Trust in Constant Change
So, how does someone trust your organisation when everything is constantly changing? Has anyone ever articulated what it is about your organisation that they trust? And what happens when those criteria (conscious or unconscious) change over time?
The three areas that I believe have the most impact on trust are:
- Transparency / openness (awareness, honesty, understanding)
- Consistency (stability, sustainability, reliability, integrity, responsibility)
- Mutual support (respect, difference, harmony, accountability, sense of community)
For example, when we look at the advertised price of an airline ticket do we trust that it will be the actual cost to us? Perhaps more importantly, if the basis for determining the cost is always changing (lack of consistency), if it is difficult to understand the basis of the cost (limited transparency) and if there does not appear to be any respect for the customer (mutual support), then how can the airline expect to be trusted in any other situation?
This becomes particularly important when it comes to the ongoing safety of the airline’s flights. If we can’t trust an airline with its pricing, how can we assume they have a different approach to the safety of their planes? Are we depending on the flight staff, government bodies etc to provide the ongoing transparency, consistency and mutual support necessary for trust?
A somewhat similar example is the free anti-virus software that I use on my computer. The software company sends me invitations, on an ongoing basis, to purchase their ‘upgraded’ version and I have been tempted to support them financially. However, over the course of a month their incentives kept changing (inconsistent) and the original price was ambiguous (lack of transparency). I never knew if I was getting a good price so did not trust them and therefore will not support them financially (mutual support). Having said that, I continue to use their software based on the supposedly independent reviews on their effectiveness……!
Organisations must prove and maintain trust on an ongoing basis. In the past I think there has been an assumption that things were a little slower, less complex and less inter-related. We looked at things in ‘chains’ of relationships that appeared reasonably stable. This allowed us to take trust more for granted.
The challenge now is that we live in a faster-changing, more complex and inter-dependent world. We now see things more holistically with networks of relationships that are constantly evolving – where the basis for trust can change constantly. If we are to maintain levels of trust with our various stakeholders we must now pay much closer attention to our relationships on an ongoing basis – particularly our transparency, consistency and mutual support.