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Transparency and Ethics... How To Achieve the Balance?
As project managers/change makers, our organizations and clients expect transparency; honest, accurate and complete reporting that complies with financial standards and adheres to regulatory requirements. Transparency also includes communicating messages that aren't open to misinterpretation and that clearly represent the intentions of the project and its messages.

If you a project manager working for a large corporation, comment on transparency when the senior executive pressures to meet low probability targets? How transparent are you with the client when your executive manager wants to have everyone believe things are OK?

If you are a consultant working for an outsourcing organization, how transparent and consistent is your reporting to your hiring organization versus your client? Are they the same? Or are they different? And why?
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Oh my If I did not know any better I would have sworn that you worked at a previous company with me ;)

If there is one thing that I refuse to budge on it is integrity and integrity is maintained by being open, honest and behaving ethically. The previous company I'm referring to has a management structure that believed that the bad news must be kept away from the customer at all cost. Lying is seen as a great team player trait, taking one for the team. What you are doing when you lie or obscure the truth is protecting your company where your loyalties must be vested.

Personally, I had too many altercations with top management regarding this because I feel that relationships are more worth than the immediate dollar. A good relationship builds on trust has the potential to bring in more money than that one lie does. So no compromise, be open and honest.

BTW I also do not believe in creating panic by sharing bad news without having all the information first and also putting some alternative on the table.
Two considerations here: Firstly, we have to consider cultural norms which may be different from our own and do not judge situations or people by our standards (ethnocentrism). Secondly, in some parts of the world, the implications of falling out with the 'boss' are so severe to the life of the employee and his/her family, that taking the high road is not realistic most of the time. An environment where one can be fully transparent and open is an exception, unfortunately, not the rule.
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2 replies by Ashok Kumar and Valerie Denney
Sep 26, 2018 4:55 PM
Ashok Kumar
...
Akis - Diplomacy works across geographical regions/ diverse cultures. An honest feedback within an organization should work, if provided "with right context" and in proper format, per cultural practices of that organization.

Every professionally managed organization must allow "transparent communication from project team" for project success. This is of utmost importance, especially when project is facing headwind.
Sep 28, 2018 10:13 AM
Valerie Denney
...
I agree that cultural norms may be different as we work with global teams. However, the fundamentals of transparency are universal.

I completely understand you comment about falling out with the boss, but there are many ways to respectfully disagree with the boss.

Taking the high road is not wrong--- it is the civil thing to do... but difficult at times. Do we have the moral fortitude to do the right thing?
Sep 26, 2018 1:21 PM
Replying to Akis Sklavounakis
...
Two considerations here: Firstly, we have to consider cultural norms which may be different from our own and do not judge situations or people by our standards (ethnocentrism). Secondly, in some parts of the world, the implications of falling out with the 'boss' are so severe to the life of the employee and his/her family, that taking the high road is not realistic most of the time. An environment where one can be fully transparent and open is an exception, unfortunately, not the rule.
Akis - Diplomacy works across geographical regions/ diverse cultures. An honest feedback within an organization should work, if provided "with right context" and in proper format, per cultural practices of that organization.

Every professionally managed organization must allow "transparent communication from project team" for project success. This is of utmost importance, especially when project is facing headwind.
...
2 replies by Akis Sklavounakis and Valerie Denney
Sep 28, 2018 8:44 AM
Akis Sklavounakis
...
We all agree on the 'should' and 'must allow'. Reality can be vastly different. Especially in the 2nd and 3rd world, where competition is fierce, employees are seen as easily replaceable, and having work means escaping poverty for one and his/her family. We can wax lyrical about ethics, but survival takes priority in these cultures and organisations.
Sep 28, 2018 10:15 AM
Valerie Denney
...
Absolutely. Honest feedback within the right context. There are many ways of communicating a message. Communication is both an art and a science.
Recognise the level of transparency the organization practises and work out a common understanding of transparency with the team, upper management, as well as customers
.
Employ a responsibility assignment matrix and encourage each employee to take ownership assigned set of tasks. Team members will be aware of what everyone else is working on and who they need to ask for guidance, deliverables, and sign-off.

Encourage team members to share ideas and plans. Let members see what worked and what did not. Leaders who speak openly about the state of the project / work gain trust. While it can be difficult to reveal you had a bad result, keeping team members, upper management, and customers in the know maintains confidence in the internal environment and customers. If information is deemed detrimental, exercise judgement on how much of the information can be conveyed and the manner of the communication.
...
1 reply by Valerie Denney
Sep 28, 2018 10:21 AM
Valerie Denney
...
Good point...what is the common practice (culture)? What is the acceptable type of communication? Still, no matter what is the appropriate manner of communication, transparency and honesty are key to success.

However, if an organization does not have a transparent culture, steps can be taken to transform that culture..... It is a slow, difficult process, but it can be done.

Finally, your point about exercising judgment about how much of the information can be conveyed... This is SPOT ON! Not everyone needs to have ALL the information. What is appropriate for the situation. Some may see transparency as all or nothing... but I am not one of them. What are the pros of giving the information? What are the cons? I don't see a problem with selectively transmitting information... as long as the underlying message is one of transparency. There is a difference between keeping some information private and outright lies.
Sep 26, 2018 4:55 PM
Replying to Ashok Kumar
...
Akis - Diplomacy works across geographical regions/ diverse cultures. An honest feedback within an organization should work, if provided "with right context" and in proper format, per cultural practices of that organization.

