For Real Improvement, You Need Honesty & Transparency, Not Anonymity


This announcement caught my eye recently: “New site lets you tell your boss anything, anonymously.

A startup's website allows you to send anonymous ideas or feedback, “the modern age's equivalent of the old suggestion box.”

2022 Update: This company seems to be defunct… the website no longer works.

In my opinion, this is automating or digitizing the wrong model for improvement… I wonder how much improvement you will really get if this is the main channel of communication? One reason suggestion boxes are dysfunctional are that they, as one hospital employee said once, “attract anonymous complaints about other people.”

This is one reason given for why suggestion boxes always have locks – the anonymous complaints become an H.R. issue, where confidentiality is key.

We can do better than anonymous complaints.

One hospital lab that's featured in my book,  Healthcare Kaizen, found that when they moved to a transparent and visual idea board system, that they discussion changed from anonymous complaints to constructive feedback and ideas for improvement.

If your organization is using, it might be a symptom of a deeper organizational problem… the inability to give frank feedback is a problem (giving frank feedback is called  “candor with respect” at the great Lean health system, ThedaCare).

Or, the problem is that managers don't receive feedback or ideas in a constructive way.

Or, nothing constructive comes from those ideas. An anonymous website seems like a workaround to that problem. What is the root cause of the problem that prevents you from being open and honest with your boss?

The TYBA website says their approach is meant to be “helpful” and not just anonymous. They promise respectful interactions and users getting banned if they say things that are inappropriate.

Transparency is one guiding principle of KaiNexus, a software startup that I'm on the management team of.

Our KaiNexus process:

  1. Employee enters a problem (and possibly a proposed solution) into KaiNexus (via the web or their iPhone)
  2. Their leader (I hate the word “boss”) is notified of the “opportunity for improvement” along with the person's name
  3. The idea is quickly acknowledged and it's discussed face to face or via KaiNexus as the communication platform
  4. Once the idea has been assigned (often times back to the person who had the idea), then the problem, any ideas, and the progress of implementation is visible to EVERYBODY in the organization
  5. Long story short, problems get resolved and everybody is kept in the loop.

If there were something completely inappropriate entered into KaiNexus, it can be deleted before that transparency is created. KaiNexus is not a system for telling your boss that he has bad breath or that she was mean to you in a meeting yesterday. It's about constructive process improvements… so there's nothing to hide or keep secret.

Involving the manager isn't a bureaucratic or controlling part of the process… it's keeping with good Kaizen principles that managers or leaders should collaborate with their employees… not just say “yes” or “no” to ideas, as you might have in a suggestion box program.

KaiNexus believes strongly that transparency and visibility are the keys to collaboration and improvement. Just because you CAN keep things anonymous with technology doesn't mean that you should.

If your boss DOES have bad breath… then might be the best option… maybe we should try to sign a partnership agreement with them? :-)

What do you think — and you can leave anonymous comments here on the blog, if you want. :-) Tell your blogger anything!

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn. Don't want to miss a post or podcast? Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

Get New Posts Sent To You

Select list(s):
  1. kevin kobett says

    Excellent. I think you hit the nail on the head. Sharing a problem definitely gets the ball rolling. My opinion is biased. I came to the same conclusion as you did while working in the manufacturing sector.

    I know you are busy since there are many hospitals that are potential customers. However, there are many opportunities in the manufacturing sector for KaiNexus. What business would not benefit from sharing opportunities?

    Again, well done.

    1. Mark Graban says

      Kevin – thanks for your comment.

      At KaiNexus, we’ve had a number of people ask about applications for manufacturing. We are able to do that (provide a product for manufacturing), but it’s a matter of deciding if that spreads ourselves too thin from a marketing standpoint and in other ways.

      I will follow up via email.


    2. Mark Graban says

      10 years later… KaiNexus has customers in many industries now, by the way. We started in healthcare, but our customer base is now just about 33% healthcare, with the remainder being manufacturing, mining, other service sector customers…

      Our customers:

      You’re right, everybody can benefit from continuous improvement!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.