There’s a lot of talk about “transparency” in business these days. Just take a look at any corporate website—countless organizations express a commitment to adopt more transparent practices, become more transparent workplaces, or act with greater transparency.
But what does transparency really mean? It’s not a matter of literally allowing more light to pass through a surface—unless we’re talking about a glass factory. Rather, it’s about allowing others to see what’s going on behind closed doors—again, not necessarily literally (this must be a complicated conversation at the glass factory). When organizations embrace transparency, they become more open, accessible, and accountable to workers and customers alike.
To see an example of transparency in action, take a look at Basecamp. A couple years back, the web application company released its entire employee handbook online for others to read, download, and even adapt into their own handbooks.
As if that weren’t enough, the company recently one-upped itself by making all company workplace policies public. Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson made the announcement on Signal v. Noise, the company’s blog:
“We try hard to write good policies at Basecamp. Make them plain and easy to understand. Without out all the dreaded legalese. By humans, for humans.
But I’m sure we don’t always succeed. And sometimes our policies may decay over time. Terms that are or become unreasonable linger on. Ugh.
So that’s why we now invite our customers and anyone else who’s interested in reviewing our policies to collaborate on making them better, making them fairer. To this purpose, we’ve put all our Basecamp policies on GitHub!
This also means that every revision is tracked and date stamped. You can even subscribe to be updated whenever they change, if you care to follow along at that level.”
GitHub, if you’re not familiar, is a web hosting service created as a repository for computer code. Although the site is still primarily used by programmers and developers, it’s grown to encompass all sorts of projects and documentation. One great aspect of GitHub is that most things uploaded to the site are open source, meaning anyone can view, copy, and make their own version of someone else’s original work.
Now, this library of open source projects includes—you guessed it—Basecamp’s workplace policies. Hansson invites readers to use the policies for their own companies, asking only for “a bit of credit, if you either copy them entirely or materially.”
Check out Basecamp’s open source policies here.
I wanted to share this with all of you not only because it’s a useful shortcut for developing your policies, but because it ties into a larger thread we’re watching emerge. Take a look at our recent story about Google’s Project Oxygen, for instance. Forward-thinking companies are dismantling received wisdom, running experiments, and developing new, more efficient, equitable, and—yes—transparent kinds of workforce programs.
If you’ve been struggling with old-fashioned policies and manual processes, it’s time to consider updating your program. How could the open-source model apply to your organization? To see how you can follow Basecamp’s example, or to brainstorm ideas, get in touch with us.