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.