Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Transparency Leads to Well-Informed Participation

Image courtesy of pierluigi.ricci
Does your company operate with a culture of transparency? How transparent are your executives with employees, customers, shareholders?

There's a quote on Wikipedia that reads: For well-informed participation to occur, it is argued that some version of transparency, e.g. radical transparency, is necessary, but not sufficient. It's unattributed, but I've seen it a few times.

For what it's worth, I agree with it. If you want employees and customers to "participate." i.e., become engaged, work for you, and buy from you, it's important that they are well informed about the company, as well.

Transparency with employees fosters a culture of trust. When executives are transparent with employees, employees then follow suit with their own openness and communication.

With transparency also comes clarity. (Remember my post, What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness?) That assumes that executives communicate and are transparent about the right things, i.e., purpose, vision, values, brand promise, goals, expectations, etc. And that lays the foundation for your employees to deliver a great customer experience.

That's a good segue to talking about transparency with customers. I wrote about how a culture of transparency translates to great customer experiences. Why? Because companies that share information so that customers can make informed decisions about their products, brands, employment, etc. are more easily trusted. Customers can make informed decisions about whether they want to have a "relationship" with a company.

I won't belabor the points here, since I've written about transparency several times; feel free to read the posts linked above to read more of my views on transparency. But what I do want to share for the remainder of the post is an amazing and beautiful car factory in Germany.

You're probably thinking, "What on earth does that have to do with transparency? You've lost it, Annette. Four days in the heart of the Polar Vortex last week, and your brain has been frozen." Not quite.

That car factory is none other than the Transparent Factory in Dresden, Germany. Never heard of it? Neither had I. Until a couple months ago. It's the factory where Volkswagen's controversial luxury sedan, Phaeton, is built. It's called the Transparent Factory for both its obvious physical characteristics as well as its transparency of the production process. Take seven minutes to watch this video and to be impressed.


It's pretty amazing to watch! The building itself is fascinating - it's an architectural, engineering, and production dream come true. And I love how...
  • the concerns of the community were addressed when the factory was built, .e.g., the CarGo Tram that brings materials into the factory;
  • customers get to watch their cars being built or even help to build their cars; they're invited to pick up their cars at the factory;
  • tourists can come in and watch, and visitors can use several virtual displays to test drive and to design their own dream cars; and
  • employees benefit not only from technology that simplifies the car building process but also from the materials used to build the factory; for example, the Canadian maple floors are said to reduce worker fatigue, and indirect lighting is used to reduce eye strain.
They've even taken measures to keep the birds from flying into the glass! They built an outdoor speaker system that speaks in "bird language" and lets birds know that this spot is taken.

Volkswagen's Christian Haacke says: People in the Saxony region carry a special engineering gene in their hearts and minds. It took a lot of time and patience for locals to be convinced this was a good idea, but for us, transparency was a metaphor. We had to be truly credible to the bone.

It seems there's a great experience for everyone: neighbors, community, employees, and customers. This is definitely transparency in action!

Eyes so transparent that through them the soul is seen. -Theophile Gautier

6 comments:

  1. I think transparency will be a recurring theme in the next couple years as organizations struggle with the tension between a legacy of opacity (due partly to privacy, regulatory compliance, IP protection, etc., and partly to bad habits) and a growing need (yes, need) for transparency. I recently read an employee engagement and happiness survey report from TinyPulse (https://www.tinypulse.com/employee-engagement-survey-2013) that indicated transparency as the #1 driver of employee happiness (r value=0.93)! And with companies like Buffer really pushing the envelope of transparency (it's one of their corporate values, and even their salaries are transparent, as you can read here: http://open.bufferapp.com/introducing-open-salaries-at-buffer-including-our-transparent-formula-and-all-individual-salaries/). One of our key roles will have to be coaching executives and leaders (both titular and behavioral) on the HOW of transparency. I really look forward to continuing the dialogue about that. Thank you for another thought-provoking read!

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    1. You're welcome, Eryc. And thank you for sharing those links. Love that correlation coefficient, too. But it makes sense. Transparency is a shift in thinking for both employees and executives. But a good shift.

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  2. Hi Annette,
    Whilst I agree with you about transparency, I feel that transparency also requires accountability and responsibility and many firms will find that much harder to deal with and implement given their existing structures and cultures.

    However, I would like to be proven wrong.

    Adrian

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    1. Great point, Adrian. Transparency comes with a lot of requirements; executives/leadership need(s) to be prepared to deal with the implications for both employees and customers. In a good way.

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  3. I started my career in a fish finger factory Annette

    It looks like manufacturing has moved on a little

    Loved the video

    James

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