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Through the Looking Glass…Collectively Enhancing Organizational Transparency
Over the past few months, I've heard a lot of commentary about "organizational transparency," or lack thereof, with regard to the Academy. So, how best to address the "looking glass" dilemma?
If the Academy is to be a nimble, innovative, and responsive professional organization, information for members must be readily available and discoverable. In today's rapidly changing world, members need to be able to quickly access relevant information, including that which focuses on and is provided by their professional home, and trust that it is accurate and complete. Organizational transparency is all about sharing information members need to feel connected and well served, not just what the organization is willing to share. It is about putting all facts on the table, even when some of them are uncomfortable. It is about being honest and open about what actions are taken, by whom and on what grounds, and enabling members to engage in conversations where questions can be asked and answered openly and honestly. It is about making organizational knowledge, ideas, and decision-making processes visible and accessible to all of our colleagues.
Transparency has its advantages. Perhaps the most important is that it helps build trust—something that is absolutely essential for encouraging effective collaboration and teamwork. Trust promotes loyalty and limits organizational divisiveness. According to the literature, there is a definitive relationship between degree of organizational transparency and member trust. Not surprisingly, organizations that allow and encourage member participation, share substantial information so their members can make informed decisions, provide balanced reports focused on measured accountability, and open themselves up to member scrutiny are more likely to be trusted. When information is available as to how goals are developed as well as how progress towards specific goals will be measured, it then becomes easier to hold those in key positions accountable for outcomes.
It's easy to overestimate perceived risk associated with organizational openness and transparency simply by underestimating the risks of closed systems. When there is limited transparency within an organization, some people tend to take risks they wouldn't otherwise take. This kind of behavior may be what ultimately led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the credit crisis that followed. In a transparent environment, it is possible to discover and put an end to poor decision making or violations of policies right away, before things get out of control and everyone pays the price.
Organizational transparency is here to stay. In fact, many argue it's the key to maintaining competitive advantage for professional organizations. The expectation for increased transparency is simply a consequence of members and other stakeholders demanding accountability and trustworthiness. Failure to ensure that the Academy, as our professional home, exhibits sufficient organizational transparency will limit our ability to innovate, respond nimbly, and ultimately hamper our ability to compete and survive over the long haul. With the advent of the digital age, it's never been easier or more convenient to "open doors" and provide members with information about evidenced-based decision making, performance outcomes, and a host of other information. But full transparency yields more than collaboration, understanding strategies or measuring performance. It's about helping members understanding the "why" behind key organizational decisions.
As president, I am working with the board of directors and staff to increase transparency for our organization. Check out these milestones, and watch for continued efforts to improve transparency:
- Board meeting summaries are now posted in the leadership section of our Web site for your review. They are more complete and easier to locate.
- I have requested that board meeting draft agendas be posted on our Web site two weeks prior to face-to-face board meetings.
- The board member job description was recently amended to clarify confidentiality requirements for board discussions.
Do you have other suggestions for improving the Academy's organizational transparency, or ideas that would enhance your connection to your professional home? Let me know! You can e-mail me directly.
In reality, being transparent is more than good policy. It's a method to ensure that members really do understand, trust, and engage with their professional home. It can be challenging to weigh transparency with the need to keep some unique information confidential, but on balance, increased transparency offers benefits for all of audiology's stakeholders, including the public at large and the membership we seek to serve. Organizations that collectively pursue transparency will be rewarded, and your board and I are committed to positioning the Academy to reap those rewards.