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Transparency, as used in science, engineering, business, the humanities and in other social contexts, implies openness, communication, and accountability. Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed. It has been defined simply as "the perceived quality of intentionally shared information from a sender". Transparency is practiced in companies, organizations, administrations, and communities. It guides an organization's decisions and policies on the disclosure of information to its employees and the public, or simply the intended recipient of the information.
For example, a cashier making change after a point of sale transaction by offering a record of the items purchased (e.g., a receipt) as well as counting out the customer's change on the counter demonstrates one type of transparency.
In Norway and in Sweden, tax authorities annually release the "skatteliste" or "tax list"; official records showing the annual income and overall wealth of nearly every taxpayer.
Regulations in Hong Kong require banks to list their top earners – without naming them – by pay band.
In 2009, the Spanish government for the first time released information on how much each cabinet member is worth, but data on ordinary citizens is private.
Recent research suggests there are three primary aspects of transparency relevant to management practice: information disclosure, clarity, and accuracy. To increase transparency, managers actively infuse greater disclosure, clarity, and accuracy into their communications with stakeholders. For example, managers that voluntarily share information related to the firm's ecological impact with environmental activists are demonstrating disclosure; managers that limit the use of technical terminology, fine print, or complicated mathematical notations in their correspondence with suppliers and customers are demonstrating clarity; and managers that do not bias, embellish, or otherwise distort known facts in their communications with investors are demonstrating accuracy. The strategic management of transparency therefore involves intentional modifications in disclosure, clarity, and accuracy to accomplish the organization's specific objectives.
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