Earlier this week, I wrote about how the concept of organizational “transparency” is a dangerously vague one. This vagueness, I believe is the result of transparency’s multifaceted nature, which so often goes unacknowledged.
This graph visually conceptualizes how I think of transparency, and why it needs to be clarified more deeply by those who communicate its use:
Everything in blue is transparent information; the light blue being transparent information that’s pushed and promoted towards the public and the darker blue is information that’s transparent but simply floating around, freely accessible and unpromoted. The brick represents all confidential, superfluous or insider information. The sizes represent the relative proportions of how much of each level is available within each facet.
Please note two things:
- These relative levels change flexibly for each organization (the CIA and MI6 would be mostly brick; WikiLeaks’s vision is of all glass and no brick), in accordance with business goals, values and public demand.
- The facets I have listed are only the ones that came to me off of the top of my head. There are many more; if you have improvements to the list, please add them in the comments below.
As you can see, when organizations focus on “increasing their transparency,” it typically affects only one or two of these facets. However, the public may be expecting increased transparency in a facet other than the one that the organization intended at levels that are unrealistic for business. Thus, it’s important to clarify what specific transparency efforts are being taken, and to what extent.
What facet of transparency does your organization focus on the most, and in what industry?