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Benefits of Transparency in Organizations

Tuomas Syrjänen, CEO of Futurice, talked about the good things that transparency can bring to organizations at the Dare Festival Antwerp 2014.

InfoQ did an interview with Syrjänen about how transparency can support enterprises to work more like startups, what Futurice has done to become transparent, the impact of transparency on the mood of teams and people, benefits that transparency can bring and pitfalls in becoming transparent, trust, and decision making at Futurice.

InfoQ: You talked at the Dare festival about how transparency can help established enterprises to work more like startups. Can you elaborate on this?

Syrjänen: There are several aspects how transparency helps enterprises to work more like start-ups. We want people to make decisions, look at the big picture, and carry the responsibility. In order to make decisions, people need full information; otherwise how can people make a right decision if they do not see the big picture? Transparency also fosters responsibility and brings positive self-control to the organisation. It creates engagement and motivation as people understand the reasons behind their work.

InfoQ: Can you give some examples of what you have done to become more transparent at Futurice? What worked and what didn't?

Syrjänen: For example, we share good and bad information as soon as possible. We update operational information to everybody in the company weekly, including numbers, staffing, sales and project information. We invite people to company wide decision making and we seek to always explain the why behind decision. Our meetings are public so if people want to join and participate, they are welcome. We also have different mechanisms that allows people to ask information such as monthly ask-the-ceo sessions and so on.

InfoQ is researching factors that influence the mood of agile teams. Can you tell us about the impact transparency has on the mood of teams and people?

Syrjänen: Transparency improves engagement as people will better understand the reasons behind different choices and decisions. Transparency also improves trust which is key to improving the mood.

InfoQ: Can you mention some of the benefits that transparency can bring to enterprises?

Syrjänen: Transparency brings many benefits, such as:

  • Autonomy which improves overall motivation, speed and efficiency of the organisation.
  • When information is shared openly, hierarchy lowers and culture improves.
  • Organisations can respond to market changes much faster when they are agile and build on informed, empowered, proactive and thinking individuals.
  • Positive control since transparency improves self control and less costly formal control mechanisms are needed.
  • Speed, efficiency and quality of decision making.
  • Organisational change is also easier when everybody shares the same reality via transparency.

InfoQ: What about pitfalls or risks of becoming transparent? How can you deal with them?

Syrjänen: Transparency requires understanding so that everybody can put various things into perspective. Building this understanding takes time and effort and if it is neglected, misunderstandings can happen.

InfoQ: Do you think that transparency creates trust? Or is trust needed to become transparent?

Syrjänen: Both ways - some trust is required but transparency also creates trust. Transparency improves trust and also requires trust. I see that transparency and trust together create a positive loop.

InfoQ: Can you describe the Futurice decision making principles. How do they support transparency?

Syrjänen: We seek to formulate "thinking rules" instead of exact do's and don'ts to support decision making as much as possible. The cornerstone of our decision making is 3x2 meaning that in every decision one is supposed to look at how it affects customers satisfaction, people satisfaction and numbers, now and in the future. There is never exactly one right answer and quite often it is about balancing the different perspectives.It is expected that the end result of the decision making is made public which takes care of the control.

InfoQ: If an organization would like to become more transparent, what are things that they can do to get started?

Syrjänen: Just start sharing information with small steps and then combine this with creating understanding. Also expect and encourage lots of discussion around the new information/transparency.

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