Transparency has become a popular term. It refers to an organization that is open and candid with information. This can mean financially open books, anti-corruption policies, providing public access to information, making strategy and tactics known to others, and more. Business leaders, politicians, educators, and even military leaders, are all claiming transparency in order to shine a positive light on their organizations. But it’s easier said than done. Often there is a disconnect between what organizational leaders say about their openness and what actually happens in the workplace. In practice, secrecy, public relations spin, and misleading information are more the norm.

Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O’Toole address transparency in their recently published book: "Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor". For a summary by O’Toole of the main points of the book go to a video on Bnet. The author talks about the importance of the leader’s role in ensuring that “…crucial information gets to the right person at the right time and for the right reason.”

Leaders have no choice but to be transparent. Dov Seidman, author of “How”, said in an interview for Business Week that nothing is hidden anymore; we are completely exposed due to Internet technology, so what is important is how these naked organizations behave. Tom Friedman in his op ed column in the New York Times on 101508, reported on his conversation with Seidman:

In a connected world,” Seidman said to me, “countries, governments and companies also have character, and their character — how they do what they do, how they keep promises, how they make decisions, how things really happen inside, how they connect and collaborate, how they engender trust, how they relate to their customers, to the environment and to the communities in which they operate — is now their fate.

So transparency is very difficult to avoid. Organizations need to put less effort into controlling who sees what and more effort into how they act given that everyone knows what they know.