What is the hardest Agile value to live and breathe in an organization?


Embracing Openness and Transparency in Large Organizations


In the world of Agile, certain values can be particularly challenging to fully embrace, especially within large organizations. While many might assume that the size of the organization is a significant factor, it often turns out to be a red herring. The real challenge lies in living and breathing the values of openness and transparency.

The Hardest Agile Value: Openness

Openness is the bedrock of Agile. It’s about being straightforward and honest, fostering an environment where everyone feels safe to share their thoughts and concerns. However, achieving true openness can be incredibly difficult, particularly in large, multilayered organizations.

Why Openness is Challenging

  1. Cultural Differences: In large multinational companies, cultural and language barriers can impede open communication. For instance, when people are translating multiple languages on the fly during a meeting, the nuances of open, candid conversation can easily get lost.
  2. Organizational Complexity: Large organizations often have complex structures with many layers of management. This can create a sense of distance and disconnection, making it harder for employees to feel comfortable being open.
  3. Fear of Repercussions: Employees may fear negative consequences for speaking their minds, especially in hierarchical structures where openness might be mistakenly perceived as insubordination.

Building Openness: Personal Experiences

In my experience working with global teams, I’ve seen the profound impact that openness can have. For example, in one organization, we introduced regular “open forums” where employees could voice their concerns and suggestions without fear of judgment. Initially, participation was low, but as trust built over time, these forums became a cornerstone of our culture, driving significant improvements in both morale and productivity.

The Aspect of Transparency

While openness is about sharing and listening, transparency is about clarity and visibility. It’s ensuring that everyone has access to the information they need to do their jobs effectively.

Challenges to Transparency

  1. Information Silos: Large organizations often struggle with information being siloed within departments. This can lead to duplication of effort and a lack of alignment across the organization.
  2. Overload of Information: On the flip side, too much information can be as problematic as too little. Employees need the right information at the right time, not an overwhelming deluge that obscures the important details.
  3. Technological Barriers: Ensuring that everyone has access to the same information requires robust and often expensive technology solutions, which can be a barrier for some organizations.

Fostering Transparency: Practical Advice

Based on my experience, here are some practical steps to foster transparency:

  • Regular Updates: Implement regular updates and briefings from leadership to keep everyone informed about key decisions and changes.
  • Accessible Documentation: Ensure that all important documents and data are easily accessible to everyone who needs them. Tools like shared drives and collaboration platforms can be very effective here.
  • Clear Communication Channels: Establish clear communication channels where employees can ask questions and get timely responses.

The Power of Radical Candor

Radical Candor is a concept that blends openness and transparency into actionable feedback. It’s about being direct and honest while still showing that you care personally. This can be incredibly powerful in fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Implementing Radical Candor

  1. Create Safe Spaces: Encourage an environment where people feel safe to speak their minds without fear of negative repercussions. This can be achieved through team-building activities and open-door policies.
  2. Model the Behavior: Leaders should model radical candor by giving and receiving feedback openly. This sets the tone for the rest of the organization.
  3. Training and Development: Provide training to help employees develop the skills needed to give and receive feedback constructively.

The Role of Trust

At the heart of both openness and transparency is trust. Without trust, employees are unlikely to feel comfortable being open or transparent. Building trust requires consistent, reliable behavior from leaders and a commitment to treating all employees with respect and fairness.

Building Trust: Strategies

  • Consistency: Be consistent in your actions and decisions. This helps to build predictability and reliability.
  • Fairness: Ensure that all employees are treated fairly and that their voices are heard.
  • Empathy: Show empathy and understanding towards employees’ concerns and challenges.


Embracing the Agile values of openness and transparency is critical for the success of any large organization. While the challenges are significant, they are not insurmountable. By fostering a culture of radical candor, trust, and continuous learning, organizations can unlock their full potential and achieve greater success.

Key Takeaways

  • Openness and transparency are essential for Agile success but can be challenging in large organizations.
  • Cultural differences, organizational complexity, and fear of repercussions can impede openness.
  • Information silos, information overload, and technological barriers can hinder transparency.
  • Radical candor blends openness and transparency into actionable feedback.
  • Building trust is at the heart of fostering openness and transparency.

Remember, creating a culture of openness and transparency is a journey, not a destination. It requires ongoing effort, commitment, and the willingness to adapt and improve continuously. 🚀

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