The Religion of Transparency is not universal

OD, HR, cross cultural specialists, change managers and coaches often promulgate the importance of transparency in organizations.

Transparency is seen as a higher form of being, someone we should all strive for. Transparency is almost a religion for many professionals who support present day organizing. Transparency is almost seen like the English language-the only way to do business.

The only problem is that transparency is not universally valued, by any means.

Here are a few different points of view which “compete” with the Religion of Transparency.

1) “Muddy the water and catch the fish”. In other words, ambiguity, not transparency, enables things to get done.

2) Discretion, not transparency, is what is needed to deal with delicate situations.

3) When the reality does not look good, make sure that reality at least looks good; this is done by face saving.

4) Transparency is Religion of the oppressor, who supports  our being open….and then controls us.

5) Transparency is a frailty of the present ruling elite. They did not get to be elite by being transparent however.

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4 thoughts on “The Religion of Transparency is not universal

  1. I understand the cultural variance that you’re explaining, Allon, but what about the impact of technology which makes it impossible to control the flow of information? When anyone with the computing power, knowledge, & inclination can gain access to any information that exists anywhere in an organization, doesn’t that make it impossible to be anything BUT transparent?

  2. 1Lots of information flows outside the system, eg, accurate assumptions about feasibility.

    2 Push Vrs Pull makes an impact about how and when info is accessed.
    Push and pull are impacted by culture

    3 Inclusion in decision making not contingent on what is in system

  3. As an attribute of personal power, transparency is not a player. Personal power is derived from credibility, integrity and trust. Each is earned in the moment, each is created over a lifetime, and each is a hallmark of our character insofar as wer are consistent in our actions. In my view , it is through the succession of interactions that we bank all three. For some, the bank account is depleted; for others, it is full because they understand that it is only as full as the last transaction. Transparency has little to do with it. With regards to transparency, there is a difference between deceit and discretion. I have never had an issue in my work with different cultures when I said what was true for me in a way that others could hear it. I see a distinction between transparency and speaking out for that which I support. I am not for saying all but I am for honoring in words and deeds the relationships among the people who make up the system of work.

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