Dictionary.com (2015) defines trust as a reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence. It is a confident expectation, a hope that someone or something is going to deliver as promised On a project team the members of the team fully expect and trust that the project leadership to manage the project efficiently. But it’s a trust that has to be earned, and not just by the projects management team; it has to be earned by everyone in order for the project to be successful.
Valerie Lynn Herzog conducted a study: Trust Building on Corporate Collaborative Project Teams (Herzog, 2001) in which she determined that trust is a huge factor in the successful completion of a project. But, there is a process the group needs to go through in order to build trust amongst the team members. Ms. Herzog’s paper concentrates on the team collaborative trust building because many times teams are chosen and the team only has the opportunity to work together, many times without really knowing one another.
Herzog’s study centers around building trust through collaborative efforts; such as shared processes, honest communications and just getting along (Herzog, 2001). She had found that while upper management many times have the choice of whom they will work with, team members are usually assigned to a project with little choice but to accept the assignment (Herzog, 2007).
I know this to be true in my assignments. Even as Project Manager, I’m generally not given the choice of which projects I will be managing. In fact, I’m rarely given the choice of which resources are assigned to my projects.
Research has found that levels of trust are based on the collaborative team member’s perception of themselves, of other team members, and of other stakeholders in the project (Herzog, 2007). These trust levels really embody the key behaviors that are needed for project or team success: Mutual trust; Interdependency; Accountability; valuing individual differences; Transparency, and learning and recognition (Wong, 2007). Without these, even a well-planned project could be doomed to fail because no one trusts each other. Without these key behaviors; particularly mutual trust, a project is usually doomed to failure, or worse, a long agonizing path to success.
Perceptions of Team:
In the study Herzog interviewed 20 participants from 4 different IT projects. The participants had positions on the teams ranging from Senior Manager to Junior Technical Designers. The participants included Project Managers, Business Analysts, Programmers, Senior Managers, and Program Managers.
Perceptions of different issue or deliverables in the project appear to be universal. For example, the charter was seen as a lot of nice to haves but not to be taken seriously since no one really looks at once its produced (Herzog, 2007) The reality is that the Charter is the most important document in a project. It contains the project purpose, high level requirements, the project scope (PMBOK, 2013). Part of the trust has to be delivered through the charter. Team members like to feel that what they’re doing has meaning. Without any meaning then the team wonders why they’re doing what is being asked of them.
Using collaborative sharing helps to bring the team together, especially in the beginning of the project. Each individual team member comes into the project with their own perception of what is involved. And, most likely, with how to solve the problem or to create the solution that brings the project to a successful conclusion. Imagine that you have a team of 20 in a room and each one has the solution. The question is: how are you going to bring each of these individual solutions together as one solution?
Herzog found that creating that trusts requires formal processes and that these processes should occur frequently (Herzog, 2001). I have found that one collaborative process with the team is to specifically review the Project Charter so that they understand what is being asked and they see there is high-level support for the project. I also have found it to be a great way for the team to build trust in each other by sharing the process of review together. The team begins to get to know one another as they share their thoughts on what the Charter means to them. As they get to know one another they begin to trust and to form bonds that help to create a working relationship. Collaborative sharing helps to build a solid foundation in which to drive projects to a successful conclusion.
The solution to the above question was to begin with open and honest communications. As a team, together you decide how the team will communicate in an open and honest way. Building open and honest communications builds a trusting environment for the team and leads to successful projects (Herzog, 2001).
By defining the communications processes we can begin to realize other team member’s motives for the solutions they bring to the table. By understanding a team members motives we can better understand their responses to questions or their ideas when the present them. By encouraging team members to openly respond to inquiries or questions we could also be opening the flood gates to better solutions to the projects goals. Trust has to happen between two people first and then grow from that point. As that trust grows, people feel free to speak up, other team members begin to open up and trust other team members. The goal, hopefully, is that trust becomes contagious, as trust makes for a better work environment.
But trust needs to be maintained on a continuous basis. It’s not a one shot and done deal (Herzog, 2001). Trust can be lost at any given time for a lot of different reasons. A team member could show an indifference to the team, not care if their held accountable or not. A team member could decide that their solution is better than what the team agreed and they start to act independent of the team. Here the team needs to bring everyone together to reassert the ground rules and clearly define the authority level the team abides by (Wong, 2007). Clearly, the process of building and maintaining trust is an ongoing process.
Trust has been shown to be of utmost importance to delivering projects successfully. Without even the best planned projects can fail. Without trust the project is doomed to continually fighting battles that threaten the team’s ability to deliver a quality product/service on time and within budget. By sharing collaborative processes and conditions amongst the whole team on a continuous basis the team and the project will benefit. Collaborative sharing will help to build the trust necessary to bringing a successful conclusion to the project.
Dictionary.com. (2015). Trust | Define Trust at Dictionary.com. In Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/trust?s=t
Fleming, Q. W. (2003). Project procurement management: Contracting, subcontracting, teaming. Tustin, CA: FMC Press.
Herzog, V. (2001). Trust building on corporate collaborative project teams. Project Management Journal, 32(1).
Project Management Institute. (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide), fifth edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.
Wong, Z. (2007). Human factors in project management: Concepts, tools, and techniques for inspiring teamwork and motivation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.