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Being Transparent: A Q&A with Richard Ziebarth

Agile coach, Richard Ziebarth, will be speaking at the next COHAA evening event, this Thursday (10/26), on the importance of transparency. Come check him out. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him, and this is what he said:

Tell us a little about yourself.

I started out as an obnoxious business analyst desperate for human interaction in an email driven world (2007), that was just around the time my organization was experimenting with the scrum framework.  I asked to be put on the team and it changed my career path for the better.  I have since been an agile coach for multiple clients around Columbus and bring a passion for value driven software development with a focus on quality and continuous improvement.

Tell us about the topic you will be speaking on.

The importance of transparency in the way we work and communicate.  I am a big proponent of candid open communication.  I think the more accurate/timely the information is within your team and your organization the more informed your and others decisions can be.  I speak about how a lack of transparency can stifle agility and how to get back on track if you feel your team or organization needs work in this area.

Who should come hear you speak?

Anyone who works in a collaborative team environment or manages one.  IT managers will probably get the most out of it since they have a greater ability to positively affect change from a cultural perspective.

What do you hope people will take away from your talk?

The ability to identify a lack of transparency and the confidence to communicate to their peers as to why/how it is impacting their team/org.

Why should organizations care about transparency?

Sounds cheesy, but “information is power.”  The more timely and accurate information you have the better you are going to be able to make quality decisions.

What does good transparency look like?

A commitment to openness (2 scrum values).  Team members in your organization should feel comfortable and always be willing to share their thoughts and perspectives on the work they are doing and the people they are doing it with.  This is all built on a foundation of autonomy and trust.

What does lack of transparency look like?

Team members are afraid to be candid and share their perspective for fear of ridicule.  Less collaboration, people doing extra work to cover themselves in case a mistake is made.  People hoarding application knowledge for their own personal benefit.

What is a common thing you’ve seen organizations do that impedes good transparency?

Use accountability like a weapon to distribute and deflect blame.  We should all be accountable for the quality of work that we do, but we should be accountable to each other and as a team.  Assigning accountability at the individual level divides team members that should have a common interest or goal.  it forces people to care only about their little piece, which naturally hurts collaboration and transparency.

What change might you advise an organization that practices poor transparency to make first

I could go on forever on this topic and the presentation focuses heavily on this, but to simplify it I would say the org needs to make a cultural shift towards shared accountability and goals across team members with a culture that espouses trust and autonomy.

How have you seen organizations, teams, and individuals benefit from a culture of transparency

They work smarter, collaborate more, therefore they build stronger working relationships which makes work more fulfilling.