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Seven steps to creating a more transparent organization

When times get tough, the tough get transparent. That's the word from IMI, author of the new book Straight A Leadership: Alignment, Action, and Accountability.

"Leaders have talked about transparency for a long time, but it's never been more important than it is now, "says IMI.”Remember, we share information with employees for a couple of reasons: one, it's the right thing to do, and two, it's good for business. And most companies can use every possible edge these days."

IMI asserts that companies with cultures of openness and free-flowing information fare better in difficult economies. That's because (among other benefits) transparency helps employees stay connected to financial big picture, reduces complacency, sparks creative solutions, creates organizational consistency and stability, and leads to faster, more efficient execution.

First, make sure senior leadership is aligned
Does everyone see the external environment the same way? Does everyone understand organizational goals and plans? Does everyone agree on what success looks like? If not, it's time to remedy the situation. "Alignment is most important at the senior level because all information cascades downward from it," says IMI. "If one senior leader is out of sync with the others, then everyone under her is going to be out of sync. In a big organization, that could be hundreds of people."
Close the perception gap between senior leadership and middle managers. Help people understand the true financial impact of decisions. Put mechanisms in place for communicating vital issues to frontline employees. Prepare managers to answer tough questions. When you have bad news, treat employees like adults. Keep people posted.