Transparency is a vital requirement of project management as no project can set the bar high without transparency.
But before we take a closer look into the importance of project transparency, let’s define what we are talking about.
The English dictionary defines transparency as the quality of being fine or sheer enough to be seen through.
In the realm of projects, transparency means enabling all stakeholders to access the same data and relevant information about a specific project irrespective of their role or position, organisation structure, objectives, etc.
Therefore, embedding a culture of transparency facilitates information flow distribution and allows everyone involved in a project (e.g., team members, project managers, executives, sponsors, etc.) to work on the same set of data and communicate their ideas and progress openly.
It is widely thought that transparency is beneficial, even though project managers often don’t talk about it.
So, in an agile environment, many organisations rely on a single integrated tool that manages a common set of data whilst allowing the project team to interact with it simultaneously.
Let’s explore how promoting transparency throughout the project lifecycle can positively impact the performance of the project, product or process.
Table of contents:
- Why transparency is important in project management
- 5 ways to improve transparency at portfolio level
1. Why Transparency Is Important In Project Management
Project management isn’t an exact science.
As a result, several management paradigms and methodologies have been created over the years, starting with the classical Project Management represented primarily by the PMBOK and ending with the interactive team-based approach of Agile methodologies.
So, in the past, when project professionals typically focused on the waterfall method, transparency does not come under the spotlight.
In the traditional project management approach, implementing transparency at all stages of the project is based on expert surveys, meetings, conclusion of agreements, formal and informal reports, presentations and project records, notifications of stakeholders, etc.
The traditional project management approach, to put it simply, enables the project manager to dictate what is reported to the team.
However, when it comes to the traditional management approach, the main problem is that in many cases, project managers prefer opacity over transparency (e.g., they use the RAG status to report green when the project status is actually red).
So, stakeholders cannot be aware of the project status without transparency. As a result, a project can quickly head for trouble and fall through.
Even today, some project managers are worried about disclosing and oversharing information, especially when they deal with vendors.
For example, they may believe that transparency can be a distraction and prevent stakeholders from concentrating on the desired outcomes.
Or, they may believe that transparency can pose risks to the project as balancing transparency and privacy seems like a challenging endeavour.
Nevertheless, transparency can by no means pose risks to a project (because project data is not related to privacy).
Transparency is instead a commitment to sharing the same set of data with everyone working on a project and enabling them to see everything equally (which doesn’t exclude confidentiality – meaning that specific information can remain confidential).
Here’s why project managers should prioritise transparency:
- Improving project reporting: Transparency of task status enables the project manager and team members to report any issues that might have a negative impact on the project’s progress. As a result, it eliminates project derailment.
- Enhancing team collaboration: Transparency helps managers and team members better understand their roles within the project and improves accountability and communication. Effective communication ensures minim risks and keeps confusion and misunderstandings from bogging the project down.
- Building trust: Transparency is about honesty and openness, so it makes the team work as a cohesive unit. Transparency builds trust, and trust allows team members to support each other and better assist the project manager.
- Increasing productivity: When managers and team members work on the same set of data, they don’t waste time waiting for approvals. It also makes it easier for them to share information, which in turn, can boost their productivity.
- Enabling everyone to see the big picture: Transparency allows team members to better understand the connection between various tasks and desired outcomes, which helps them see the big picture. As a result, they will be able to put the project in context and operate more effectively.
2. 5 Ways To Improve Transparency At Portfolio Level
Here are some of the ways you can improve transparency at portfolio level:
1. Being open
Open communication is an essential element of successful work relationships, and it is related to higher levels of creativity and flexibility.
Openness is crucial in building an atmosphere of trust between managers and team members as it encourages free-flowing ideas and emphasises free unrestricted access to knowledge and information.
Openness is also a key attribute in developing an agile organisation that deals with fast-paced change and fierce competition.
So, if an organisation doesn’t support openness and open-decision making, its ability of building trust and enhancing team collaboration through transparency is almost always restricted.
2. Sharing information
Since effective communication is a key factor of project transparency, it comes as no surprise that sharing information is a valuable practice that boosts collaboration.
Therefore, how and what information is shared amongst team members determines the success of a project.
Sharing information and knowledge (and facilitating information and knowledge exchange) is highly beneficial for decision making, operational efficiency, and continuous, active learning.
So, creating an infrastructure that enables team members to share information is a great way to improve transparency and set a project up for success.
3. Not being afraid of being wrong
Whether it’s a failure on a grand scale or a minor mishap, fear is a suppression factor that team members, sponsors, and key stakeholders need to overcome.
Most of the time, the fear of being wrong keeps them from revealing the true status of a project until it’s often too late.
So, the fear of being wrong may hold you back from success.
Every organisation needs to create an environment where fear has no place and no influence on the desired outcomes.
4. Trusting the team
Team members have to trust project managers – Every decision they make has the purpose of driving success in project performance.
Just like team members, project managers also need to build trust with their decisions and trust their teams.
Trust needs to be treated as a vital factor for project success and a business imperative.
Building trust enables project managers to facilitate communication and drive engagement, efficiency, and innovation.
Furthermore, trust allows managers to focus on processes without worrying about security and safety and creates an environment where it is all right to share ideas and knowledge openly.
5. Embracing bad news
Project managers should say more often, “Tell me the bad news first”.
Just like building trust inside the team, creating an environment where it is safe to deliver and embrace bad news should be imperative to effective project management.
Bad news tends to “grow” if overlooked, so it’s always best to use the “Band-Aid approach” and embrace and deliver them immediately.
Therefore, embracing and delivering bad news is a key part of creating a culture of transparency (even though it may not be a leader’s favourite activity).
All the five points mentioned above are critical for building a culture of transparency at portfolio level which in turn is critical for enhancing collaboration, productivity, and reporting.
However, creating a culture of transparency and promoting a climate that generates trust and engagement wouldn’t be possible without the right collaboration tools.
Collaboration tools and project management software can significantly improve transparency by increasing communication and trust, breaking down silos, promoting greater accountability, and building solid relationships (all while keeping certain types of information confidential).
Do you think that transparency is important to keep work on track and improve project performance? If so, Focus HQ can help you measure and manage the projects in your organisation while remaining fully transparent as team members and stakeholders can see exactly where their project stands and stay up-to-date on a granular level.
We would be more than happy to offer you a 90-day FREE trial and demonstrate how Focus HQ can provide you and the board with complete real-time transparency relating to key programs and initiatives.