From its inception, Electrum has been bold in opening up communication and company information to everyone who works here. Managing Director Dave Glass talks about the hows and whys of radical transparency at the company.

Anyone who works at Electrum can find out what I earn. They can see what the guy who sits across from them is working on, and even comment on it. They have access to all kinds of company info, like how much we spent on hotels last month, or the promises made by the sales team to clients.

There hasn’t been a security breach – Electrum practices radical transparency. When we started the business, we knew we wanted to create an environment that was non-hierarchical, where everyone had a say and where we could trust each other. And from a business point of view, we knew we needed to be nimble. The open sharing of information allows us to draw on the experience and ideas of the whole organisation, not just those who work on a particular project.

“…everybody was recently included in a decision to increase the number of leave days”

One way in which we’ve applied this idea is in our use of email. At Electrum, when you send an email, you copy in (cc) one or more groups. It takes a little getting used to but it soon becomes second nature, especially when the advantages are so clear. The groups are set up for each functional area or project and mails are automatically added to the company’s shared online archive.

Our application of radical transparency extends to our sharing of files, the content of company meetings, company policy and office culture. For example, everybody was recently included in a decision to increase the number of leave days, with the cost implications to the company forming part of the discussion. Just as crucially, everybody has a say on the best setting for the office coffee grinder!

 

7 advantages of radical transparency

 

1. We get the best ideas

We’ve found that the sharing of information on a project means we collect the best ideas – whether from people directly involved in the project or not.

2. Instant action

If everyone is up to speed on a project’s status, they don’t need to be told what to do.

3. No explosions

Open communication means that issues don’t build up and explode later. With transparency from the start, things seldom get to the point where we have a showdown.

4. Full exposure

Most of the people at Electrum are info junkies – they love knowing stuff. Radical transparency means they get the full picture at Electrum, including parts of the business they don’t work on.

5. Dive in and go

If someone gets pulled onto a project that’s already running, there’s a full record of it in the archived folders. In addition, when someone goes on leave, another Electrum employee can step in and get the full context much more efficiently.

6. Go faster

Open email is a huge time-saver. A single email cuts down the trickle-down kind of communication that can hold one part of a team up.

7. Trust

There is a deeper advantage to all this sharing – it builds trust in the organisation and its processes. When information and decision-making are shared, it has a profound effect on the sense of ownership.

“Radical transparency is faster, more efficient, and more productive. It has allowed us make better decisions, keep our structure flatter, and make sure we communicate honestly and respectfully.”

With great power comes great responsibility! It’s important that our people know the philosophy behind our transparency, so we make sure everyone has signed (and understood) a confidentiality agreement. It’s such an integral part of how we do things, and how we see things, that our Graduate Training Programme for new staff members gives it huge emphasis.

Since the email transparency is opt-in, it’s easy to keep sensitive communications private or to share them with a limited audience. Some information should be kept private or treated as sensitive, and we trust our colleagues to make that distinction. Of course, we try to share only work-related information!

We try our best to keep puppy pics out of the loop

Radical transparency is faster, more efficient, and more productive. It has allowed us make better decisions, keep our structure flatter, and make sure we communicate honestly and respectfully. Radical transparency puts our operational philosophy into practice. So while we really love how this approach works, more than that, we like how it feels.

If you think you’ll love how radical transparency works and feels, check out our Careers page for vacancies.

Dave Glass

Dave Glass

Dave Glass is a co-founder of Electrum. He holds a BCom Honours (First Class) in Information Systems from the University of Cape Town and an MSc in Information Systems Management from Trinity College in Dublin. Dave has worked in software development and payments industry since 2003.