These days, one of the terms very utilized when highlighting a core facet of a company’s culture, is the spirit of transparency. Transparency according to Merriam Webster dictionary refers to able to be seen through, easy to notice or understand, honest and open: not secretive. This definition should easily be applied to how people behave in life, but for the purpose of this article, I want to highlight how this has become an indispensable trait to exhibit when working in teams.
During my tenure with organizations of different scales, I’ve come to realize that communication within internal teams can be somewhat difficult at times. To add an extra layer of complexity, there are external teams, vendors, different geographical locations and time frames to consider, and all those can become important factors when considering how to best communicate within teams.
The reason why transparency has become so important across the board is primarily that it surfaces the need it is for all teams to be able to understand and know what their peers and collaborators are working on across the board.
In one of my previous articles, I discussed the importance of collaboration in order to be successful, and Transparency is of adamant relevance for this to happen. It’s easy for teams to get focused on their tasks, circling around a series of tickets on their backlogs, and become imprisoned by that universe. However, these days, in particular, it’s crucial to always be able to look beyond, to reach out, and be involved with other groups, teams, and be able to share knowledge, expectations, paths, obstacles, in other words, be transparent.
This spirit can be at times difficult to permeate across teams — it requires some work obviously. Much like teaching a class for different people, with different backgrounds and expectations, to be transparent across the board, means leveraging and understanding the teams and team members you’re engaging with, in order for the communication to be effective.
What I’ve realized from my own experience, is that transparency requires from anyone, and in particular designers, to be able to be open, communicative, humble, and also be prepared. To be prepared includes understanding the teams you work with, the products that everyone is striving to create, improve or update, to research and document your findings in ways that are relevant to your organization, to the market and industry, and also to make the right questions.
The questions that are crucial to any design process should always be transparent across the board, and across the teams — when working on a product, everyone should always keep present questions such as, “why are we doing this feature or product”, “what will this product benefit for our users and clients”, and “how useful will this product be”. Having a wider perspective of the whole canvas, being able to easily view the questions (and understand what the direction for the answers are), and being able to empathize (with teams and team members), makes all the difference across the board.
Having worked in teams where transparency isn’t always prevailing, I can attest for the following: friction is easier to surface when there isn’t a clear and transparent view of what teams are working on (and it makes for a more difficult collaboration process).
I’ve always strived to make “The Design Process” an equal partner across the board in all the teams I’ve worked with. Being able to be a partner, requires more than just being present — as I stated before, it requires preparation, questioning, but also listening (another reference to one of the articles I’ve written earlier), and ultimately being engaging and proactive.
Transparency should come as naturally for a design process and methodology as it should for any company and organization that is striving to create products that are anchored in good design principles that ultimately produce products that resonate in a meaningful way with their clients and users.