Organisational transparency is a prerequisite to success as an engineering manager:
If we want our engineers to operate with autonomy and ownership and our engineering managers to be successful, we must arm them with real information about what’s happening at the highest levels of the company, and why. Too often, transparency stops at the EM and they’re stonewalled by upper management, who neither loop them into what’s really happening, nor feel accountable for accepting feedback from the team or providing a response.
In organizations that operate this way, the EM is destined to be crushed between upper management’s silence and these very legitimate new expectations from their teams. 1
Some things that may look like transparency are actually toxic. Think gossip, manipulation, and unproductive venting that pits one person or group against another. This may seem obvious, but it can be hard to reflect in the moment. I’ve certainly made this mistake, especially when stressed. But when transparency can be a way of honestly connecting with someone, where’s the line?
I try my best to draw it at: What can I say that would not embarrass me if another person or group heard it? Have I given the party mentioned this feedback directly? 2