Week 45: Transparency is a double-edged sword

Transparency can have a tremendous positive impact on company culture—but it may come with unintended side effects.

Hey there, I am Harry, one of the founders of diesdas.digital, a nimble branding, design and development studio in Berlin, where my colleagues and I work on digital products and services for a range of clients.

Each week we share what we learn and this time we shall talk about transparency, which we see as a necessary ingredient of a healthy company culture. Ready, steady, go! 🕵️

The usual office impressions.

Transparency builds trust builds identification!

We are a small company, still in our first year and we have to make a lot of difficult decisions every week: Whom do we work with? Which projects do we accept? What activities are worth our time and when should we take shortcuts? Which equipment do we need? As a company, where do we want to be in 1/2/5 years and how do we get there?

I am a firm believer that we will make better decisions if more people with different points of view are included in these discussions. For that to happen the decision making process cannot happen behind closed doors, but needs to be as open and transparent as possible. We have to send the message that this is not just the company of those who founded it, but it is for everyone to shape and weigh in on important matters. Transparency leads to trust, which leads to identification. As an employee, if you know what is going on, you can involve yourself when you feel it’d be beneficial or even necessary, which gives you a stake in shaping your and the organization’s future.

Now this concept sounds fine in theory and it mostly is in practice as well, with one inconvenient circumstance: All the above-mentioned topics and questions inevitably have a financial component: Can we afford to work with this person? Can we afford to reject this project? What’s the financial outlook for this and next year? Is this piece of equipment too expensive?

And when an unexpected tax bill hit us last week, combined with all the expenses for our new office, we wondered: How transparent do we need to be for everyone to feel included, while also protecting the people we work with from financial doubts? Now, to be perfectly clear: neither the tax bill, nor the office costs get us into any financial trouble … sure, it dampened the mood for a few days, but we’ve build up a comfortable buffer by now, so we can handle situations like this one.

But when you suddenly get a large bill, you start wondering about more extreme scenarios: What if the odds weren’t in our favor right now? What if there was a risk we couldn’t pay everyone? As an employee, would you want to know? If we should ever find ourselves in such a situation, wouldn’t it be bad enough for us, the founders, to lose sleep over it, struggling to find a solution? Wouldn’t we even have an obligation to shield our employees and freelancers from such worries? Where do the positive aspects of a transparent company culture stop and negative aspects (fear, doubt, worries) start creeping in? Is there such a thing as being too transparent?

Obviously there is no short, convenient, by-the-book answer to these questions. We continue to believe in transparency, honesty and being approachable about pretty much every question: that’s why we have transparent salaries and include everyone as much as we can in important (and also irrelevant 😄) decisions. But this week also forced us to contemplate the concept of transparency a bit more nuanced than before, gaining a more multi-faceted understanding of our actions and how they might be seen by the people we work with.

Of course these insights and thoughts aren’t likely to prompt any noticeable changes in our behavior short-term. We firmly believe we are on the right track being very transparent internally as well as externally … but if we can make more considerate, nuanced decisions through a deeper understanding and reflection on these tricky topics, then that’s a good thing, right?

I guess so. Let’s now move on to lighter topics though. 🙃

We had a blast at Beyond Tellerrand! Also: Sharon is back from holidays!

Beyond Tellerrand in Berlin!

Beyond what? “Über den Tellerrand schauen” is a German expression and its literal translation is “looking beyond the edge of the plate”; an idiom to express it’s important to broaden your horizons. And that’s what we did for two days this week at the aptly named conference, as always lovingly organized by Marc Thiele.

We had a wonderful time there and I can’t recommend attending enough, but if you didn’t get a ticket, there’s still a chance to watch the talks for free on Vimeo. Start with Mike Monteiro’s absolutely incredible talk “Let us now praise ordinary people”. Trust me, you won’t regret it—so many relevant thoughts, even if you aren’t a designer or developer. Especially in the light of the rather depressing developments unfolding in the United States this week. Sigh.

Buying office chairs. Oh my.

Office news: it’s all coming together!

We’ll move into our own office in February (right now, we’re subletting) and we’re busy organizing everything that needs to happen before: tables, chairs, lamps, cables, kitchen, … oh my, the list just keeps on growing! This week we got a pretty good deal for barely used Vitra office chairs for a ridiculously low price. Originally we were going for brand new chairs, but these are much better in every regard, so we bought 20. Yup, that’s a thing you just do now … buying 20 office chairs. 😅

A huge thank-you goes out to Lars Heinzelmann for helping us move these chairs across the city and storing them safely until February. This wouldn’t have been possible otherwise!

And while we’re at it: We might still have a few seats available, so if you are looking for a desk in a friendly office located in Berlin Kreuzberg next year, do talk to us! Maybe we’d like to move in together? 🙃

OMG, that jumper! 😍

Thanks for tuning in!

And that’s it already! It’s been a busy week and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the weekend! Have a nice day, enjoy the time off and see you around next week. Feedback is always welcome and don’t forget to click the little heart below if you liked this post. 😇

Until next time! 💚
Your friends at diesdas.digital

diesdas.digital is a nimble branding and product development studio in Berlin, featuring an interdisciplinary team of seven designers, developers and strategists, each with years of experience in branding, interaction design and programming. We create tailor-made digital solutions with an agile mindset and a smile on our faces.

Wanna team up for a project? We’d be delighted! Simply shoot us an email, reach out on Twitter, drop us a message on Facebook, or send us grimaces via Snapchat. We’re also on Instagram, just sayin’. No matter the channel: We’re listening and can’t wait to hear from you! 🙌

This week’s been long enough. Over & out!