The Role of Transparency in Times of Change

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Transparency is the extent to which a stakeholder perceives an organization to be free from pretense or deceit, characterized by visibility or accessibility of information about itself, especially concerning business practices (Parris et al., 2016, p. 233; Merriam-Webster, n.d.-a; Merriam-Webster, n.d.-b). What is the role of transparency in times of change? Transparency promotes trust, confidence, employee engagement, and positive relationships. “Contributing to a meaningful purpose compels people into action” (Holman et al., 2007, p. 12). Change is the action of moving from the current state into some future state, and it always involves people and systems. Change does not happen in an isolated environment. Without transparency, change is missing a key motivational ingredient for success.

The opposite of Transparency is Opacity, where information is secreted and exclusive. Indicators of opaqueness are maintaining anonymity, maintaining a low public profile, limiting outside influence, maintaining independence, insider control, and protecting autonomy (Reid, 2018, p. 82). Using these foundational indicators of opacity, OD&C practitioners can determine propensity toward opaqueness and transparency. Transparency allows stakeholders, including employees, customers, and shareholders, to believe in and trust the organization, promoting engagement and positive relationships while dispelling rumors. Rumors arise when information is scarce (Kapferer, 1992, p. 54). Rumors are powerful conduits of secretive information that is not easily dispelled. The spread of rumors results from not providing timely authentic, transparent communication. Another concern is change-specific cynicism, which fuels lasting resistance to change, which may not be resolved with mitigation. Therefore, OD&C practitioners need to carefully examine the propensity for opaqueness and arm themselves with the facts and tools to encourage transparency.

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Organization Development Journal


Organization Development Institute





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