Startup Culture Diaries: How to build a transparent organization

team

Knowledge is power. We all know this. If you know of an opportunity before a competitor, you have an edge. But that edge dissipates if everyone has the same information.

In a company, when information is kept within a limited group of senior management, they can decide when to trickle down decisions and have others execute on them. It makes them invaluable to the organization and hence prolongs their likelihood of survival in the company – not to mention playing on their ego.

Therefore, being in the know gives people a false sense of power within an organization. So, there is a natural propensity for senior teams to only share relevant information with team members.

“I believe a transparent organization levels the playing field when it comes to information.”
 

Ultimately, a company will suffer from this lack of transparency. I believe a transparent organization levels the playing field when it comes to information — allowing for better debates, stronger alignment, and ultimately better engagement towards achieving objectives. My role of leadership is not to hold onto information, it is to facilitate the transfer of information so that everyone can understand what is at the core of our business.

The question is – is there a line? Is there some information we should keep confidential?

At Foko, we decided to be as liberal as possible. We share everything from our revenue targets, our cash position, accounts we won, accounts we lost (and why), our full product roadmap, and vision. The only area where we do draw a line is when it comes to personal situations that people want to keep confidential.

To ensure transparency, here are a few different things we put in place:

  • We stopped having weekly meetings for the management team. Instead, we have a leadership meeting. That meeting takes place on Monday mornings at 9 a.m. Everyone is welcome to join, and attendance is optional. The agenda for this meeting is the same that we had for our management meeting, excluding personal HR issues. We go over our priorities and our objectives for the week. Interestingly enough, everyone joins in most of the time.
  • Everyone, including myself, posts a weekly report in our internal messaging App (obviously, we use Foko). The weekly report covers in bullet points – what I did last week and what I aim to do next week. Commentary can be added to give additional insights to something that happened.
  • We use Foko for our internal communications. Similar to Slack, we have public channels
    where conversations are open for everyone to see and participate in.
  • We don’t have any closed offices – many ad-hoc conversations happen in the open.
  • We have a monthly all-hand meeting where all aspects of the business are reviewed and
    anyone is invited to ask any questions that they may have.
  • We share the CEO report prepared for the board and investors.

But we do make one thing clear. While we are transparent within the organization, it stops there. We do not share any of our information outside our organization. What happens in our fight club should stay in our fight club. If this primary rule is broken – you will be asked to leave the club.
Period.

Photo via Unsplash

Marc Gingras

Marc Gingras

"Marc is a Canadian entrepreneur and angel investor. He is the CEO of Foko, a visual communication platform for retail teams. He sold his previous venture, Tungle.me, to BlackBerry in 2011. He is the Chairman of Sopar, a non-profit focused on sustainable development and helping the poor in rural India. Marc holds an MBA from INSEAD, a MASc in Management Sciences from the University of Waterloo and a BASc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Ottawa