Let's look at Transparency
Firstly, what is transparency and how does it differ from alignment? Whilst the latter was previously defined as "the assimilation of and consensus to a set of views pertaining to a company’s strategy and execution”, transparency can be thought of as the effective distribution of these views amongst the organization across its membership and divisions.
The concept of the open distribution of a high-level strategy has traditionally been met with resistance from companies and organizations. Questions are often asked: why should I involve subordinates in the process if they are paid to do the work anyway? Will everyone understand the concepts? Does this open the door for increased leadership critique?
…And often those further down the hierarchy chain will ask many what, why, and how questions: How will this impact me? What does it mean for my role? What’s in it for me? Why should I care? How does this align with other priorities?
The reality is that most of these concerns can be addressed through our preceding enabling factor: alignment. When a team is aligned, there is buy-in and thus less need to question.
Transparency then consists of two key components: two-way vertical distribution of strategy and the provision of context.
A strategy (and the associated vision) is often conceived, either internally or through external input, at a high level within the organization. In an improvement sense, the execution thereof then falls to the CI lead, or appropriate managerial role, from which it is then disseminated to subordinate levels. This presents an easy first snag in that the teams receiving the execution tasks have little idea about the relevance of the work. This limits the possibility of full commitment and role satisfaction.
Likewise, once the process is ongoing, there will be no formal feedback channel from the subordinate levels back up to the strategy lead. This channel would have been a vital path for the flow of information such as strategy effectiveness, technical difficulties in execution, general staff queries, perceived inefficiencies in resource allocation etc.
The call for transparency thus requires an intermediary step prior to deployment: a strategy and vision distribution session (or more likely sessions) where processes and tasks are cascaded from a parenting strategy and this link is effectively communicated to the last executing team members. Likewise, formal communication channels need to be established (e.g., weekly check-ins, gap ID sheets with review cadences, Idea Generation pathways, etc.) whereby the team can communicate back to the top.
This top-down and bottom-up flow allows not only for a higher chance of sustaining the improvement effort but also for greater accountability between employees and their employers. An example of this would be performance management and metric tracking, where two-way visibility would help to increase insight into performance.
One of the main benefits of the above is the ability of management to gain insights into the state of the business. With bottom-up transparency, there will exist a means for management to understand exactly where the faults are and how the business functions vs how it is foreseen to function.
Further, it can be expected that with an increased view of what is going on at lower levels of the organization, management will be better positioned to understand the distribution of skills and talent across the workforce. This will result in improved efficiency over time.
Without the ability of a team member to understand their task in relation to an end goal or vision, the work at hand rapidly loses meaning. With decreased meaning comes decreased motivation and thus an overall increase in the likelihood that the improvement strategy will become far harder to deliver on. This will directly impact the sustainability of the initiative.
While a holistic view of the strategy is clear to those involved in its inception (i.e., management), the rest of the team requires their work to be contextualized in terms of the overall vision.
What are the challenges when ensuring transparency? The most common issue is the general inability of most companies to ensure continuous access to the overall plan for the entire team. This requires more than just posters and flow diagrams. In today’s improvement space, there is no reason that the solution should not be digital.
EON can support this through our strategy implementation feature. Here, parent strategies, with cascading child strategies and linked projects, can be visually built-out in a way that is effective yet intuitive. Further, this view can be instantly made available to anyone in the organization at any time, ensuring transparency about your strategy and, ultimately, sustainability.