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If NaMo can, so can you. How to build trust through transparency

Alok Soni
14th Oct 2014
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Out of 1357 active registered employees in the Union Home Ministry, only 108 were present yesterday, that is, little less than 8% attendance. The situation is much better if not perfect in the Ministry of Defense with a 67% attendance, and Ministry of External Affairs where 77% of employees were present on the first day of the week (yesterday, Monday). While it is disappointing to know this, it is equally a privilege to have access to this information.


Narendra-Modi-Madison-Square

But why would Narendra Modi even consider investing time in attendance.gov.in?

It’s for the same reason why he would share the details of his meetings and proceedings of different departments (via social media) -- for transparency and accountability. The PMO has been transparent and accountable in the past four months as a result of which citizens feel more close to the government and the sense of being heard.

Attendance
Screenshots of http://attendance.gov.in/

From 1.3 billion people democracy to a 300-employee company

Now, let’s scale this down from the country and citizens to a company and its employees. Recently, it was reported that Krish Ramachandra of Blue Jeans Network broadcasted his traditionally private, closed-door board meeting to his entire company (300 employees in five countries) over his video conferencing system. As a part of this exercise, the board members broke the unintentional ‘sanitizing’ of information which resulted in everyone getting more complete and transparent view of how the company was performing.

So, what is transparency?

According to Ahmed Naqvi, CEO & Co-founder, Gozoop,

Transparency is to build a strong, honest and consistent communication with each member of the team. This empowers them with all the information they need to act in the best interest of their team, the company and its mission.
Alok Goel, CEO - Freecharge
Alok Goel, CEO - Freecharge

And why is it important?

Vikas Malpani, Co-founder CommonFloor, believes that transparency is paramount for trust to develop. Alok Goel, CEO, Freecharge, puts across the importance of transparency in a company as,

Most important ingredient for success in a startup setting is the team. Great team members aspire to achieve great heights. Transparency is the most important lubricant in facilitating this. When teams know that things will be shared openly across everyone, and everyone will have access to the same set of information, then they feel a special sense of safety in working. Teams also connect very well across all levels of organization and create mutual trust.

When your team members are familiar with the business realities of the company, they develop a feeling of belonging. It is this feeling that enables them to perform at their best.

At what stage should you be bothered about transparency?

Alok Goel of Freecharge believes that transparency is absolutely required from day one as it becomes incredibly hard to change culture of an organization once it is set.

Vikas Malpani says,

It is required across all stages. As you get larger, you need to ensure all important things have a way to flow down to every member for the organization.
Vikas Malpani, Co-founder, CommonFloor
Vikas Malpani, Co-founder, CommonFloor

How to ensure an organization’s transparency?

There are multiple ways depending on the stage and structure of the organization, which can be used to practice a transparent culture:

  1. By sharing vital information via email communication, open houses and townhalls: This serves as a platform for the team to ask questions ranging from strategy to failures, client feedback, lessons learned and opportunities that lie ahead.
  2. Discussing all numbers openly across organization. Everyone in the team should have access to the same numbers.
  3. Define the goals of employees publicly and share across every part of organization.
  4. Organize sessions to talk about all the aspects of business openly. Encourage discussions with data backing and teach decision making in black and white rather than based on emotions.

Ahmed shares,

We believe in building and maintaining good and strong relationships through communication. We believe that every Gozooper deserves to know how the company is doing and what it plans on doing in the future.

Every quarter, team Gozoop has an initiative called, ‘My High’, where each team member has an individual meeting with their team leaders, the HR and the top management. The objective is to ensure communication so that they can help the member realize their full potential both personally as well as professionally.

The Do’s and Don'ts about managing transparency

Ahmed Naqvi, CEO & co-founder, Gozoop
Ahmed Naqvi, CEO & co-founder, Gozoop

Do's:

  1. Ensure honest communication consistently. From time to time encourage feedback. And once you get it, acknowledge and act.
  2. Transparency is a style of doing things and it has to be reflected in every day work and actions.
  3. The leader of an organization should lead with example and be transparent with the team. You can't expect others to be transparent when you are not.
  4. Identify what information should flow to which segment of employees. Have an honest information transfer. Create a method for employees to ask questions.
  5. Publish regular updates.

Don'ts:

1. Have no hidden agenda.

2. Don't be fake, and don't make the mistake of sugar coating the bad news.

Cascade down effect

As a startup grows, different layers are created in its structure based on the time and stage of joining the company. Because of these layers, transparency gets diluted and cascades down in the pyramid model. While practicing the transparent culture in the organization (via townhalls, open door board meetings), only data driven information should be shared with last employee. It’s not possible to have a matrix structure in an organization when it scales.

Vikas says,

As you grow, it becomes more difficult to keep up with the transparency. Not everyone wants to know everything so you have to filter things which are essential for that segment of employees.

Do you agree with the above ideology? How much transparency is important in a startup, according to you? Do let us know in your comments.

 

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