When talking about indicators most people are inclined to think about measuring data (for example using automated tools) and use that data for decision-making. When looking into the performance of a team, of course hard data may be helpful. However, “soft” indicators such as trust in the fellow team members is at least as important.
In this blog we’ll see what trust actually is, how you can measure it and, most importantly, how to improve it.
(This is the sixteenth blog in the series “How to train cross-functional teams”, for links to previous blogs please go to the end of this blog)
What is trust?
Trust is firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, and/or strength of someone or something. If you work in a team, trust is essential. You need to trust your teammates to do their part of the work, help you when it’s needed, and tell you when there’s a problem.
People who trust each other perform better than if there are trust issues. That is because if you trust your team members you spend less time worrying. Which makes it easier to collaborate with them.
It’s also important that the stakeholders trust the team. If they don’t, it gives rise to a whole bunch of problems with quality problems at the top of the list.
Indicators that show quality and are a basis to improve
When talking about quality that supports the business value delivered by an organization, we know that this is a combination of the quality of Products, Processes and People (the 3 P’s). Measuring quality is done using indicators. TMAP describes dozens of examples of indicators. Still many people involved in measuring quality find it hard to measure the quality of people. This is because various indicators cannot be measured automatically using data from a system. Instead, the source for measuring these indicators are the people themselves.
A straightforward and practical way to measure trust as an indicator for the quality of people and teams, is to ask people’s opinion using a questionnaire. For instance: do you trust your teammates? (using a scale of 1 – 10, where 1 is not at all and 10 is completely). And do you trust your team’s stakeholders? As well as, do you trust the teams you are interacting with?
The value of trust
Still some people (mainly managers) may wonder: “Why bother about trust?”. To explain this, we need to talk about transparent communication.
It’s very important to deliver the business value that the users are looking for, instead of delivering something that may fulfill all requirements but not be useful. Therefore, quality requires transparent communication.
Transparency is very much about honesty, not hiding anything, and to be clear in your communication about how the situation actually is. Not as somebody wishes it to be.
If you’re not transparent, it reduces the effectiveness of your communication because it muddles the waters. People make the wrong decisions if they don’t know what their situation is. For instance, if they don’t know that the quality in a specific area is lower than it should be, they cannot make actions to improve it.
If you don’t communicate with the stakeholders or business experts enough, you don’t understand their way of looking at things and that means that you are delivering something that isn’t usable.
To be transparent in your communication, trust is essential. If you don’t trust the person you’re talking with; you may not dare to be honest. When you don’t trust a teammate to do their job, you spend time checking their every move and that takes time that could be better spent on doing your own tasks. Do you expect to get your head chopped off if you tell a stakeholder about a blocking bug? You probably reduce the severity without even meaning to. Don’t you trust the team when they tell you what they can deliver, you try to force them to deliver more than possible, which hinders the team to deliver what they could have delivered.
A team without trust, is also a stressful environment, which in itself reduces the quality of the work and negatively influences the quality of the delivery.
How to improve trust?
An important aspect of trust is that you initially don’t have much trust in a person that you don’t know. Therefore, it’s important to spend time getting to know each other, both within the team and with the stakeholders. Discuss not only the current work, but also your view on quality and work ethics.
Another important part is how you communicate. It should be open and honest in a positive and constructive way. Every opinion should be valued, and ways to solve a problem should be discussed with an open mind. If you’re wrong, admit it. Listen and seek to understand the others’ point of view.
Coaching and mentoring team members explicitly on team behavior is very important. Set up ground rules for behavior and follow up on them. Lead by example, regardless of your position. Psychological safety is key here. If there is no psychological safety, there’s no trust.
Note: When trust has been broken, it’s hard to reestablish it. In such situation you may even have to change the team.
To succeed today, people need to take joint responsibility to deliver the right quality at the right moment to deliver business value. Trust is a key factor to achieve this.
Trust is firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. If you work in a team, trust is essential. You need to trust your teammates, other teams, and your team’s stakeholders.
Open and honest communication in a positive and constructive way is a key factor to establish trust.
How do you work to establish trust in your teams?
Please, let us know in the comments below!
This blog has been co-authored by Rik Marselis, principal quality consultant at Sogeti in the Netherlands.
(For other blogs in the series “How to train cross-functional teams”, use this link: https://labs.sogeti.com/training-cross-functional-teams/.)