When people and organisations are under pressure there is one thing that is vital to remember, and that is transparency. The natural inclination is to pull down the shutters and try to keep people at bay while we deal with the crisis in front of us. But this is the moment when we need to be more open and accessible.
The situation faced by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the moment could have been prevented if there was a greater transparency about that activity and actions taken. I was listening to media reports this morning and it all boils down to one thing, opening up and letting people see what is happening.
When you are a big institution, powerful organisation, or multi-national business the requirement to be open and transparent about your activities is greater. Why? When you have significiant power and what you do impacts on people’s lives then you will be under greater scrutiny. This scrutiny is not just ‘tittle-tattle’, gossip or unwarranted attention. It is an important strand of democracy which is around legitimate challenging of actions, behaviour and situations.
For many years I worked in an organisation that had to keep much of its work hidden from public view. There was good reason for most of it, which was about keeping people safe and tackling criminals. Being transparent about the work was at the heart of all the communication work that was undertaken. I remember in the early days of work to tackle terrorists that the media were brought behind the scenes to be able to see what was underway and also ask those probing questions. And it wasn’t just the media community leaders had been brought behind the scenes of operations that were being developed.
It is easy to say that you are being transparent. You may publish information, share details of what is happening, and answer queries. But is your organisation really being transparent? Are you opening up even when things get hard? Do you willingly allow scrutiny of finances and financial decisions? Will you allow people to see the decision making discussions taking place? Or is your transparency about a tick in a box and being seen to do the right thing?