Dancing is where two or more people collaborate to create something of beauty. Each member of the dance signals intent to each other so that the others have time to react. Fighting is where two or more people try to hurt each other by hiding intent so that the other person does not have time to react. Tai Chi and Cypora can both be considered a dance or a martial art, the difference is whether the participants signal intent to each other.
Transparency is a dance where two or more individual communicate with each other in a way that the others understand. It is a collaborative dance. When one party communicates to their dance partner, the dance partner should understand what is being communicated to them. This means that context and understanding are an important part of transparency. I am a huge fan of Jabe Bloom’s perspective on transparency, transparency is an invitation to the leader to “Go to the Gemba” or “Got to where the work is done”.
In the transparency dance, the reflex reaction for a leaders should be:
- Celebrate / reward the transparency.
- Go to the Gemba.
- Help the team by spreading their goodness, or if they need it, support them with resources to improve the situation.
- Give the team time to respond.
- Retrospect on what they could do better.
Transparency is not about making information available to your dancing partner. Transparency is about presenting information to your dancing partner with context so that they can easily and quickly make the best decision about their next move. To illustrate this, lets look at “progress” and how it is communicated to dancing partners.
From my experience, it is common for traditional consultancies to communicate progress as they provide a factually accurate but utterly useless “progress” update. For example:
The “Purple Widget” is 50% complete.
This is not transparency because important aspects of context are missing. First, lets add time.
All of these teams have completed exactly 50% of the purple widget. Which would you rather have. In fact, the team that appeared to be doing the best initially (red) is actually performing the worst now (probably because they did not waste time on those automated tests, CI/CD, and the devOps pipeline that the green team put in place. As a leader, the first thing you should ask for is the temporal view, something that most agile practices provide.
Next lets consider how much work needs to be done over time.
Clearly the purple widget where the work required is known currently appears to be better than where the work required is evolving.
So transparency is about giving our dance partner the information they require and the context so they can understand it. This allows our dance partner to make the next move.
Transparency is not about giving all information to a dance partner.
Transparency is not about making information visible to everyone.
Transparency is about giving our dance partner the information they need to make the decision about what they need to do next.
To illustrate this, a development team may have one team member who coaches the rest of the team so that they improve. That team member might not commit any code as the other team members do the code commits. This is how the team choose to work and how the team works is its business and not the business of its dance partner. The team should not share who does its code commits with its dance partner and neither should the dance partner care.
Transparency is a dance. Create something beautiful in your organisation.