Read This: McDonalds Enters The Age of Transparency

Let’s start with a simple truth: The waistlines of the average American are spreading at an alarming rate.  As things currently stand, 1 out of every 3 US adults are obese — and at the rate we're going, fully half of all American adults will be overweight by the year 2030. 

That's simply horrifying news. 

It means more Americans will suffer from diabetes and die of heart disease — and that more Americans will be saddled with the crippling medical costs associated with the long-term care of those illnesses.

So who should we hold accountable for this national nightmare?

If your neighbors are anything like mine, they've probably spent the better part of the past decade pointing their collectively fat fingers at the menus of fast-food joints.  "If THEY were more responsible about the food THEY sell," the thinking goes, "WE wouldn't weigh a thousand pounds."

The narrative just feels right, doesn't it? 

And it's a narrative that fast-food companies have done little to refute, no matter how damaging it is to their corporate reputations. 

After all, when you can "Biggie Size" your already ridiculously large portion of fries or order your very own "Angus Thickburger" — which is essentially a small cow slapped on a Kaiser roll — it's hard to see fast-food companies as anything BUT a part of the problem.

Which is why McDonald's recent decision to post the calorie count for EVERY SINGLE item on their menu boards — detailed in this Larry Popelka Bloomberg Businessweek bit –  is so incredibly interesting. 

With that one decision, McDonald's — a company that health advocates love to hate — has become a part of the obesity solution simply because they've given individuals the information that they need to make healthier decisions. 

But more importantly, with that one decision, McDonalds has started to change the narrative around their own company. 

No longer are they the corporate punching bag serving food that no one should be eating. Instead, they're the company that's open and honest — even when honest is ugly — about the best and the worst of what they offer.  That openness and honesty matters more to consumers today than ever before. 

As Popelka explains:

Most consumers want and expect corporations to be more like people.
Those that demonstrate through their actions that they have a human side
by being honest and open—but not perfect—are loved. Cold, secretive
corporations are not trusted.

Better yet, my guess is that the transparency that McDonald's has brought to their own menu will result in even greater changes down the road. 

The undeniable truth is that the menu board isn't looking all that hot right now, with item after item of high calorie, high fat crap that everyone knows is killing us one bite at a time.

To further solidify the trust that they're building with consumers by being open about what they're selling, McDonald's is going to HAVE to add some healthier options to their menu. Over time, the transparency that they've brought to the conversation about their products will become a tool for holding themselves accountable for creating something better.

So what does this all have to do with schools? 

We live in a world where transparency has become a basic expectation that consumers have for the organizations in their lives — and while transparency can be intimidating, to ignore that expectation is a risk that isn't worth taking. 

What's more, when you're completely open with the community that you serve, people will embrace you for what you are rather than criticize you for what you should be. 

We may be a fat nation, but we're also pretty darn forgiving — kind of like the elastic waistbands in our stretchy pants — especially when we're convinced that the organizations we support are doing their best to move in a positive direction.

Any of this make sense?

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Related Radical Reads:

Essentials for Principals: Communicating and Connecting with Social Media [Excerpt]

Essentials for Principals: Communicating and Connecting with Social Media  [Handouts]

What are YOU Saying about Social Media in Schools?

 

2 comments

  1. John Wink

    People are forgiving and when we share the hard facts with our community rather than waiting for the news to do it for us, the community will support. They expect the best from us and understand that mistakes are made. Frequent communication is the key to transparency.
    Nice analogy. I like McDonald’s and their salads and appreciate them for their efforts to improve.

  2. Janet Abercrombie

    The other thing McDonalds has figured out is how to keep the reporting simple.
    In an attempt at transparency, we often send home complicated rubrics written in teacher-speak (which are about as interesting to non-educators as the transparency of tax code documents).
    What do students, parents and other stakeholders really want to know? How can we best communicate student learning to those important constituencies?
    What is the educational equivalent of “caloric intake”?