December 13, 2012

Radical Transparency

Imagine you got to work on Monday and you knew exactly how you had performed the previous week, and could look up how everyone else was doing. Or a manager could go online, any time of the day or night, and see how their team was performing, who deserved a bonus, who was lagging, even if those people were customer service staff, or engineers", said the introduction to a research article inHarvard Business Review.

Radical Transparency drives business execution.
According to the research, “radical transparency”, the idea of everyone knowing everything, can be a major driver of increased organizational performance. The authors state that the biggest reason companies fail is because people lose focus and get off track. However, by making everyone’s performance visible, this helps to remove distractions and enables people to concentrate on what is important.

Reading this “new research” made me smile. At we have known about this for years. We even developed our own Business Execution Software to provide this exact solution for running our own company, as well as for of our fast growth client firms.

Fairness drives employee engagement.
Neuroscience shows that our brains work better when we don’t feel the need to hide our performance or cover up our mistakes. Better to rip the Band-Aid off and confront reality straight away, rather than sneak around hoping we won’t get found out.

We also perform better when our brains aren't worrying about whether someone is getting ahead of us because they are better at politicking and buttering up the boss. You know; those charming people who talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. With radical transparency each person’s performance is obvious and objective.

It turns out our brains are strongly motivated by a sense of fairness. When everyone’s performance is made visible, we can clearly see which people deserve praise and recognition, and this removes any suspicion of favoritism. Now the people who consistently perform well get rewarded - not those who are good at getting others to think they perform well.

Autonomy drives employee engagement.
At the beginning of each quarter, every employee should agree what their Goals andKey Performance Indicators are with their managers. The performance targets should be achievable and agreed. The person should then be given the autonomy to figure out how best to achieve their goals. This makes people feel more in control over their own destiny.

With autonomy comes accountability.
Yes, it’s up the individual to figure out how to achieve their goals, but there can be no autonomy without accountability. Each week their key tasks should be discussed and agreed with the manager, recorded, and checked off the following week to ensure consistent progress is being made.

Why progress matters.
Don’t underestimate the importance of showing tangible progress (“small wins”) every step of the way. (Business Execution Software makes this easy).

Studies show that people are happier and more creative when they are held accountable to make continuous progress on their important goals in a series of steps. Research from the book the "The Progress Principle" shows that the most powerful motivating factor for employees is seeing tangible progress while performing meaningful work.

The truth will set you free.
With radical transparency, everyone can see on a dashboard how everyone on the team is performing, and all employees get treated according to their performance. Yes, radical transparency can create winners and losers, and that environment can be tough for people who are not "A" players. Some leaders seem concerned that their people will become disengaged when confronted by the reality of their performance.

I’ve got news for you. It’s a fact of life. We measure performance in school. We measure performance in sports. Would you really watch sports if no one kept the score? Would the coach keep players on the team who are not performing? Of course not.

Why should your business be any different? Are you really doing your team a favor by carrying people who just show up and don’t perform to the agreed standard?
Radical transparency is a technology trend that is pervading all aspects of our lives; from sharing our lives through social media, to having our location tracked by our mobile devices every minute of the day, to advances in wearable technology that measure our health and fitness in real time.

Radical transparency is coming to your workplace as well. I recommend you get on this trend and master these business execution practices now, before your competitors beat you to it.