A question of Trust !

By Hanns Kohler-Kruner posted 08-26-2010 07:40


In several posts on this blog we continuously point out that it is not so much about the technology, although that does play a part in Enterprise 2.0, but more about the change management, the people and the culture.

I want to pick out one of the factors in this and spend a little time in sharing my thoughts on it : Trust.

According to the Oxford online dictionary it is the firm belief in:

  • reliability,
  • truth, or
  • ability of someone or something.

It may just be me, but that is a pretty big order!

If we look at the enterprise 2.0 toolset, trust plays a big role in giving up control from a managerial point of view of how information flows, who participates in conversations and how the conversations are ultimately judged. After all, this is about peer review, not managerial dictates. If we take that to the defintion from the dictionary and break this down into chunks ...

Trust is about reliability, which means that people need to part of the process not just once or twice at the beginning but with some regularity. It needs to be understood and accepted that they say what they mean and not what they say might be politically correct, that they participate with great regularity, either through content or comments.

The second factor is truth: Easily said, not quite so easily achieved. Who’s truth are we talking about here? There may not be a single source of truth, but many different perspectives of the same matter, driven by experience, point of view, or just knowledge and involvement in the subject. We still have to have the trust that all that participate have the best interest of the company/process/department/subject at heart… and accept that there may be various flavours of truth that are all more or less correct.

And last but not least the ability of people. Not just the ability of people to use the tools involved in an effective manner, but also their ability to make useful contributions to the challenges ahead. And this also requires our  trust to say things without feeling we and our abilities are being judged.

It makes for an interesting set of tasks for an organization, to create this kind of atmosphere where all of these things are both present as well as actively encouraged and played across the whole board of the organization. There is no sitting on the side-lines for either top or middle management. They have to be just as open to criticism and making mistakes in public as all the others and sometimes have their plans questioned by junior staff.

So trust must come from both sides and needs to be fostered by both sides. I also firmly believe it is management which needs to take the first step in this, opening up, creating transparency in the organization and not shirking from this path at the first sign of trouble or failure. Only then will the healthy scepticism of a workforce, middle management and senior management can be overcome over time, a truly open and transparent structure will emerge over time... the first prerequisite for Enterprise 2.0 tools to work effectively.

It is not an easy path to necessarily walk, but plenty of organizations have walked it. What are your experiences with this? Does management both understand this need and want to walk this path, or  are they looking for just ROI on a technology  investment? Are users really just thinking of themselves or can they also see and support the bigger picture if given a chance, without worrying about their jobs ad their usefulness to the organization?

I am looking forwards to you input in this. You can contact me through this blog or via twitter at @hannskk

#culture #abilities #trust #truth #change