ArticlesFebruary 17, 2016

Planning for Transparency

Note: This is part two in a three-part series about improving transparency.

Upon arrival, security issues you a plastic card with your photo and a bar code. You enter through the main double doors and wait for the click of the door so you can join. After about an hour, you decide to find a cup of coffee, but you aren’t sure where it might be. You grab your new card and begin searching. Some doors are opened with your card, but you quickly learn that your card does not allow you to be on the top floor of the building or in some restricted areas. That’s because security had clear protocols about the access you were entitled to when they made your card.

As discussed in The Murky World of Transparency, transparency doesn’t just mean honesty or a lack of corruption. Transparency is a strategy for building trust between an organization and its stakeholders by forfeiting secrecy in exchange for proactive self-accountability and timely and appropriate communications. To plan for transparency, you must address two issues: access and communications (part 3 in the series).

Determining who has access to what and when is not that complicated as long as you remember always to identify the benefits and potential consequences of granting access in advance. Here are three elements planning must include:


You are not transparent in a meaningful way if you are not consistent with whom you are transparent. That means granting access to individuals rather than stakeholder groups or subgroups is just playing favorites. So, you need a policy – a deliberate and explicit statement of which stakeholder groups you intend to have access.


Transparency is possible whether the process is intended to be collaborative. The best way to determine what should be transparent is to sketch out the process related to various stakeholder groups. Like the examples above, it should become clear where transparency is appropriate and applicable.


You know who should be informed about what, but when do you engage them? This is the easiest part because it is based on their level of entitlement. If they are entitled to vote or influence decision-making processes in any way – transparency should be built into the entire process. Transparency is only vital if they are entitled to information at a specific point in the process.

Now that we have some guidelines, let’s revisit the examples from the first post in this series.


The airline was honest from the start about the delay and provided real-time updates. While waiting, they rebooked passengers who would miss their connection so they didn’t experience additional delays. Passengers are waiting for a delayed flight. Access to the cause and length of delays. During regular loudspeaker updates and upon individuals’ requests for information.
Employee salaries have been a well-kept secret, but a recent event has led to widespread dissatisfaction that the company’s salary selection process is subjective and unfair. Current employees and recruits. Individuals’ salaries will continue to be considered confidential.

However, the salary ranges for each job title and the criteria used to determine where individuals fall on the range are different.

Aggregate data showing pay gaps will be available annually.

Request salary range information from HR at any time.

The annual report of pay gaps will be emailed out in February.

A software company is recruiting for multiple positions using an online system, but the system works slowly and takes applicants a long time to complete. All job applicants. Applicants will be entitled to learn where they are in the hiring process at all times. They will not receive feedback on why they are rejected during that process. Access information by signing in online at any time.

The first step in determining how to be transparent is to narrow down when you will be. The next step is the hardest, and that is Communicating for Transparency.