15 Nov 2022

If you hide how hard you work, people think you do not work hard

In March 2019 (aaaages ago), Harvard Business Review published an article on operational transparency (https://hbr.org/2019/03/operational-transparency). The summary is:

If you hide how hard you work, people think you do not work hard.

Yet in sales and marketing materials we constantly strive to make things look and sound easy.

How many times do we say “smooth deployment” and “streamlined processes,” and therefore hide the hard yards that brought success?

Maybe it would be more impactful with prospects and current clients to share the sweat of your brow, to recall the late nights, and to emphasise sheer effort.

As JFK put it in another context, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” (The speech was written by Ted Sorensen, by the way, the unsung copywriter of history.) Would an ‘easy’ moon landing have been so celebrated?

Back to operational transparency, though; the article goes on to say:

“We found that when people could see the work that was going on behind the scenes, they perceived that more effort went into the delivery of the service. They also believed that the service provider had more expertise and was being more thorough. They appreciated that effort and quality, and they in turn valued the service more.”

There may be useful marketing lessons to be drawn from the operational transparency concept. When writing case studies and solution briefs, and creating new marketing materials, perhaps insight into the enormous behind-the-scenes work would add significant value.

PS It took hours of editing and rewriting to get this note into shape – but then, that’s operational transparency for you!

Toby Chapman-Dawe <toby.chapman-dawe@strand-uk.com>