On Transparency, Part II

My apologies for the 2-week gap; I’ve been developing content for a blog that will launch mid-May.

But on to the subject: transparency. Again. In Part I, I discussed opening up my master project list to my peers and the anxiety that provoked. Now I’ll be talking about transparency inside my own department.

As the head of a (geek) department, I find it sometimes difficult to determine how much information to disseminate to my geeks. Unlike giving information to my peers, this uncertainty is not motivated by my fears. The primary reason I find it tough to figure out how much info to share within IT is that I read too much.

I’ve read articles on transparency and agreed with them. I’ve read articles on information overload and agreed with them. I’ve seen staff who drop out of meetings because they “just don’t need to know” and the information would confuse them or increase their stress levels. I’ve seen other staff completely frustrated by lack of information about what’s going on in other parts of the department. What’s a geek leader to do?

I don’t think there is an easy answer to that one. In my last department, we were small and seated all in the same area. At least once each day, we’d end up congregating at the Lit Support Specialist’s cube right outside my office. We would chat about anything and everything, ranging from childhood memories to weekend plans to current and upcoming projects. This worked well for us.

My current department, however, is twice as big and very spread out. We often congregate in the Help Desk area, but usually not the entire team together. I eventually realized (thanks to some rather gigantic “hints”) that the casual method of information sharing that worked at my last firm wasn’t going to fly at my current one.

So I started having weekly 30-minute meetings. I moved these meetings from the training room to the Help Desk area, since the Help Desk folks were having trouble making it on time and staying. After trying a few different times, we settled on a time when most of the firm was at lunch so the phones weren’t quite as continuous.

At some of these meetings, I do most of the talking. For example, when I started a new change management procedure, we spent most of the time talking about that. At other meetings, we go around the room and each person talks about his or her current projects or issues. Each geek shares as much as he pleases or tunes out if he doesn’t want to know. They have access to my master project list (the live document) and can question anything they please. (Somehow, this doesn’t cause me any fear. This is probably a good thing.)

We’re still trying to get to the appropriate level of granularity, since not all my staff talks to each other often enough to disseminate solutions to specific problems. I have to admit that I find that frustrating, since a 30-minute meeting is only long enough for brief discussions. But we’re getting better.

I have to wonder, though, if there’s ever a “perfect” level of internal transparency. If so, anyone know what it is?