If you’ve worked with me before, you likely know the high value I place on visibility and transparency. I value this not because I like to work in open organizations (I do), but because the free flow of information maximizes the chance of startup success through better informed decision making. The more informed the organization is about the activities of teams outside their direct working groups, the more likely they will be to make more right decisions for the company. The more right decisions a startup makes, the more likely it is to be successful.
Here are five simple rules you can apply to maximizing your team’s transparency:
1: Hire Knowledge Sharers
Early in my career I had an experience with my first knowledge hoarder - an engineer with expansive knowledge across a product line that shared it sparingly as a means of maintaining control. I learned quickly that this was not the type of person I wanted to work with. As a result, I have always sought to hire and work with knowledge sharers: people comfortable with what they know / do not know, who are willing to share their knowledge and learn from others. The more knowledge sharers you can hire into your team, the more quickly your team will adapt to your commitment for transparency.
2: Define Core & Extended Teams
Most teams perform reasonably well at sharing information with their own team members, but struggle to obtain information from other teams. To solve this, manage two types of teams: the core team that performs the day to day work within a function, and an extended team that has an active interest in the day to day work of the core team. By appointing an extended team, you can communicate consistently to your stakeholders, engage them in decision making, and get a board of advisors who can help your team be successful. By asking the teams on which you depend to reciprocate, you can help foster the free flow of information organization-wide.
3: Make Work Products Visible
If you work at my company, you can go to a Google Apps folder that contains every artifact produced by my product team - e.g. roadmaps, requirements, enhancements, trip reports, schedules, etc… Making your work products visible to your extended team - and ideally the entire company - is a key tenet of visibility and transparency. When you start limiting access to information that could impact the day to day activities of another team, it makes it harder for the collective organization to make more right than wrong decisions.
4: Drive Collaborative Decision Making
While the core team owns the day to day decision making, and is responsible for communicating these decisions to the extended team, cross-team impacting decisions should always be brought back to an extended team for review. This allows you to maximize your chance of getting a decision right by leveraging the collective intellect / experience of a broader team. It also will reduce the friction around obtaining buy-in for your decisions, and will streamline the communication of these decisions. Too many team leaders feel that by engaging a broader group in making decisions, they somehow have given up control over the decision. Engaging a group ensures you are more likely to make the best decision for the company, and have an extended team of individuals who will understand and support this decision.
5: Push Don’t Pull Information
Don’t make your extended team go find your key decisions. Make it come to them through agreed upon channels (e.g. mailing list, Slack channel). If you’ve defined the right extended team, you will never over communicate, since each decision should matter to everyone receiving it. You should also ensure you never violate the cardinal rule: never let your extended team get surprised by learning knowledge after the fact that you should have pushed to them.