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Transparency: Let it be real, not the next buzzword

The word ‘transparency’ as it is emerging today came to me via Kevin Gamble, national eXtension’s information technology leader. It is not a buzzword to Kevin. He believes in open source software, in putting the thinking of the eXtension organization out for people to view. I’ve heard Kevin talk about how difficult it is to convince extension folks across the country to share their work—to put it out in the open, to be transparent. The image I have is a small child clutching a stuffed animal to his chest and saying, “It’s mine, all mine.”

I’ve been thinking about transparency and advocating it. Actually I don’t feel I’m making many inroads in my workplace with that. There’s my alternate life in church work and I thought I was doing a pretty good job communicating to members far more than others who’d held my position, distributing responsibility widely, seeking out and listening to opinions, pushing for teenagers in important positions. And then one member said we don’t communicate across the six boards enough; we don’t know what others are doing. That says to me—those who should be sharing information are not doing it well. I need to explain and encourage communication flow. I need to seek new ways to be more transparent.

Last night Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, spoke at the Memorial Union. In the middle of her speech on leadership and power, she talked about business leaders needing to agree to transparency, of being accountable to not only shareholders but customers, employees and suppliers.

That’s when it struck me.
This is going to be a new buzzword. I so want it to be real even if it’s not in our nature, even if it’s not easy.

People will put their heart and soul into projects when they understand how their work fits into overall goals, when they feel their opinions are valued, when they are part of the building process, when they know what others are doing. That is transparency. It is civility.

Do not speak of transparency
unless you are willing to let go of that stuffed animal.

Kevin Gamble’s Oct. 5 post, Defining the freerange enterprise, in which he lists not just transparency but radical transparency.


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