Does everyone need or want to know how the sausage is made?

Transparency in business contributes to ensuring that what a company does is appropriate and that all those who need to know — the public at large, stakeholders, customers — are not kept in the dark. Trying to “put lipstick on a pig” can lead to death by a thousand cuts, and frequently comes back to haunt an organization and its future credibility.

Today, full disclosure is not only mandatory, but it also makes companies better, even though it may not seem that way at times. The key to providing information outside a company’s inner sanctum is to adopt a protocol that results in relevant and appropriate information that is open to scrutiny.

Business transparency is sharing both the good and bad in a way that allows all to see what’s behind the curtain. This helps guarantee that no one is misled or, worse, questionable acts aren’t hidden or disguised.

The good news is that savvy organizations, spurred over the past few years by public exposure through social media and the internet, have adopted a policy that provides access to more of the “story behind the story,” rather than cloaking what should have initially been revealed.

The important caveat is knowing how much information or even what gory details are necessary. Unfortunately, there are many documented cases in which companies have revealed too much information that resulted in more questions than answers.

Here’s an example of full and yet prudent disclosure: You have a headache, and before going to bed to get a better night’s sleep, you pick up a bottle of aspirin, glance at the warning label, and decide you can live with the most common risks. However, if every single possible dangerous drug interaction or even remote side effect were included on the label, some would put the bottle down and just suffer the throbbing discomforts. Nevertheless, it’s available for those who want added information by calling a phone number prominently printed on the label immediately below the likely cautionary disclosures.

This same analogy applies to many things in business that are best kept to a smaller group that is responsible for a specific process. There is a delicate balance between telling people what they want and need to know and providing information that doesn’t add further understanding. When one is asked the time of day, the response doesn’t have to include how the watch was made. Certainly, if someone poses an appropriate question, and the answer is not proprietary, the company should be forthcoming.

An essential aspect of providing the relevant information is for a company to learn to scrub a message to include the vital material details of what or why something occurred. Typically, though, the end-user should be spared information that is not central to the subject matter.

Remember, once something is disclosed, it’s impossible for people to unsee or unhear something that proved to be irrelevant or disturbing.

If you like the taste of sausage, there is no law that says you need to know how it’s made. ●

Visit Michael Feuer’s website to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”

Michael Feuer