Launching Continuous Improvement (CI) Efforts When Trust is Low.
The issue of “trust between Leadership and Employees” as a prerequisite to launching a Continuous Improvement (CI) effort warrants exploration. Few could argue that having a trusting relationship, as employees and management begin working more closely together, is advantageous. But what happens when trust is low? Is it wise to “jump in” and begin an all-out CI initiative when little trust exists? And, what if trust between the parties further deteriorates during the process? Should you throw in the towel and try another time?
Some argue that, without a foundation of trust, nothing can be accomplished, and those, foolish enough to try, are doomed to failure. The solid ground of being able to count on each other (leadership and employees) to act in certain ways, they say, is essential to building a successful and sustainable program. It’s asserted that trust must be strong and is a precondition to beginning any worthwhile effort. I disagree.
High levels of trust are often lacking in organizations, and yet these businesses have no choice but to improve performance in order to be competitive in their industry. Distrust may have been fomented over years or even decades, and people have learned to be wary of promises of new investment and employee engagement. Employees, salary and hourly alike, have learned to always keep their eyes wide open and expect that this “flavour of the month” won’t last very long. No one wishes to play the fool! Employees and Leaders, by experience and instinct, look out for their own personal interests and don’t necessarily equate success of the business to their individual benefit.
So, the question remains, when trust is weak and yet change is necessary, is it wise to move ahead?
I SAY YES and suggest you take the leap and begin now – regardless of the trust level. The very fact that consideration is being given to launching a CI effort is evidence that improving performance is vital – to both the business and ultimately to all employees. It is also a fact that neither leadership nor employees can go it alone – they need each other.
So, after years in the trenches and launching several dozens of CI efforts, I have come to the view that real trust can be a by-product of working more closely and collaboratively together. When people do what they say they will do repeatedly, time after time, trust will increase.
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