Business development 18 November 2016

How to create a culture of small business transparency

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Whilst transparency and accountability work in tandem, it is transparency that creates accountability and leads to concrete action
it’s crucial that small businesses embrace a culture of transparency and accountability to thrive, writes Richard Langham, European head at Adobe Document Cloud.

When working for a smaller business or startup, ensuring the steady flow of new opportunities and sales is absolutely crucial.

I remember once, in my early days as a sales executive, an important contract my company was working on was missed and nobody on my team was able to explain why, or take ownership of the problem.

As this wasnt the first time it had happened, I decided to find out once and for all what the problem was. I held one-on-one talks with everyone on my team until I pinpointed a few crucial stages of the process where delays had taken placeapprovers were unaware of changes, slow to respond to calls, or were unavailable to sign documentsand a lack of communication meant others were left in the dark.

Since then, Ive ensured that everyone in my department takes ownership of their stage of the process, while also making sure that everyone else in the department knows what stage weve reached, and who is responsible for which tasks.

In other words, transparency and accountability can streamline your processes, drive better workflow, and ensure that your team actually achieves what you aim to get done.

The power of transparency

While it can be frustrating to experience a hold up in a process, it is considerably more frustrating to have no view on the cause of the problem.

Weve all experienced the difficulties of trying to solve a delay or issue in a process where another individual has to approve a certain step.

As can often happen, when a team misses a big deal or it suffers delays, everybody is quick to assign blame to everyone else but nobody steps up to take ownership. It can take several days of conversations with a team to determine where errors had occurred.

In short, a team can strive to achieve goals, but without any built-in transparency it is impossible to keep all staff members up to date.

This applications of this problem reach into any area of work where a business relies on steps being approved and authorised so that processes can keep moving. From procurement and logistics, to accounting and HR, to engineering and production even into deals and sales. In all of these areas and more, a lack of transparency slows operations down, preventing employees from working at maximum efficiency.

The accountability transformation

Whilst transparency and accountability work in tandem, it is transparency that creates accountability and leads to concrete action.

Once a business has a clear view of how their approval process works, they determine who is accountable for each process. Sometimes that means getting analytics on who has opened a document, how far theyve read through it, what action theyve taken inside it and where the process is getting held up.

When everyone knows who is responsible for making decisions, how to reach those decision makers, and how the approval process works as a whole, it’s much simpler to keep everyone on the same wavelength, and drive the process forward.

This isnt just wishful thinking all the tools for this accountability are currently available technology.