I came across a new phrase last week, which I really like: “aggressive transparency”. I saw this phrase in the Project Management Institute, Inc. exposure draft of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition. It is used in the Project Stakeholder Management chapter referring to the fact that agile approaches strive to be very transparent so that stakeholders always are aware of project progress. I liked the phrase and searched on it to see if I could find where it originated.The earliest usage I found was in 2015 by Simon Ouderkirk in an article entitled “Working Remotely and the Virtue of Aggressive Transparency.” Simon talks about the value of aggressive transparency to help build trust when you work remotely. He successfully explains why a remote worker needs to be more transparent than a collocated worker. He is right in recommending that when you are remote from a team, you have to be more than transparent; you need to be aggressive about sharing what you are doing, why you are doing it, what you know, and even sharing your struggles and challenges. This builds trust with coworkers and allows your team to share solution ideas. Aggressive transparency is even more important when you are working with people who are not used to working on distributed teams. Since you miss informal conversations at the “watercooler” you miss all kinds of information which would be helpful for your work.
I’d like to apply the concept of aggressive transparency to organizations also. I like when organizations I deal with are transparent. I like when Amazon announces they are thinking about offering a new product or service. As a member of the board of directors of the International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®), I think that associations especially should take this concept to heart and work towards aggressive transparency. Members often ask me “why is the association doing xxx?” As I explain the rationale for a decision, I realize that our members should have access to that rationale, in other words we need to be very transparent to our membership. Although it is difficult for an organization to be transparent on a consistent basis, when we are more transparent about decisions and even struggles, we build trust with our members and business partners. For a human being to “trust” an organization, the organization really has to communicate well. Since a human being can’t talk directly to an organization, the organization’s communications must be extremely open and honest.
Operating with aggressive transparency will be challenging but I am going to try to be more transparent with my communications and encourage others to do the same. Building trusting relationships in a digital world requires new behaviors.