Redefining Accountability and Transparency: LeadTogether Highlight #15 3-15-15

Understanding and Redefining Transparency and Accountability

If I had a nickel for every time someone said the phrase, “We need more accountability and transparency in our school!” I could buy a lot of lattes for my wife! Instead I am launching a campaign to rid our organizations of both words. I can’t remember when either word was mentioned in a positive vein or without someone cringing. Besides being quite negative. These terms have become intelligent-sounding catch phrases for things that people little understand.

The demand for transparency usually means “ Quit being so sly and secretive and withholding information from others.” The real issue is .are we communicating in the right ways about the right things? How are we communicating overall? Can I trust that you will tell me what I need to know when something affects me?

We would do a lot better to explore the questions of communication and information sharing. “There is a lack of transparency” is already an accusation of villainous behavior. Wouldn’t it be better to agree on what kind of information should be shared in what situations? There is also the aspect of transparency relating to whether someone is being honest. In this case we should focus on honesty, rather than transparency

Transparency is not a virtue. It is not even a healthy organizational practice. Good communication is an admirable quality in an individual and an organization.

With accountability. the situation is similar. When someone mentions accountability, it usually comes with a hard edge and a cringe or shrug of the shoulder. It would better if we could speak honestly about issues of quality and commitment to core principles and how we hold one another other to those expectations in our organizations. Accountability is never listed as a desirable human attribute. On the other hand, a highly-principled person committed to quality is looked up to and is an asset to any organization

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Only in this case we have the wrong name for very important characteristics and principles that can guide, inspire and lift us up in our work. I cast my vote for referring to “good communication” and “a commitment to quality.” Let’s let the terms “transparency and accountability” wither and fade on the vine of vague negative concepts.

We are currently working on the theme of, yes, Accountability (how to maintain agreements and quality) for one of our next newsletters. If you have something to contribute let me know.

Stay tuned.

Michael Soule