My last post posed the question, How do you manage trust with a new team? Some suggested taking a cautious approach to building respect and rapport. Others addressed the long-term nature of trust developed in a traditional framework.
These are valid, but there's a different form of trust that can also be highly beneficial to project teams: swift trust.
Swift trust occurs when a diverse group of experts are brought together in a temporary organization such as a virtual team created for an urgent project.
It's especially prevalent when the team is required to deliver a result that requires interdependent working and there are significant external pressures. The team has to work out their differences on the fly and "blindly" trust one another to do their jobs simply because there is no alternative.
In these circumstances, team members tend to exhibit behaviors that presuppose trust. Each person knows they're trustworthy and assumes they can trust the others. Therefore, the team simply acts as if trust is present even though there has been no opportunity to develop the more traditional forms of trust.
This is swift trust, and although it can be a powerful force, it is also fragile and easily broken. Activity contributing to the team's common goal, professional behavior and an effective team leader allow swift trust to develop. But it will only last as long as everyone behaves in a trustworthy way.
One aspect of developing swift trust is the presence of recognized expertise. We tend to trust modern medicine and therefore tend to trust doctors. Very few people when rushed into hospital in an emergency want to check the credentials and track record of the doctors working to save their life. They trust the hospital to provide competent doctors to help solve their problem.
Another aspect is a clearly defined objective and clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The key to developing swift trust is interdependent work focused on a common objective. Each member of the team needs the other's particular expertise for the team as a whole to be successful.
Swift trust is not a random occurrence. By understanding the criteria that encourage its development, a manager can create a favorable environment. Then the act of trusting tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
By trusting others we encourage both trustworthy behaviors and engender trust in return. However, as with traditional trust, swift trust can easily be destroyed by untrustworthy behavior. It needs nurturing and support.
The concept of swift trust is not new. There have been papers and books on the subject for at least a decade. But making pragmatic use of the concept on project teams has not been widespread.
If you've been involved in a temporary team under pressure, did you notice swift trust between you and your colleagues, or was it missing altogether? Please share your experiences to help build a better understanding of this interesting phenomenon.