- Describe the value of trust and how it relates to contracts and complex projects.
- Identify four types of trust.
- Describe how a project manager can build trust.
- Identify three common meeting types and then describe how they differ.
- Identity types of teams.
- Describe the HUMM method of measuring project performance.
- Describe the importance of developing a project story.
A team is a collaboration of people with different personalities that is lead by a person with a favored leadership style. Managing the interactions of these personalities and styles as a group is an important aspect of project management.
Trust is the foundation for all relationships within a project. Without a minimum level of trust, communication breaks down, and eventually the project suffers in the form of costs increasing and schedules slipping. Often, when reviewing a project where the performance problems have captured the attention of upper management, the evidence of problems is the increase in project costs and the slippage in the project schedule. The underlying cause is usually blamed on communication breakdown. With deeper investigation, the communication breakdown is associated with a breakdown in trust.
On projects, trust is the filter through which we screen information that is shared and the filter we use to screen information we receive. The more trust that exists, the easier it is for information to flow through the filters. As trust diminishes, the filters become stronger and information has a harder time getting through, and projects that are highly dependent on an information-rich environment will suffer from information deprivation.
Contracts and Trust Relationships
The project typically begins with a charter or contract. A contract is a legal agreement that includes penalties for any behavior or results not achieved. Contracts are based on an adversarial paradigm and do not lend themselves to creating an environment of trust. Contracts and charters are necessary to clearly establish, among other things, the scope of the project, but they are not conducive to establishing a trusting project culture.
A relationship of mutual trust is less formal but vitally important. When a person or team enters into a relationship of mutual trust, each person’s reputation and self-respect are the drivers in meeting the intent of the relationship. A relationship of mutual trust within the context of a project is a commitment to an open and honest relationship. There is nothing that enforces the commitments in the relationship except the integrity of the people involved. Smaller, less complex projects can operate within the boundaries of a legal contract, but larger, more complex projects must develop a relationship of mutual trust to be successful.
Types of Trust
Svenn Lindskold (Lindskold, 1978) describes four kinds of trust:
- Objective credibility. A personal characteristic that reflects the truthfulness of an individual that can be checked against observable facts.
- Attribution of benevolence. A form of trust that is built on the examination of the person’s motives and the conclusion that they are not hostile.
- Nonmanipulative trust. A form of trust that correlates to a person’s self-interest and the predictability of a person’s behavior in acting consistent in that self-interest.
- High cost of lying. The type of trust that emerges when persons in authority raise the cost of lying so high that people will not lie because the penalty will be too high.
Building trust on a project begins with the project manager. On complex projects, the assignment of a project manager with a high trust reputation can help establish the trust level needed. The project manager can also establish the cost of lying in a way that communicates an expectation and a value for trust on the project. Project managers can also assure that the official goals (stated goals) and operational goals (goals that are reinforced) are aligned. The project manager can create an atmosphere where informal communication is expected and reinforced.
The informal communication is important to establishing personal trust among team members and with the client. Allotting time during project start-up meetings to allow team members to develop a personal relationship is important to establishing the team trust. The informal discussion allows for a deeper understanding of the whole person and creates an atmosphere where trust can emerge.
High Cost of Lying in a Charleston Project
On a project in Charleston, South Carolina, the client was asking for more and more backup to information from the project. The project manager visited the client to better understand the reporting requirements and discovered the client did not trust the reports coming from the project and wanted validating material for each report. After some candid discussion, the project manager discovered that one of the project team members had provided information to the client that was inaccurate. The team member had made a mistake but had not corrected it with the client, hoping that the information would get lost in the stream of information from the project.
The project manager removed the team member from the project for two main reasons. The project manager established that the cost of lying was high. The removal communicated to the project team an expectation of honesty. The project manager also reinforced a covenant with the client that reinforced the trust in the information the project provided. The requests for additional information declined, and the trust relationship between project personnel and the client remained high.
Small events that reduce trust often take place on a project without anyone remembering what happened to create the environment of distrust. Taking fast and decisive action to establish a high cost of lying, communicating the expectation of honesty, and creating an atmosphere of trust are critical steps a project manager can take to ensure the success of complex projects.
Project managers can also establish expectations of team members to respect individual differences and skills, look and react to the positives, recognize each other’s accomplishments, and value people’s self-esteem to increase a sense of the benevolent intent.