Organizational Accountability Best Practice 2 – Data Transparency

StrategyDriven Organizational Accountability Best Practice ArticleIs it still wrong if I don’t get caught? YES!

Organizations live and die by the decisions of executives and managers and the actions of employees. Therefore, individuals must be held accountable for their work that both helps and hinders goal achievement if the organization expects to thrive. This accountability can only happen, however, if the decisions/actions and associated results are visible. Data transparency helps create this visibility.[wcm_restrict plans=”53545, 25542, 25653″]

Organizational accountability exists when all members of the workforce individually and collectively act to consequentially promote the timely accomplishment of the organization’s mission.
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As asserted earlier, accountability cannot exist without both positive and negative consequences. To consequentially promote the organization’s mission implies that individuals and groups will not only act in ways that seek to accomplish the mission but will recognize and reward those who do so exceptionally and appropriately act to minimize behaviors less supportive of the organization’s goals. Data transparency allows for the tracking of performance relative to the organization’s goals thereby providing individuals and groups feedback on the impact of their decisions and actions as well as enabling them to recognize and reward the acts of others.

The scope and influence of differing positions uniquely shapes the nature of data transparency. For each position, data transparency appears as:

  • For Executives: highly results-based, typically the aggregation of the several outcomes of lower organizations that they oversee, with some direct action measures. Examples include: earnings per share, earnings growth, large capital project return on investment
  • For Managers: a combination of results and direct action measures. Examples include: overtime costs, schedule adherence, OSHA recordable accident rate
  • For Employees: almost entirely direct action measures, based on work tasks performed, with some results-based measures often resulting from team participation. Examples include: units produced per hour, personal error rate, rework rate

The Many Other Benefits of Data Transparency

Besides enabling accountability within an organization, data transparency fosters many other benefits including:

  • Heightened Integrity: Intentional integrity breaches more visible; increasing the chance of discovery and thereby encouraging more ethical behavior.
  • Increased Sense of Fairness: More complete awareness of individual and group performance helps employees personally recognize management’s reasoning for rewards; heightening feelings of equity and fair play.
  • Expanded Opportunity Identification: A greater number of individuals are exposed to various pieces of information thereby engaging a broader collective experience base to consider and identify opportunities and threats.
  • Greater Trust: Organizational openness that heightens integrity, increases the sense of fairness, and expands engagement naturally engenders a greater degree of trust between employees and managers. Furthermore, employees know the transparent data will help alert them any time their trust is violated.

Not All Data Can Be Transparent

Advocating for greater data transparency as an enhancement of organizational accountability is not to suggest the release or mishandling of personally confidential and strategically classified information. All organizations have the responsibility and right to maintain the security of some information including but not limited to:

  • Private employee and client data
  • Sensitive organizational deal-making and contractual information
  • Trade secrets

This type of information must be identified and the proper security protocols put in place to ensure privacy is maintained. Additionally, the performance data of a specific individual should be accessible to only that individual and his/her superiors. In order for the individual to understand his/her performance relative to peers, the individual should be provided with performance information showing his/her performance relative to a significantly large group so not to reveal the performance details of another individual. Aggregated group performance information and transaction data can and should be made as widely available as possible.

Final Thought…

Philosophically speaking, no one, including executives and managers, should ever be afraid to have ‘the boss’ know or observe what he/she is doing. If it is true that no one has anything to hide, then no one should resist the degree of data transparency advocated here. That being said, everyone naturally feels some nervousness when being watched. This is natural. Executives and managers need to be alert, however, for those individuals who unduly resist this level of data transparency and the accountability it fosters. Nothing is necessarily wrong but it may be worth some investigation in these instances.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember plans=”53545, 25542, 25653″]

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