Integrity, Transparency and Trust

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At Three Wise Men we’ve just finished off a reasonably large project, and a few things really struck me in the end about the way we operated and how it turned out.

I’ve always been one for integrity. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. It’s OK to say you’re not sure what you’re going to build, or you’re not sure when it will be built, just be sure that you have a little transparency in your processes and you involve the customer so that you maintain their trust that you are building something appropriate not wasting their time and money.

Customers get nervous fast when they feel you are wasting their time and/or money. And it’s exactly that – a feeling – which just might be borne of a lack of communications or honesty, and it is completely orthogonal to your skill and intent to deliver their project.

So my policy is thus – communicate, be honest and do honest work, have a transparent process so that your customer can see what’s going on, and they will trust you.

In reality, I often wish things were so simple. As entrepreneurs, in our struggle to build our businesses, we sometimes take on work for various higher purposes – which might be to forge new relationships, maintain infrastructure and overhead in times of slumpy sales, or explore new technology paths and vendor partnerships.

And sometimes that work imposes on this one policy that I particularly favour – transparency.

In this situation, I maintain transparency as far as I can. Sometimes it’s not very far.

My hope is that businesses I work with will see the effectiveness of transparency in building trust. Each project we take on in which we have full transparency teaches me a little more about how I can explain its effectiveness to those who haven’t discovered its benefits.

Transparency has brought my business our most successful projects to date, and incidentally, those were also the most profitable projects.

What is Transparency in my business?

  • Who are the people involved
  • What did they work on yesterday, what are they working on today
  • What, if any, issues are keeping from getting their work done
  • What is the current status of the project, and when will the next deliverable be ready
  • What are the costs incurred, to-date and predicted

Some of these items change with the project (the people), some of then are static in our process model (deliverable dates are on an iterative schedule and fixed, costs are known and predictable). And the remainder are made transparent by our process model by exposing techniques such as “listen-in” on our daily status meetings, and extensive customer involvement in planning and prioritization.

So what does transparency mean in your business? Where do you struggle with customer trust and how might you apply it to help in your own projects?

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