transparency in communication at work

The Case for Transparency in Communication

Let’s face it: Not all methods of communication work the way you want them to. In fact, when it comes to addressing teams from different silo’s or departments, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. However, there is a word that we use often within our own teams and on each client’s site: Transparency.

The Society for Human Resource Professional, (SHRM) believes transparency is one efficient and intelligent way to elevate workplace communication. While effective communication can lead to greater (and faster!) bottom line success, the real gift lies in teams that are stronger and more resilient. They say:

Fostering a culture of innovation requires open, transparent communication. Information must be shared upward, downward and laterally. Unfortunately, most organizations tend to filter the information that flows upward. A psychologically safe environment allows more of the “bad” news to be shared upward, but a culture of fear increases the probability that the information needed will not be communicated upward. Instead, the tendency in this environment is to engage in cover-ups, finger-pointing and avoidance, resulting in top management being unaware and sometimes blindsided. ( 

One great example of this is the 1936 Olympics. Held in Nazi-controlled Berlin, a University of Washington rowing team came in above their counterparts to take home the gold—not because of strength, but rather, because they communicated far better and included every individual on the boat. As each oar dipped in the water, each man kept in sync with the other; enabling a consistently faster speed. The American team beat the German and Italian teams for a well-deserved victory, while celebrating the individual strengths of each man who rowed alongside them. 

Discussing the feat in his book, “The Boys in the Boat,” Daniel James Brown wrote, “Crew is not about power or aggression. It’s about being smooth through the water.” In his novel, Brown explained that victory came from having a team not only rowing in the same direction, but arms, hearts and brains focused on the same end goal: Winning

Here are three tried and true project manager tips for great communication that will improve not only your team’s dynamics, but their power to innovate as well: 

1. There’s a fine line between overcommunicating and exclusion.

In fact, excluding some members from communications runs the risk of creating conflicts and interpersonal issues. Avoid offending any team member—and creating potential escalation points—by including everyone in communications from the very beginning.

2. Never assume.

Deciding what people should and should not know can create conflict. By being inclusive with communication, you mitigate the risk of someone feeling left out or not feeling privy to the information. By being upfront and asking, “would you like updates,” or “let me know how you prefer me to include you in these communications,” you can help communication be more polished and sincere. 

3. Transparency at every step.

From the shortest turnarounds to longer-lead projects, transparency should take a front seat for team success. Ensuring all members are “in the know” about each step or phase can ensure better accountability and outcomes. From the beginning to the very end, more voices can lead to better risk mitigation and success. 

When project managers lead clients through transformation in their systems and environments, they utilize a core set of competencies, key learnings and best practices to ensure success; none are more important than transparency.  As you pick up your oar, remember it’s not about strength or speed. Laser-sharp communication and coordination make all the difference. 

About Kevin Torf

Kevin Torf, co-founder and managing partner of T2 Tech Group, has been a renowned innovator and thought leader in the technology industry for over 35 years, specializing in large-scale IT strategic planning, project design, and implementation. Kevin brings decades of experience in complex application deployment, IT architecture, electrical engineering and data center construction, infrastructure, and consolidation, particularly within the healthcare space.

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