Transparency and Honesty Aren’t the Same

Transparency without honesty is a way to create illusions under the guise of trust, truth and accountability.

Work in human services long enough and you’ll come to learn that transparency is a word made of top-quality plastic — it can be molded into whatever people want it to mean. It’s a feel-good word that gives us a sense that what’s happening is open, fair, democratic (another wonderful plastic word), and true. It’s about creating a sense of trust and accountability.

If so, then ask yourself these questions in your work or with your clients and see what happens:

Why do you have a proposed plan or strategy prepared if we are in the discovery phase of the project? What are we discovering?

Why is there a framework already in place when we’re seeking to explore new ideas, contexts, and possibilities for us?

Why did you say everything is on the table for consideration when there is a resource budget that only points to specific activities and personnel?

If we are truly innovating and doing something both context- and situationally appropriate, why is there a call for best practice outcomes?

If learning is essential and valued why is there no time or resources set aside to integrate the lessons into practice?

If we only have evidence for part of what we’re doing, yet say we are an evidence-based organization, what do we mean?

What are our principles for if we never use them to evaluate our actions?

When we say we’re developing strategies that fit the real world and aid our practice in the world, why are we using a 5-year planning cycle?

If diversity and encouraging different perspectives on the world are part of our values, why is there so much agreement in our decision-making process?

If I’m supposed to be empowered, why am I so frustrated?

What are we telling people when we ask for their input and feedback but don’t ever do things based on what people tell us?

Why does it take so much time to provide a meaningful answer to your ‘quick question‘?

What are you sorry for when you say ‘I’m sorry’?

When we have no evidence to guide our process of making decisions using the evidence have, how is that evidence-based?

If failure is OK around here, why aren’t we trying something different from the usual approach?

It’s easy to be transparent, it’s harder being honest.

Photo by Andrew Butler on Unsplash

Cameron D. Norman

I am a designer, psychologist, educator, evaluator, and strategist focused on innovation in human systems. I'm curious about the world around me and use my role as Principal and President of Cense Ltd. as a means of channeling that curiosity into ideas, questions, and projects that contribute to a better world.

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