We might assume that transparency should be a given when delivering value through our projects so why is it that the actions of teams or the stakeholders supporting delivery don’t always demonstrate that basic hygiene factor? Transparency is so critical that the Scrum Guide lists it as one of its three pillars and it is similarly echoed in the reference materials for many other agile delivery methods as well as in PMI’s Code of Ethics.
Transparency is a rising tide which lifts the attitudes of all stakeholders:
- Customers benefit as they have to spend much less effort in understanding what is really going on
- Sponsors benefit as they will develop stronger, more positive relationships with teams and are better equipped to support their teams in a more timely manner when issues arise
- The project manager and team benefits as they don’t have to worry about putting the right “spin” on events and are less likely to get distracted or waste effort in needless status updates for stakeholders. They will also benefit if the higher levels of trust which result from increased transparency encourage enterprise groups to lean out governance requirements by focusing on the few outliers rather than punishing the majority.
I wrote a few years back about the downsides of unfiltered transparency as this could generate unnecessary panic or encourage micro-management from our stakeholders, but responsible transparency is key to creating trust.
Responsible transparency is about providing the truth, warts and all, but ensuring that sufficient context gets provided so that our stakeholders’ reactions to the truth are appropriate. Project teams have many tools and techniques available to them which can provide transparency about progress and impediments, but using these in isolation may not provide that context. For example, reviewing individual work items in a sprint backlog without also being aware of the sprint goal(s) identified by the Product Owner doesn’t help a stakeholder see the forest for the trees. Similarly, trying to interpret a burn down or burn up chart without understanding the team’s delivery approach or the contents of a sprint or release backlog might create the wrong perceptions.
So as you strive for transparency in your information radiators and other communication methods, ensure that you are providing the necessary color commentary to make the information meaningful.
The single most important ingredient in the recipe for success is transparency because transparency builds trust – Denise Morrison, (Former) CEO, Campbell Soup Company