This article is the second of a 3-part series where I will look at scale, transparency and uncertainty. These are 3 key determinants necessary to achieve a mindset that allows for more innovative flow.
Recently my husband and I were out at a restaurant for dinner. We had ordered our meal; our water and beverages were set before us, and the bread-basket was almost empty. At that point, the waitress appeared at our table and explained that the kitchen had gotten backed up with orders, so our meal would be out a bit later than expected, and that she would bring us another beverage on the house.
By pulling back the curtain, lifting the veil, and confiding in us that our dinner would be delayed, we settled in and ultimately had an enjoyable meal. Her reveal sparked trust. By engaging us, she helped us to respect their work process, and our expectations were correctly re-set.
The choice to be transparent in how you communicate as a business is a signifier of your organizational culture. This was made evident to me when I had the opportunity to visit the Herman Miller furniture headquarters in Zeeland, Michigan. Roger Call, AIA, an architect and Director of their Kaizen Architecture process shared some compelling company history. In 1996, when they were struggling with inefficiencies in their production process, Hajime Ohba, who was then the president of the Toyota Production System Support Center visited the Herman Miller plant and examined their work process flow at no cost. The only payment he requested was that they establish an open door policy and share the Kaizen process with any other company needing help with production throughput. They have continued to pay it forward to companies in a range of sectors since then, and one of their values statements is:
“Transparency begins with letting people see how decisions are made and owning the decisions we make. Confidentiality has a place at Herman Miller, but if you can’t tell anybody about a decision you’ve made, you’ve probably made a poor choice. Without transparency, it’s impossible to have trust and integrity. Without trust and integrity, it’s impossible to be transparent.”
Interestingly, while touring the Herman Miller over a two-day period, I could discern an authentic level of openness among employees. It was a nice feedback loop to the “Things That Matter to Us” Values Statement they post online, where transparency is prominently listed.
Another example of transparency comes from a friend, Avery Williamson, who has recently joined the software firm Atomic Object. One of the reasons she is so excited about joining this firm is because of all that she was able to learn about them in advance through reading their blog, Atomic Spin. The blog helped her to get a peek into the company’s culture by reading about their perspective and types of questions they raise. Their musings and idea-shares proved to be an invaluable factor shaping her desire to work for them.
Transparency has become the zeitgeist of our time. From the ability to open source R&D (note Procter & Gamble’s Connect + Develop program) to the Grammy award-winning Chance The Rapper’s free “mixtapes”, people have become accustomed to transparent platforms. These platforms provoke trust, confidence in the product or service, and ultimately are catalysts to inspire greater transparency in one’s own work.