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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

On Transparency

On Transparency post image

One of things I’ve learned throughout my career is to assume very little and expect to learn very much whenever changing a job. In terms of learning, there always is a great lesson waiting there for you, no matter what kind of an organization you’re joining. If you happen to join a crappy org this is the least you can salvage; If you join a great one, it’s like a cherry on a cake. Either way, you should always aim to learn this lesson.

But why am I telling you this? Well, I have joined Lunar Logic very recently. From what I could say before, the company was a kick-ass Ruby on Rails development shop with a very open and straightforward culture. I didn’t even try to assume much more.

One thing hasn’t been a surprise; We really are a kick-ass Rails development shop. The other has been a surprise though. I mean, I expected transparency within Lunar Logic, but its level is just stunning. In a positive way of course.

An open discussion about monthly financials, which obviously are public? Fair enough. Questioning the value of running a specific project? Perfectly OK. Sharing critical opinions on a leader’s decisions? Encouraged. Regular lean coffees where every employee can come up with any subject, even one that would be considered embarrassing in almost any organization I can think of? You’re welcome. I can hardly come up with an example of a taboo topic. In all this, and let me stress this, everyone gets honest and straightforward answers.

Does it mean that the company is easier to lead? Um, no. One needs to think about each and every decision because it will be shared with everyone. Each piece of information should be handled as it was public. After all, it is public. So basically your goal, as a leader of such an organization, is to be fair, whatever you do. There’s no place for deception, trickery or lies.

One could think that, assuming goodwill, it is a default mode of running a company. It’s not. It’s very unusual to hear about, let alone work at, such an org. There are a number of implications of this approach.

  • It is challenging for leaders. You can’t hide behind “that’s not for you to know” answer or meaningless blah blah. People won’t buy it. This is, by the way probably, the number one reason why this approach is so uncommon.
  • It helps to build trust between people. Dramatically. I don’t say you get trust for free, because it never happens, but it is way easier.
  • It eliminates us versus them mentality. Sure, not everyone is equal and not everyone has the same role in the company, but transparency makes everyone understand better everyone else’s contributions, thus eliminates many sources of potential conflicts.
  • It heavily influences relationships with customers. It’s much easier to be open and honest with clients if this is exactly what you do every day internally. I know companies that wouldn’t treat this one as a plus, but being a client, well, ask yourself what kind of a vendor you’d like to work with.

All in all, transparency is like a health-meter of an organizational culture. I don’t say that it automatically means that the org is successful, too. You can have a great culture and still go out of business. I just say that if you’re looking for a great place to work, transparency should be very, very high on a list of qualities you value. Possibly on the very top of the list, like it is in my case.

By the way, if you are a manager or a company leader, ask yourself: how many things wouldn’t you reveal to your team?

This post wouldn’t be complete without giving credits to Paul Klipp, who is the creator of this unusual organizational culture. I can say that during first few weeks I’ve already learned more about building great teams and exceptional organizations from Paul than from any leader I worked with throughout my career. It goes way beyond just a transparency bit but that’s a completely different story. Or rather a few of them. Do expect me to share them soon.

in: personal development, recruitment, software business

8 comments… add one

  • Łukasz Nalepa December 4, 2012, 5:31 am

    Congratulations on a new job! :)

  • Paul Klipp December 6, 2012, 7:18 am

    It’s not often you get to hire your own boss. Clearly I choose well. Paweł’s principles are exactly in line with the ones upon which I founded Lunar Logic back in 2004.

    The history is that in my last job I used to work with clients who weren’t allowed to know what was happening on their projects, and my job was taking the blame at the end. You can guess my job title. When I started my own software company, I was delighted to find that when customers knew exactly what was happening in a project, they were understanding and helpful. The transparency that characterizes Lunar Logic’s culture stemmed from my realization that what’s good for client relationships is probably good for employee relationships, too.

    Also, I’m a bad liar.

  • Stephen Robinson January 22, 2013, 9:02 am

    Changing Job can be such a scary time, I recently started out as the Manager of a Social Business Directory called Bizify, interesting times ahead, its starting to alter the way I think because its built with the latest software and stuff like that. Ive never before had to manage 2 completely different skill sets, 1 team of developers and another a team of sales staff, its perplexing having people with different attitudes and different motivations behind them.

  • Zbigniew Kawalec September 17, 2013, 3:14 am

    This part is interesting for me:
    “One needs to think about each and every decision because it will be shared with everyone. Each piece of information should be handled as it was public. After all, it is public.”

    I like the idea of public decisions and being honest but how you handle the communication in the above scenario?

    In big organisations, making all information public may generate to much “information noise”, so half of the people won’t read it or simply forget it. The other half will agree or not generating even more discussions. Up to a point when you just want to cut it off and go on ;)
    On the other hand, when you try to address your piece of information to the right people with the right channel, you need to constantly think of whom it may affect, interest or concern.

    How doe sit work in your case?

  • Pawel Brodzinski September 17, 2013, 3:34 am

    @Zbigniew – In my case situation is different because of the size of the company. With less than 30 people the ideal communication channel is weekly Lean Coffee. We also use Yammer as asynchronous communication medium.

    However, when I was writing about making all the decisions public it wasn’t about pushing information to all the people but making it available. The trick here is basically cutting down all the gossip as everyone can easily verify whether what they think about the decision is true or not.

    Of course the scope of interest is something that you should take into consideration in every organization that is bigger that tiny. I mean a decision that is important for the team A can be totally irrelevant for the team B working in a very different part of the organization. However, when anyone outside of the team A wants to check what’s been going on, there’s no better way than to ask one of team A members and for them the information is accessible.

  • Krasi Krastev March 14, 2015, 4:53 pm

    Hi Pawel,
    Glad that you found your place at Lunar Logic. It seems to find a good stuff in todays websites world is near ot 0. I’m trying to find a good php coder more then a year. Can you recommend me someone who hwas atleast 6 – 7 years of experience on PHP? On freelance sites like freelancer and odesk i find 99% guys from India who are very bad coders.

  • Pawel Brodzinski March 15, 2015, 8:36 am

    @Krasi – That’s a question I don’t have a good answer for. In fact, not so long ago we’ve been looking for similar option for one of projects we’ve been considering and it’s been a challenge.

    If you’re looking only for a freelancer (that’s definitely more affordable option cost-wise) I don’t have anyone. If you’re considering companies as well, I know who I can ask. Let me know.

  • Jonathan Rees March 19, 2015, 5:03 pm

    I agree good freelance coders are hard to find it seems, the market is flooded with people mainly from the far east that are not up to the job, not all of them but the majority in my experience.

    Good luck with the new job by the way.

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