Over the course of the last 20 years, we have seen many organizations strive to build a high-trust environment. We know this is one of the critical assets that attracts and retains great people. But, what exactly is a high-trust environment? Here is a short description that we compiled back in the 90s as we educated the field management team at Rational Software Corporation. This is the most memorable and meaningful description that I have encountered.
- Open and honest communication across the organization: up (to management), down (to practitioners) and across (to peers).
- Accountability for self-enforcement of ethical and competence standards.
- Shared objectives that bring people, teams and decisions into focus.
- Transparent expectations in business targets, project targets and people performance.
- Teams empowered to do what is right, even when it sacrifices other targets.
- Customer success (results) trumps customer satisfaction (opinions).
- Problem solving, positive outlook, resiliency.
A few observations on these attributes.
Trust is a function of both integrity (good intent) and competence (ability to execute). We don’t trust someone or a team solely because they mean well. We also expect them to execute. A failure to execute will kill trust just as easily as an incidence of bad behavior.
Upwards and downwards trust have proven to be relatively easy. Cross-team trust is where most organizations need improvements. When middle-level managers exhibit trust (or distrust) in their peers, teams will default to trusting (or distrusting) other teams.
Customer satisfaction (transient individual opinions) is not as important as customer success (tangible results we can quote forever).
Shit happens. Problems, setbacks, changes. High tech professionals live in a dynamic world where they must be agile and react to change with a can-do attitude. Positive outlooks engender trust, cynicism erodes trust.
The amount of overhead in a system or organization is a function of the level of distrust. More on that in the next post.