Every professionally managed organization must allow "transparent communication from project team" for project success. This is of utmost importance, especially when project is facing headwind.
We all agree on the 'should' and 'must allow'. Reality can be vastly different. Especially in the 2nd and 3rd world, where competition is fierce, employees are seen as easily replaceable, and having work means escaping poverty for one and his/her family. We can wax lyrical about ethics, but survival takes priority in these cultures and organisations.
...
1 reply by Valerie Denney
Sep 28, 2018 10:23 AM
Valerie Denney
...
No doubt there are tough decisions. One of the techniques I particularly like is the one discussed by Mary Gentile--- Giving Voice to Values. With this technique, it is not about telling you WHAT to say... it is about having the ability and moral fortitude to stand up for what you believe.
Sep 26, 2018 1:21 PM
Replying to Akis Sklavounakis
...
Two considerations here: Firstly, we have to consider cultural norms which may be different from our own and do not judge situations or people by our standards (ethnocentrism). Secondly, in some parts of the world, the implications of falling out with the 'boss' are so severe to the life of the employee and his/her family, that taking the high road is not realistic most of the time. An environment where one can be fully transparent and open is an exception, unfortunately, not the rule.
I agree that cultural norms may be different as we work with global teams. However, the fundamentals of transparency are universal.

I completely understand you comment about falling out with the boss, but there are many ways to respectfully disagree with the boss.

Taking the high road is not wrong--- it is the civil thing to do... but difficult at times. Do we have the moral fortitude to do the right thing?
Sep 26, 2018 4:55 PM
Replying to Ashok Kumar
...
Akis - Diplomacy works across geographical regions/ diverse cultures. An honest feedback within an organization should work, if provided "with right context" and in proper format, per cultural practices of that organization.

Every professionally managed organization must allow "transparent communication from project team" for project success. This is of utmost importance, especially when project is facing headwind.
Absolutely. Honest feedback within the right context. There are many ways of communicating a message. Communication is both an art and a science.
Sep 27, 2018 12:44 PM
Replying to Pang DX
...
Recognise the level of transparency the organization practises and work out a common understanding of transparency with the team, upper management, as well as customers
.
Employ a responsibility assignment matrix and encourage each employee to take ownership assigned set of tasks. Team members will be aware of what everyone else is working on and who they need to ask for guidance, deliverables, and sign-off.

Encourage team members to share ideas and plans. Let members see what worked and what did not. Leaders who speak openly about the state of the project / work gain trust. While it can be difficult to reveal you had a bad result, keeping team members, upper management, and customers in the know maintains confidence in the internal environment and customers. If information is deemed detrimental, exercise judgement on how much of the information can be conveyed and the manner of the communication.
Good point...what is the common practice (culture)? What is the acceptable type of communication? Still, no matter what is the appropriate manner of communication, transparency and honesty are key to success.

However, if an organization does not have a transparent culture, steps can be taken to transform that culture..... It is a slow, difficult process, but it can be done.

Finally, your point about exercising judgment about how much of the information can be conveyed... This is SPOT ON! Not everyone needs to have ALL the information. What is appropriate for the situation. Some may see transparency as all or nothing... but I am not one of them. What are the pros of giving the information? What are the cons? I don't see a problem with selectively transmitting information... as long as the underlying message is one of transparency. There is a difference between keeping some information private and outright lies.
Sep 28, 2018 8:44 AM
Replying to Akis Sklavounakis
...
We all agree on the 'should' and 'must allow'. Reality can be vastly different. Especially in the 2nd and 3rd world, where competition is fierce, employees are seen as easily replaceable, and having work means escaping poverty for one and his/her family. We can wax lyrical about ethics, but survival takes priority in these cultures and organisations.
No doubt there are tough decisions. One of the techniques I particularly like is the one discussed by Mary Gentile--- Giving Voice to Values. With this technique, it is not about telling you WHAT to say... it is about having the ability and moral fortitude to stand up for what you believe.
...
1 reply by Akis Sklavounakis
Sep 28, 2018 11:15 AM
Akis Sklavounakis
...
Thank you Valerie, indeed GVV is useful. An interesting work on the subject of ethics is The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli, written almost 500 years ago. The most famous quote is: “How we live is so different from how we ought to live that he who studies what ought to be done rather than what is done will learn the way to his downfall rather than to his preservation.”
Sep 28, 2018 10:23 AM
Replying to Valerie Denney
...
No doubt there are tough decisions. One of the techniques I particularly like is the one discussed by Mary Gentile--- Giving Voice to Values. With this technique, it is not about telling you WHAT to say... it is about having the ability and moral fortitude to stand up for what you believe.
Thank you Valerie, indeed GVV is useful. An interesting work on the subject of ethics is The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli, written almost 500 years ago. The most famous quote is: “How we live is so different from how we ought to live that he who studies what ought to be done rather than what is done will learn the way to his downfall rather than to his preservation.”
...
1 reply by Valerie Denney
Sep 28, 2018 12:42 PM
Valerie Denney
...
Wonderful quote! Isn't it amazing that something from 500 years ago is still so relevant?
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