The Project Notebook

The Speed and Economics of Trust

To prepare for the PMI Leadership Institute Masters Class in October, I’ve been reading a digest of Steven Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust. He suggests that trust simply means confidence and that trust impacts (in PM terms) time and cost. We can see how this operates in the world around us:

– the cost of drug packaging increased after the Tylenol poisoning case
– the time to get through an airport increased after 9/11
– the decline of trust in corporations arguably began with Enron, resulting in costs and time for meeting Sarbanes-Oxley compliance

The summary I’m reading only gives one example of high trust (a Warren Buffett acquisition), but in thinking back, high trust has had a positive impact on my project management:

– I’ve been frequently called upon to handle failing projects or project gaps where execution was critical
– my projects have had regular reviews (weekly or monthly) while others have had more frequent scrutiny to the point where execution was slowed
– working with teams where trust is strong has helped meet or beat parameters and build high performing teams

Covey suggests that the traditional business formula of Strategy x Execution = Results is actually (Strategy x Execution) x Trust = Results. This would move trust from a “nice-to-have” to a critical position, making it required to achieve results.

The book outlines 13 behaviors exhibited by high trust leaders. The first one caught my eye — its no wonder why most politicians, used car salesmen, and many executives have an issue with trust. The behavior is “Talk Straight”. This means to communicate clearly to make sure there is no misunderstanding. No withholding, partial truth, flattery, spin or distortion of facts. (This one is easy for me… as a former New Yorker, I’m always direct).

Another concept I can readily identify with is that one of the four cores for building trust is results. Jack Welch talks about results as having clout or performance chips on the table. Results are evaluated by past performance, present performance, and anticipated future performance. Low Results = Low Trust.

This is a very difficult book to summarize because there are many dimensions of trust which are explored. So my suggestion would be to go out and get a copy because it will be a great tool for building high performance teams and achieving project excellence.

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP