Many of us work on a precarious razor’s edge balancing a need for privacy and confidentiality on one hand, and the benefits and advantages of working openly and transparently on the other hand. Where can we find the most advantage? What will serve our needs, and the needs of our colleagues and organization the best?
But perhaps the razor’s edge is actually a mid point, and on either side is a continuum representing the way we work. On one end of the continuum is the beginning, a place where we all start, and on the other end is the place we want to work towards, the place where we want to be, so we will be most effective in our work and most beneficial for our career. Perhaps we can look at this as degrees of Working out Loud.
1st DEGREE: Never sharing
You are not working out loud. You keep everything to yourself. Your documents are kept in private folders, and your work product is only shared when necessary.
2nd DEGREE: Strategically sharing information with people in your team
You realize that some sharing needs to be done, but you do this sharing in a very carefully, strategic manner. Information is shared as necessary, and only when directed by your supervisor, or in a way that the work demands.
3rd DEGREE: Regularly sharing information with people on your team
You work on a team, and you recognize that the only way a team works, and that work gets done in a way that is truly reflective of the skills and experience of everyone involved, is when work is shared as a matter of practice. Everyone is aware of what every other person is working on.
4th DEGREE: Sharing information with your team with a goal of more collaboration
It’s not enough that work is reported on. Your recognize that in order for sharing to be truly effective, that sharing must happen before the work is done in a way that encourages collaboration. You look for opportunities to bring other colleagues into your work while it is in progress. You are creating more trust at work every day.
5th DEGREE: Working transparently so teams throughout your organization are aware of your work.
Even more valuable than sharing work before its done is being transparent during the process of doing the work. You share your challenges, your questions, your revelations and your successes. Your colleagues become aware of your work, and the steps you have taken to learn what you have learned, and to accomplish what you have accomplished. You are knocking down walls and welcoming people in.
6th DEGREE: Regularly collaborating, sharing work before it is complete, encouraging transparency and openness throughout your organization.
You are now the bravest, and most productive person in the office. Pro-active transparency and de-facto collaboration behaviors are now a regular part of your work day. You consistently challenge yourself to make sure you are sharing whatever work can be shared, before that work is complete. You actively reach out to your colleagues who should be aware of your projects, and specific documents. They become an integral part of your work in progress. Real time is being saved. Economies of scale are being realized. Work is getting done faster.
Though the 6th degree is always a good goal, it is not necessarily where all work should be. When there is truly confidential information being developed, that should certainly not be open to others throughout the organization. It may very well be that, in the case of such sensitive matters, 1st or 2nd degree is the appropriate place to be.
That is not to suggest though that you shouldn’t challenge yourself. What should be shared? What can be shared? How can your transparency lead to more transparency, and more collaboration? These can sometimes be challenging changes to make, but the benefits can be rewarding for your professionally, and for your whole organization.
So maybe step away from the razor’s edge. Step carefully towards that 6th degree. Realize the personal and professional benefits of being more transparent, and of collaborating with more intent, strategy and regularity. Be the bravest person in the room.