22 June 2018

In government and elsewhere, lasting change doesn’t happen without trust

| Stephen Bounds
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digital transformation conference roundtable

Digital Transformation conference attendees participate in a round table event.

Last month I was lucky enough to represent Cordelta at a Digital Transformation conference in Canberra. I heard some inspiring stories about real achievements in the government sector and how they are transforming service delivery for the benefit of their community.

For example, Service NSW has been a great success, focusing on delivery of a single ‘one-stop shop’ to its clients. Behind the scenes, the government empowered individual areas to create solutions using whatever software, systems and processes worked best for them, and the results have been impressive. As one example, a café or restaurant in NSW can now open in 90 days or less, down from the previous norm of 18 months.

New Zealand’s public housing group explained how they were getting a better deal for the network of small businesses they employed to do public housing maintenance, by also offering their plumbing, painting and other home improvement services to landlords in the private sector.

On the ‘cautionary tale’ flip side, we heard about an ACT Government’s team’s nine-month battle to fill out required paperwork just to get new software up and running.

But my favourite story came from govCMS, who manage the supply of enterprise-ready, accessible website software to government at a fraction of the cost of traditional commercial website vendors. After some success, they were given a mandate that would have required all government agencies to use their software – and they asked for it to be taken away.

Why would they do that? A mandate for use would surely have made their job of getting more uptake of govCMS in government departments easier. But the govCMS team understood that their path to success came from people having trust that they would get something better. Forcing unwilling teams down a path they didn’t want to take would have been the quickest way to destroy that trust and almost certainly lead to project failures.

Indeed, the most striking and common theme running through all these talks was the necessity of trust to make change happen – and the damage that occurs when trust is lost.

In 2011, researcher Mika Vanhala identified five types of organisational trust:

  • Competence trust – do you believe employees can do the job?
  • Reliability trust – do you believe that employees will do the job?
  • Benevolence trust – do you expect employees to look after your interests?
  • Leadership trust – do those in charge have good plans and make good decisions?
  • Structural trust – do the roles, rules and relationships seem stable and fair?

The most important thing to remember is that first and foremost, trust is a matter of perception. Even if behind the scenes you are doing everything right, if your employees and client don’t trust you, that will have a real impact on how they act.

Implementing better information practices can help. Maybe staff aren’t aware of the number of errors they are making. Perhaps your managers don’t see the number of projects you have to juggle.

Whatever the cause, establishing clear communications channels and being more transparent about your actions and decisions is a great place to start. If you’re reluctant to do that for any reason – well, you might need to have some deeper discussions about the cause of your discomfort.

To find out more about Cordelta’s information management services and how they can help to build trust in your organisation, Contact us today.

Stephen Bounds is the Executive of Information Management at Cordelta, a Canberra professional and management services firm.

This is a sponsored article, though all opinions are the author’s own. For more information on paid content, see our sponsored content policy.

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