Damn Good Comm_RhodeIsland copyGovernment road works projects aren’t known for being especially delightful to the general public (especially when they center around construction, and especially, especially when that construction interferes with your commute and/or scenic view and/or sleep).

They’re a nuisance and an eyesore. Too often, “three-month” projects end up lasting all year long. Worse still, citizens usually have to put in a lot of effort to see if their tax money is being spent well: trips to city hall, complicated paperwork, and calls to representatives that can still sometimes fall on deaf ears.

Sorry for the downer intro. But it allows me to emphasize even further how cool I think this month’s example of Damn Good Communication is: these refreshingly transparent public works signs made by the government of Rhode Island:

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These conveniently color-coded signs give Rhode Island residents a refreshingly honest glimpse behind the road works curtain. At a glance, they can find out when a project will be done, if it’s late or over-budget, and (in the case of ongoing construction) exactly how much it’s likely to cost.

Being transparent comes with some risk, of course (the more people know, the more they have to potentially grouse about), but I think the risk is worth taking, whether the project you’re keeping tabs on is a highway re-build, an office remodel or a brand-new benefits initiative.

Why? Because no matter who you are or what you do, at some point you’re going to have to deal with a project that gets a little wonky. Maybe a supplier triples the cost of a material, and there’s nothing you can do to bring the cost down again. Maybe a contractor is late in returning their comments, pushing the whole project calendar back. Maybe you just plain miss a deadline: nobody’s fault but your own.

When this kind of stuff happens, there’s always a temptation to downplay it or sweep it completely under the rug (e.g., you send over a document that’s three days late with no forewarning and a small “P.S. Sorry!” stuck to the end). But in the long run, being transparent can both help you win the trust of the people you work with when things aren’t going according to schedule AND help drum up more internal support and recognition when things ARE running smoothly.

Did you promise your employees an update on their new health care premiums by Monday but got waylaid by some unexpected work? Send a quick email the day of that says just that, and lets them know when they can expect more info. Did your company invest in a financial wellness program that some folks think is a waste of money? Consider posting updates about the increase in 401(k) and HSA contributions since its launched and a breakdown of the expenses involved in buying and implementing the program. Need to send a company-wide email about a not-so-positive plan change? Include your phone number as well as your email, and make clear you’re there for people if they need to talk. The more you get in the habit of laying it all out there, the easier it’ll become.