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Why Trust Is Crucial In Project Management

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 11th December 2015

Trust is an extremely important part of project management. In this discussion we look at why this is, and how it can be established and kept.  

We often hear a lot about trust and much of it seems to focus on the negative.  We don’t trust politicians; we don’t trust bankers or we have lost trust in an institution or company.  Once it is gone, trust can be a difficult thing to get back (ask those bankers!).  However, trust isn’t just about the negative or its absence – trust is crucial in project management in particular to achieve success.  But why is this?

Building strong foundations

When setting up a project management framework, there can be a diverse group of people involved who have never met each other before.  It can be hard to trust complete strangers and have faith in their ideas and methodology.  So establishing that early trust can be done in several ways.  Firstly, there is what is known as indirect trust – you have trust in someone because an institution or professional body qualifies them.  If someone has a professional project management credential, for example, others are more likely to indirect trust them due to this.

Trust can also be built through the references of others who already have trust in the person or system.  If someone on the team has worked with others before, then a basis of trust has been formed and this can inspire the same feeling in the rest of the group.

Keeping trust
It is often said that building trust takes a long time but destroying it can be done in a matter of minutes.  Direct trust in a person is built up over time, working together and judging someone by their actions and words.  Because we can never know what is in the mind of another, we form trust by listening to them, watching their reactions and taking in their behaviour as a whole.  This accumulation of information is what we use to come to trust someone.  However, when that person does something unreliable, unfair or even disloyal, then the trust quickly evaporates.
Why trust is important in project management
Some people may ask why trust matters in a work environment – after all, we don’t need to be friends to work well together, do we?  Moreover, friendship isn’t a vital component of an effective team but trust is.  People are more productive when they trust those that they work with and work under.  They feel committed to the goals that have been set, confident in their part in the project and able to offer or receive help from others if required.

When there is trust, there is often room for innovation within the project management framework.  People feel confident enough to suggest new ideas, new methods of completing the goal and don’t live in fear of failure.  Because the morale of a team who trust each other is strong, everyone can take a knock if their idea doesn’t work because they will know it is for genuine reasons.  They will have the confidence to suggest new things, try something different or even attempt something outside their normal comfort zone.

With this in mind, it stands to reason that the first thing any project management team should do once they have their established goals and aims is work on building trust.  Think of it as the strong foundation on which the house is built and without it, failure is the most likely outcome.