CTO.berlin Articles

Stop Being Transparent

Reality Check

As a tech manager, I've embraced transparency as a key value within my engineering teams. However, I've learned that when dealing with other departments, a different level of transparency can be more effective.
I recall an instance where discussing our approach to writing test code led to suggestions from non-tech executives to suggest bypassing these 'time-consuming' processes. This was a clear indicator of the need to tailor the communication of our technical discussions to different audiences.

Topics Where Transparency Can Harm You

1. Writing Test Code

  • Why Hold Back: The complexity of writing test code can be misunderstood by non-tech departments.
  • What to Do Instead: I now emphasize that writing test code is an industry standard and vital for the quality and reliability of our software.

2. Handling Technical Debt

  • Why Hold Back: Non-tech colleagues may misinterpret technical debt discussions.
  • Facing the Truth: It's my responsibility as a tech leader to manage and address technical debt within our department.
  • What to Do Instead: I present technical debt as a strategic component of our ongoing software development.

3. Team Performance

  • Why Hold Back: Specific performance issues can be misinterpreted when shared outside the team.
  • What to Do Instead: I concentrate on the team's collective achievements and focus on developmental strategies, addressing individual issues internally.

4. Revealing Project Setbacks or Delays

  • Why Hold Back: Overemphasis on setbacks can cast a negative light on the team.
  • What to Do Instead: Setbacks are a reality in any project. It's important to communicate them, but not dwell on them. Instead, focus on the learnings and future strategies, applying a growth mindset and inspiring your team.
This reminds me of a famous quote by Thomas John Watson Sr. of IBM: "Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success."

5. Employee Personal Issues

  • Why Hold Back: Personal issues of team members are confidential.
  • What to Do Instead: I handle these issues with discretion within the team, ensuring a respectful and supportive environment.

Your Job Is To Bridge The Gap

Adapting transparency to the audience is crucial. It's not about withholding information but about presenting it appropriately. As tech leaders, we bridge the gap between technical and non-technical departments, ensuring our team's efforts are understood and valued.

About The Author

Sebastian is a seasoned CTO and startup founder with a dynamic journey in the tech industry. From building Germany's largest social networks to developing cutting-edge fintech startups, Sebastian has been at the forefront of technological innovation. Now, he has shifted his focus to sharing his extensive knowledge and experience, guiding young leaders on their path to success. Sebastian offers personalized coaching for those looking to enhance their leadership skills and strategic acumen.
For individual coaching sessions, visit cto.berlin/coaching.
If you're interested in engaging Sebastian as a Fractional CTO for more hands-on involvement in your project, learn more at cto.berlin/fractional.