The Measurement Standard

September 27, 2007

Greater Transparency Is the Key to Building Greater Trust


and Transparency

Go Hand In Hand

Rawlins' research shows
doing things right isn't nearly as important as doing the right thing.

by Katie
Delahaye Paine

five years ago, Linda
Hon, Jim Grunig and I wrote a white paper about measuring trust

that set out some pretty clear steps as to
how organizations could do it. At the time, we gave some
general advice on what to do if you found that trust in your organization
was less than what you wanted it to be.

To be
honest, most of these recommendations fell somewhere between "duh,"
and "of course," and mostly had to do with doing
things right:

  • Articulate
    a set of ethical principles,
  • Create
    a process for transparency that is appropriate for current and future
    operations, and
  • Establish
    a formal system of trust measurement.

And they
are all perfectly acceptable things to do.

new research by Brad Rawlins (he is our Measurement
Maven of the Month for this month
), shows that doing things right
isn't nearly as important as doing the right thing, and that being
a driving factor in the fostering of trust.

In a recent
presentation at
the Universidad Del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia, Dr.
Rawlins outlined his findings, and we summarize them below. (You
can read the whole paper here,
excerpted from the IPRRC proceedings of last spring. Read my
blog coverage of that presentation here.

The overall
results of the study demonstrate that transparency and trust are
highly correlated, and, "one could conclude that as organizations
become more transparent they will also become more trusted." Although
the study was limited to employees, the results are strong enough
to imply that the correlation between trust and transparency will
hold for other stakeholder groups as well.


For definitions
of trust, see our paper above, since Rawlins uses the same terminology.
transparency, Rawlins
starts with
the 2005
Mirriam-Webster definition:

  • Free
    from pretense or deceit
  • Easily
    detected or seen through
  • Readily

He then
supplements it with one from Anne
Florini of the Brookings Institution

opposite of secrecy. Secrecy
means deliberately hiding your actions; transparency means deliberately
revealing them.

to Rawlins, there are three aspects of transparency:

  1. Informational
    openness, making publicly available all legally releasable information
    -- whether positive
    or negative in nature -- in a manner which is accurate, timely,
    balanced, and unequivocal. Information must be substantial to
    meet stakeholders
    needs. Disclosure by itself does not equal transparency, in fact
    some forms of disclosure can defeat the purposes of transparency.
  2. Participatory
    is what
    separates transparency from disclosure. Transparency cannot be
    successful unless you know what stakeholders want and need to
    know. So, to ensure that the
    shared is relevant and useful, stakeholders must be
    allowed to identify what they need to know.
  3. Accountability
    Transparency holds people accountable for their
    actions, words and decisions. Rawlins cited The Naked Corporation:
    If you're going to be naked, you'd better be buff. In other words,
    if you want to shine, you have to clean up your act.

In addition,
Rawlins suggests that each organization might experience differing
of transparency:

  • Active
    transparency, where transparency is simply part of the culture;
  • Forced
    transparency, in response to Sarbanes-Oxley or
    other legislation; and
  • Pseudo
    transparency, in which an organization obfuscates through
    disclosure and greenwashing, which
    is self-promotion disguised as transparency.


employees of a large regional healthcare organization were surveyed
on issues of trust and transparency. 385 surveys were completed
for a 32% response
rate. Twenty-four surveys were deleted because they were incomplete,
leaving 361 surveys for analysis. The sample demographics matched
approximately those of the healthcare organization's population.


Trust and transparency are significantly and strongly correlated

was closely connected with transparency and the two are positively
According to Rawlins, "As employee perceptions of organizational
transparency increased so did trust. Additionally,
the three components of trust (competence, integrity, and goodwill)
and three
components of transparency (participation, substantial information,
and accountability) are positively related."

Regression analyses indicate that employees found integrity and
more important to overall trust than competency.

participation that leads to an organization sharing information that
employees find useful and substantial, and that holds an organization
accountable, is the strongest predictor of overall transparency.

see sharing information as a sign of integrity.

substantial information and being accountable was tied to employee
perceptions of organizational integrity.

participation and willingness to be accountable was tied to perception
of goodwill


Dr. Rawlins
is the only speaker I've heard of late that closed
his presentation
with a quote from the bible that I actually found
to be entirely relevant to the presentation.   Would
that more of our corporations heed these words:

this is the condemnation. That light is come into the world,
and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were
for everyone that doest evil hateth the light, neither cometh
to the
light, lest his deeds should be reproved, but he that doest a
Truth cometh to the light that his deeds maybe e manifest, that
they are
wrought in
God.  John 3:19-21



October 01, 2007

Carnival of Trust – October 2007

Katie Delahaye Paine, at KD Paine’s Measurement Standard, says trust and transparency go hand in hand, and points to new research by Dr. Brad Rawlins that shows that doing things right isn’t nearly as important as doing the right thing, and that bein…

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