the outcome of the collaboration.

Credibility is a measure of believability. Credible information and ideas are easier to share because they are more easily consumed within teams or groups. Sharing information that can be believed reduces the friction of collaboration, which reduces the effort needed to introduce ideas and data and then to synthesize them into the final outcome.

The building blocks of transparency are interrelated. For example, without clarity, it is difficult to be credible because the information will not be understood. However, clarity only counts if the information or ideas being shared are relevant to the situation. Transparency is an easy term to throw around but harder to create and interpret. Without transparency, only a very transactional type of collaboration is possible, which means that understanding and creating transparency is worth the price.