For much of history, companies have tightly controlled the flow of information. There were many justifications for this, from concerns about secrets falling into the hands of competitors to the practice of using information as a form of compensation. The risks of transparency outweighed the potential benefits.
These incentives have all flipped in the information age. Modern tech companies consist of a small number of smart and leveraged people writing software to solve their problems. Creativity, rather than control, is now at the leading edge.
All of this lends itself well to a culture of transparency:
- Transparency increases our creativity surface area. The more brains we have working on our hardest problems, the more likely we are to solve them.
- Transparency builds mutual trust. Trust breeds creativity.
- Because we don't have to manage the state of who knows what, a transparent culture improves the efficiency of communication, helping us collaborate better.
This is why we default to transparency in all cases (aside from cases related to compensation and performance, which are personal issues). To be clear, this doesn't mean everything is transparent, but we share as much as we can.
When we first started out, we made the mistake of thinking transparency meant giving everyone a firehose of information. The sheer amount of information we shared ended up overwhelming people.
Transparency doesn't mean giving all the information all the time. It just means the information is available for anyone who wants to find it.
Facebook and Google, two companies previously known for their corporate transparency, have started scaling back what they share internally. Google even got rid of their town-hall style meeting held every Friday. What sparked this change? Leaks.
Trust is a two-way street. In order to have transparency, it’s extremely important that information is kept confidential. Please don’t share information like revenue numbers outside the company. It only takes one bad actor to spoil it for everyone.
The most transparent thing we do as a company is publish our Leadership offsite notes. These include retrospectives of the quarter, 360 feedback, and a breakdown of how we're feeling emotionally.
These aren't the raw notes; we redact parts of them related to performance or compensation (if we didn't, it could become an exercise in public shaming).
Our ARR (annual recurring revenue) will always be shared with the company, so everyone has a good idea of the progress we’re making. Additionally, we present high-level financials (P&L overview, cash in bank, etc.) every month to the company.
By default, internal meetings should be recorded in Chorus.ai. This lets anyone who didn't attend the meeting catch up on the contents, and is especially important for our remote teammates who operate in different time zones. We recommend putting a link to the Chorus recording into a relevant spot in the wiki.
The amount of money we’ve raised, and the various valuations, can be found in our wiki.
By default, emails should be CCed or BCCed to an internal list. We follow Stripe’s approach to email transparency. Since most of our communication is over Slack (covered below), this will generally come into practice when communicating externally.
Email transparency helps spread context around deals, support issues, and customer requests around the company, and it helps us communicate internally and build a better company.
Direct messages should be avoided in Slack. By default, you should be using a public channel. It’s especially important for any questions to be posted publicly—the answers may help everyone on the team. There’s a lot of institutional knowledge locked up with a few people, and this is a good way of spreading it.
If you get a question asked of you in a private channel, then politely bubble it up to a public channel so everyone can learn from your response. Additionally, if a question is being asked multiple times, then it’s time for a wiki article to be created.
We have channels set up for most areas of the business, but just post the message in the most appropriate channel you can find. Use Slack threads for any responses.