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Transparent, Translucent, or Opaque? Whats Your Strategy?

It's a couple weeks old, but there was a mild blog roar over some comments from Microsoft about wanting to be translucent rather than transparent. I think their reasoning is sound; no company should want or need to disclose the smallest detail about their business, their plans, internal arguments, or their minor failures. Is that imagement management? Sure. Spin control? Not necessarily, but sometimes. Evil? Certainly not!

I used to work for a teleservices company in the IT side, and we bid on a lot of projects - and didn't win them all of course. Would it have helped us - or our potential customers - if we posted every bid and the results? One could argue it might if we won all of them, but short of that, what would prospective customers take away from that list? That we were mildly successful? Hugely successful? Maybe easier to judge if we post the estimated dollar value of each contract? Or would they consider the company to be failing because it won only a small number of bids, not seeing that to win would have required losing money.

What about salaries? Would it help your customers if they knew what everyone made? Or would they be fighting to get the cheapest DBA on staff to work on their project, or arguing that the salary was out of line with local norms.

The blog post was about external communications. There's a different level of communication required for existing customers, for serious partners, and for employees. In all cases translucency is a valid strategy, and more useful than most believe at the team level. Why? Suppose you set up a team blog and update it once a week, putting in the 3 biggest things that happened that week. How often is one of those three going to be negative? One assumes that most teams don't have that many negatives, so each week you get 2 positive things to say, plus a negative that you can partially convert to positive by showing what happened, what went wrong, and what you're doing to fix it. Showing negatives is a great way to earn credibility, but showing positives is a great way to highlight - subtly - your teams achievements. We wouldn't want to announce every time someone came to work late, got a routine raise, injected a minor bug, etc, etc.

If the subject interests you try reading Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor, or my article from last year on IT Transparency


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by dbenoit on 20 June 2008


Great post and I couldn't agree more. I remeber having a manager that constantly told me all the woes of the company and the problems with upper management. I was constantly discouraged thinking that there was no real leadership in the organization. With that being said, there is a necessity to be positive on many things, not to ignore the negatives, we all know they are there, but to communicate the positive things as well.

I once had a friend who pulled out a blank piece of white paper and drew a small black dot on the center of it. Then he asked me "what do you see". I quickly replied "a black dot, of course". He said, "no, a big piece of white paper with a small black dot on it". Perspective is 90% of our attitude and as a company it is often better to present a positive perspective than a negative one.

So, thanks for the blog. Truly appreciate your comments.


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