Why transparency matters

An excerpt from an internal memo at Scout


At Scout, we build products that bring people together through the shared language of content. That may sound a bit vague, because it is! Our approach to building is unique in that we build multiple products in pursuit of our mission. So far, we’ve released:

With more on the way.

Occasionally, we share our approach to building products. Below is an excerpt from a recent Week Ahead note I write and share with the team every Sunday.

Why transparency matters

Lately, I've thought a lot about transparency and how we work together as teammates. We've stressed transparency and communication from day 1 at Scout but I have personally failed to communicate the value of working this way.

At Loom, transparency was at the heart of how we operated. The cultural value was Lead with transparency and, not only was it emphasized at our all-hands meeting every Monday, it was very much how we operated as teammates. We had conversations in public slack channels when at-all possible and when we created Slack channels, they were almost always public. We were transparent with what we were working on and why those goals/actions were important for our customers.

Examples of the benefits transparency brings are all around us. Since moving to LA, driving has become part of my daily routine and something we can all relate do (as either the driver or the passenger :) so let's consider this example: you're driving down the road at 65mph/100kph — you're scootin' 🏎💨 — and vibing to some music while you earn points in Crew 🎶. Suddenly, the car in front of you hits their breaks and turns left, causing you to slam your breaks. Your cortisol levels spike and you have a few choice words for the driver 🤬. It completely disrupts your music flow and your overall mood.

Fortunately for us, in 1909, a little thing called the turn signal was invented to solve this exact problem. The turn signal is a method of communication — a way to be transparent about one's intent to turn, thereby giving nearby cars a way of adapting their behaviors according to that intent to turn.

The turn signal analogy continues in its relevance to us as a team. Intuitively, turn signals would only apply to cars behind the turning car. But modern turn signals let all nearby cars know you're turning — cars in front of you, beside you, and behind you. Why? Simply because they may benefit from knowing your intent to turn and, in turn, you may benefit from communicating that intent.

Transparency is using your turn signal. Transparency is communicating openly to everyone around you and, in turn, helping yourself. Transparency is a minor and temporary inconvenience with a long-term (potentially massive) pay-off. In the context of teamwork, transparency is a great communication habit to practice.

Transparency is not being the asshole that doesn't use a turn signal. Transparency is not a sign of distrust. Transparency is not micromanagement. Transparency is not being vague about your intention.

As a guiding light for transparency, we never ask of our teammate something we do not already do or would not readily do. At every step, we embody transparency and over-communication. At no step do we embody micromanagement or distrust.

Revisiting Loom's cultural value of leading with transparency, I lead with transparency at every step of our journey together. In our monthly What is Scout? memos, you can see what we stand for as a company, our goals, major learnings, and more. In these Week Ahead notes, you can see our goals as a company and the ingredients that went into each. In my daily priorities (an async standup in #team-eng), you can see exactly what I hope to accomplish at the start of the day and exactly what I accomplished by the end of the day.

Why is this important? Because the insights, learnings, thinkings, goals, priorities, etc are all readily available for you to digest, disagree with, comment on, debate, love... whatever you please. Everything is there for your input.