MT Masterclass - Transparency

What is it? You've tried 'open door' management. Why not have a go at 'nothing up your sleeve' management, with a bit of 'open book' thrown in? Transparency's true believers say we should keep nothing hidden, and commit ourselves to complete openness and honesty. Company accounts and pay levels? Feast your eyes on this lot. Strategic planning? Share it.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

It's time to chuck out useless, wasteful secrecy and trust your people with the truth. Shine the light on dubious practices and unethical behaviour.

Where did it come from? The corporate scandals of recent years have led to calls for greater accountability in business. The corporate social responsibility movement, along with the activities of pressure groups, have increased the demand for open decision-making and financial reporting.

'Transparent accounting' is a new and poorly understood discipline - and a nice little earner for the big accountancy firms. In the US, new regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other 'sunshine laws' have put pressure on senior management to remove the fig-leaf of secrecy. The question is, are you confident enough to discard yours? And will the public like what it sees?

Where's it going? A lot of consultants are hitching a ride on the bandwagon, and not just accountants: knowledge management experts see an opportunity here too. Transparency chimes in with other fashionable concepts, such as 'authenticity'. Business wants to be less hated; having 'nothing to hide' may be one way of achieving that. In 2002 the management guru Warren Bennis said businesses need 'managers who know how to create social architectures for openness'. Openness sounds nice. But, clearly, people in transparent organisations shouldn't throw stones.

Fad quotient (out of 10) - A see-through seven.

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