To build contractual trust and ease communication, software teams need to define methods for evaluating and prioritizing requirements. These criteria establish boundaries and provide a basis for healthy communication about competing needs. Developing and testing prototypes of the product helps customers make smart choices about what to build and when to build it (Schrage, 1999).
Making Decisions Transparently
Transparent decision making builds and sustains all three types of trust. A crucial part of this process is to develop decision rules and protocols and to stick with them. Another technique is to use a gradient of agreement in which people classify their views along a spectrum (Gottesdiener, 2001; Kaner, 2007). For example, when I work with agile teams we use this tool to check for agreement on our iteration or release commitments.
Good Teamwork Practices
Good teamwork practices help your team members learn to trust each other. One is to build prototypes and models to improve team competence, support communication, and unleash team members' creativity. It's also a good idea to display the team's work-plans, work-in-progress tracking boards and charts, requirements and design diagrams, and more-to make the work transparent and visible. These "information radiators" (Cockburn, 2002) are powerful ways to build and sustain trust.
Well-planned meetings foster contractual trust (the purpose is clear), communication trust (the right participants are there and the meeting processes are effective), and competency trust (communication results in healthy reliance and learning). You can also build trust by holding informal daily stand-ups, prototype demos, reviews, inspections, and facilitated workshops (Gottesdiener, 2002).
It's crucial to hold retrospectives, where team members reflect on their product and process for an iteration, a release, a milestone, or a project. Retrospectives facilitate transparent communication and joint accountability (which is part of contractual trust). These sessions also enable and build individual and team competence.
A team's ability to establish and sustain the three types of trust is an early and critical indicator of project success. Fortunately for project managers, you don't need "trust exercises" that only mimic the real thing. Good practices for eliciting, defining, and developing product requirements also engender trust among the entire project community.
- Cockburn, Alistair. Agile Software Development. Addison-Wesley, 2002.
- Gottesdiener, Ellen. "Decide How to Decide." Software Development Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2001, pp. 65-70. Available online: http://ebgconsulting.com/articles.php#people
- Gottesdiener, Ellen. Requirements by Collaboration: Workshops for Defining Needs. Addison-Wesley, 2002.
- Gottesdiener, Ellen. The Software
Requirements Memory Jogger: A Desktop Guide to Help Software and Business Teams
Develop and Manage Requirements. GOAL/QPC, 2005.
- Gottesdiener, Ellen. "You Know When It's Not There: How Trust Enables and Enhances Collaboration." Cutter Journal, Vol. 20, No. 8, August 2007.
- Hohmann, Luke. Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play. Addison-Wesley, 2006.
- Kaner, Sam, et al. Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. Jossey-Bass, 2nd edition, 2007.
- Moore, Geoffrey A. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers. HarperBusiness; Revised edition, July 1999.
- Reina, Dennis S., and Michelle L. Reina. Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace: Building Effective Relationships in Your Organization. 2nd edition. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006.
- Schrage, Michael. Serious Play: How the World's Best Companies Simulate to Innovate. Harvard Business School Press, 1999.