Saturday, May 22, 2010

The good, bad and ugly about transparency

We tend to broadcast positive news about us and our business immediately, in lightning speed, while we filter negative information. Anyone who has ever had a management position will be aware of this and the recurring escalations.

Full transparency about the production, the status and performance at an airport raises opportunities and threats. Transparency does, however, not mean to provide all data available. An understanding of the end-to-end process may actually provide more useful insight than numerous reports. And the transparency required by a duty manager may be different from that required by a baggage handler.

Good.Transparency exposes weaknesses and leads to rapid improvements in quality and efficiency driven by the managers in charge. It leads to more impartial discussions (forget about "always" and "never", we talk about facts). With more insight into the professionalism of the process owners, problems are better understood by others.There is less need for centralized command and control, because managers do it already for their part. The new culture of transparency ultimately saves money.

Bad. Transparency creates resistance. Some of the reasons mentioned against are "others could misunderstand it", "others don't need to know", "it provides us a competitive advantage", which is a good one, or, what I liked most, "it could show that we are not performing well". My argument against the latter is usually that it gives staff at all levels the opportunity to highlight what is going on, so that their management cannot stand back and wait anymore.

Ugly. Some managers still refuse to disclose information. While this stance precludes any degree of transparency, it may not be considered a showstopper. The motto to apply here is start with early adopters and then wait and see. They will come.

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