There’s been a lot of talk about corporations and government being more transparent. As a result, the use of the word transparency is creeping into our business vocabulary. But before you start tossing out the word “transparency” it’s important to understand what it means.
I think a lot of people are using transparency has a synonym for truth. If I’m telling the truth, then I’m being transparent. I contend that the relationship between truth and transparency is similar to the relationship between reliability and validity as it relates to assessments.
If an instrument is valid, then it’s reliable. But if something is reliable, that doesn’t mean it’s valid. Case in point: you can be consistently wrong.
So my thought is, if you’re transparent then you are truthful. However, telling the truth doesn’t make you transparent. Here’s an example:
An 8 oz. glass is filled with 4 oz. of wine. You can say that glass is half-full or half-empty (depending upon your disposition). Both would be the truth.
Transparency is saying there’s 4 oz. of wine in the glass.
It’s a simplistic example, but you get the point. Transparency implies openness, communication and personal accountability. It’s not only telling the truth but providing access to all the data and encouraging inclusiveness in the decision making process.
For many individuals and businesses, transparency is and will continue to be difficult to achieve. There’s a tendency to spin situations for positive outcomes. The demand to act in a transparent manner requires people to hold themselves accountable for information they receive. It’s becomes their responsibility to share it, discuss it and help others understand it.
We need to push to make sure the “knowledge is power” and “need to know” concepts are gone forever. It’s time to take transparency seriously.1