Creating a High-Trust Organization
In a recent blog and article, I argued that law firms are remarkable for being low-trust institutions, and that this prevents them from accomplishing many of their goals because individuals do not work to advance the institutions goals, but mostly their own.
Mel Bergstein, who has just stepped down as CEO of the major consulting firm that he founded (Diamond Cluster) pointed out in a comment on my blogpost that the issue was much more generalizable, and that creating trust in organizations was a common challenge for all organizations of knowledge workers.
I’ll be writing a follow-up article about this in the future, but here are some preliminary thoughts about what it takes to create an organization where people trust each other and work for the common good, thereby also achieving more for themselves as individuals.
- Selectivity in hiring, screening out those who don’t want to be team players
- A written constitution that spells out the common ideology of the organization, and what it means for personal behavior — explicit not implicit, no ambiguities, please.
- Some kind of programmed socialization process so that new people (entry level or senior hires) are shown about the way the organization requires them to behave
- Careful selection of managers with both personal values and the courage and skills to tackle untrustworthy behavior (even or especially that demonstrated by powerful people) early, rather than waiting till the problem is egregious. (Values, Courage and skill – that’s a heck of a package to ask of managers!)
- A focused strategy around selective market segments and services, so that there are lots of opportunities for people in different parts of the organization to interact and hence build up trust through repeated experiences of working together
- Abandonment of measurement systems that report individual or small group results, and which create pressure on people to worry primarily about their own performance rather than the success of the institution.
This is not a complete package, but I hope it’s enough to stimulate some discussion. What do YOU think it takes to create a “High Trust Organization?”