Beyond Budgeting, Open Space, Sociocracy, and Agile (BOSSA nova) have somewhat different ideas about transparency!

Transparency isn’t easy. If a team has a customer that has a hidden use for the product, the team will fail to deliver what the customer really needs. If there is a management power fight going on that involves manipulation, the team won’t be able to get all the information it needs to deliver a usable product. Moreover, there often is a lot of information that can create an information overload and a huge burden on everybody to filter.

Transparency is essential for success. It is not just about sharing information but about structuring in a way that makes that sharing possible in an effective way. If you don’t have people who know what information is lacking, the team will never be able to understand the whole problem at hand. Here’s how the different streams of development define transparency:

Beyond Budgeting Leadership Principle 3 says “make information open for self-regulation, innovation, learning and control and don’t restrict it.”

Open Space builds on transparency by ensuring all topics that need to be discussed are on the table and are not dealt with in a hidden room. Moreover, it asks not to wait for the “right” people to show up to discuss a specific topic but rather to trust that whoever joins the discussion are the right people.

Sociocracy defines transparency as access to all the information you need to make a decision – not as everyone can see all the information.

Agile makes both the work and the process for creating the work transparent. Transparency is what’s really going on.

A composite definition might be: “Transparency is a structure that reliably shows the truth to those who need to know it.” Transparency doesn’t mean that information can’t be managed to meet legally required confidentiality and information overload. Each stream recommends specific structural disciplines. Combining the wisdom of the four disciplines helps everyone know the truth. Here is a synthesis of these disciplines of transparency:

Make your work and the progress toward the result transparent.

  • It is often uncomfortable information, yet if you don’t know about it you can’t act on it.
  • Information is based on verifiable facts (like a concrete delivery).

Make information available and accessible to the people who need it to do their work.

  • Picture forming is used to gather relevant information before developing solutions.
  • All necessary information is shared.
  • Self-organizing teams must have all the information needed to deliberate a topic.

This article was prepared from our new book: Company-Wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space, and Sociocracy.

Jutta & John