Monday, June 4, 2007

Which Came First, the Trust or the Results?

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Trust is largely earned and maintained through relationships in the presence of results.

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni makes a case that trust is foundational to the behavior of a team - trust sufficient to allow honesty and vulnerability. This forms the basis for performance in today’s complex corporate contexts and allows a team (or a company) to overcome several potential roadblocks:

  • Fear of Conflict
  • Lack of Commitment
  • Avoidance of Accountability
  • Inattention to Results
It's typical in today's climate to find the relationship between IT and the Business at a tenuous place. Fortunately, open communication, commitment, accountability, and results lead to greater levels of trust. As trust (between team members, partners, etc) increases, we strengthen communication, and a cycle of positive reinforcement between trust and results has begun. More trust -> (communication, commitment, accountability) -> more results -> more trust. The flywheel is beginning to spin, and we’re building a high-performance culture that is able to efficiently deliver value to the business.

The Architect is an important part of this system.

Able to understand the needs and interests of both the Business and the IT communities, the Architect is uniquely positioned to communicate in meaningful ways, helping to ensure mutual understanding. This "bilingual" capability leads to less ambiguity in language and helps to establish confidence. Confidence and mutual understanding open the door for open and honest dialog with "vigorous debate" when necessary. This level of honesty and vulnerability establishes a wide-open channel for high-bandwidth communication.


I heard a quote once that went something like this, "We would rather have one man or woman working with us than three merely working for us." I think this is what the business wants from IT - a partnership. And like nearly all partnerships, this one comes with the need for each partner to feel secure and confident in one another, able to emerge together from the risky situations we find ourselves in. As usual, a partnership won't thrive when challenged with "commitment issues".


The Architect has ultimate accountability for the technical results of a project. When things go south, people should turn to the Architect to recover... and explain. See The Architect Is Accountable!


"The architect and client meet when it is all over and reminisce about the trials and triumphs. They hold a big party at a Mexican restaurant, complete with Mariachi Band, for all the builders, employees, and customers involved with the project. Those nay-sayers who whined incessantly and said it couldn't be done now stand mute, sipping their margaritas." (
Perhaps we should say the Architect is on the hook for keeping the "Flywheel of Trust" spinning. And the margaritas flowing!

Others have written on this topic recently. Check out Todd Biske at SOA requires trust and Alastair Bathgate at IT and the business (yet again).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"the Architect is on the hook for keeping the "Flywheel of Trust" spinning. "

Ooh. Ahh. I like that. Thanks -- Alistair Cockburn