The benefits of increased transparency in the COVID 19 era and beyond

Eran Zinman

, Co-Founder & CTO at monday.com


7 min read

This article was originally posted on monday.com's blog on Medium.

Countries around the world are all at different stages in their responses to COVID-19. Some are still in strict lockdown while others are starting to ease restrictions with the situation evolving on a weekly basis. As a result, businesses are still in constant flux while continuing to deal with the aftershocks of this crisis.

Although there is no existing roadmap to direct us as business owners to a new normal in a post-crisis world, I have found that cultivating a culture of increased transparency at monday.com has created a strong foundation for building our business resiliency, keeping us agile, and moving us forward.

It’s become evident to me, now more than ever, how beneficial increased transparency is especially when this unusual reality we’re all experiencing is asking us to constantly adapt, remain flexible, and be ready for the unexpected.

I hope that sharing how we exercise transparency, and how we increased it during these times, will inspire you to think about ways you too can make changes and help your organization ride out this pandemic and thrive beyond it. Even if your company is far from having a transparent culture, now may be the ideal time to start the process.

Setting the default to ‘open’ is the key to moving fast

When companies operate with an approach that limits access to organizational information based on hierarchical rungs, they are slower to act.

And that might be fine when it’s business as usual. But when you’re faced with an epically challenging business environment like we are all experiencing today, disseminating key information across an organization and keeping everyone aligned on common objectives and goals is difficult, especially if everyone is working from home.

You may not have fully embraced this yet, but giving employees a full window into your company’s data and overall business goals has its rewards. Having this kind of access empowers employees because it gives them a better insight and understanding of how their contributions fit into the bigger picture.

At monday.com, all our data lives in BigBrain, our business intelligence platform, which everyone has access to at any time, even remotely. We also send all our employees and investors a daily text message with our most important numbers. And while we’re now temporarily away from seeing them, we have dozens of TV screens mounted on the walls at our offices, with dashboards displaying different KPIs and metrics for each team and task force.

This is what some may call ‘radical’ transparency because everyone at every level of our company, including our investors, has easy access to our data and information at all times — even in bad times.

Operating this way allows each and everyone one of us to know what’s going on in real-time. And while it’s not always the most convenient or comfortable thing to do, especially when it comes to our investors, it allows everyone, at every level of our company to sense and act on problems immediately.

Giving teams more autonomy leads to greater agility

Once everyone across the company understands our common goals and has the metrics to feed and act from, it’s important to start giving your teams more autonomy and really trust them to make informed decisions.

Transparency, especially in numbers and metrics, is a big part of what allows us to be extremely agile and solve problems quickly.

Around this time last year, we found ourselves unexpectedly accelerating away from our Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) goals. Since it was a first for us, we didn’t know what to expect or how we’d make it through but we knew we’d work together to figure it out.

When we initially sensed the problem, we evoked the collective power of every employee — our “hive mind” — to work together to get us back on track.

Each team member had what they needed and adjusted their KPIs accordingly to have the best shot at increasing our numbers — and it worked! And, because of that, we were able to turn things around quickly and not only reach but surpass our business goals.

Going through that rocky period and coming out of it relatively unscathed gave me even more confidence in how we go about working together to solve problems.

And so at the onset of the pandemic, when we had to rapidly shift priorities and adapt our Work OS to meet our customers’ new remote work needs, I knew that our teams, given enough autonomy, would make all the necessary moves and adjustments.

It’s been amazing to see how everyone has banded together to push us through another challenging time — all while working remotely in different multiple time zones and locations.

Being ‘over communicative’ with investors builds better relations

Most companies wait until their quarterly meeting to update their board and investors on what’s happening. But when you’re in a crisis, it’s best not to make them wait, even if you’re hoping it might blow over.

As I mentioned earlier, our investors receive a daily text message with our numbers. So, of course, they’ve watched our numbers as closely as we have through all of this and can see the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Most of our investors know us well enough to know we’ll find a way through like the time before this, but other investors don’t know us as well and rightly so have their concerns. And so it’s very important for us, even at this most challenging time, to be fully transparent, even if it may feel counter-productive to do so.

To that point, a few weeks ago, we invited our investors and board members to one of our company-wide virtual meetings where different teams in the company presented progress and results on a variety of remote work-related initiatives.

It was a last-minute invitation, and, to be honest, I didn’t know what people were going to present for this particular meeting or how our investors would react. But I trusted my teams to be honest and do a good job.

This relatively small gesture completely blew our investors and board members away. They felt a part of the action and were amazed to see us proactively moving both quickly and smartly. They could really feel the momentum and dedication of our teams working to meet our new objectives and goals. And what was even more powerful was having them speak and share their own thoughts and feelings with the team as well.

I don’t think I fully appreciated the impact of that decision to invite investors in on the call until later when I got everyone’s feedback. So needless to say, I highly recommend inviting your investors to join one of your weekly company meetings and let them experience the dynamics and magic of your teams working together to make things happen.

Being open with your customers increases confidence

Because of this current crisis, we also extended this increased level of transparency to our customers. It was important for us to take the extra steps to reassure them we were in a position not only to survive but thrive — and we explained how and why.

My co-founder Roy Mann and I sent an email to our entire customer base — more than 100,000 teams and organizations — at the onset of the crisis sharing openly and honestly about how we were successfully adapting to the new realities the pandemic crisis had created.

Our customers rely on our Work OS to run their processes, projects, and everyday work. We thought it was important to reach out to them to assure them that we weren’t going anywhere. And, in fact, we were using this crisis period as a time to double-down on our efforts to be the platform companies turn to as their WFH solution.

As such, we let them know we were keeping up with our ambitious product development and growth goals. Beyond that, we even shared how much we had in cash reserves and let them know that we were still close to operational profitability despite the crisis in case there were any questions or concerns about our viability.

We wanted our customers to feel safe and supported by us. And it’s the actions and decisions you make today that your customers will remember and look back on.

Maintaining trust is more important than ever

Maintaining trust means maintaining transparency. And while fully and honestly sharing everything your company is facing is never easy, not doing so can quickly break the trust and confidence you’ve worked so hard to build over time with your employees, your investors, and your customers.

I recently wrote about how to lead in this time of crisis pointing out that communicating often and candidly is a must. This new environment demands it, especially now when we have far less visibility overall with so many of us scattered far and wide.

The expectation and demand for greater transparency are growing, and it’s likely inevitable that it will soon become an industry norm. This is not something to fear. Rather it is something to be embraced — — now more than ever.

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