Can trust be overshadowed? The short answer is yes, it potentially can.
I recently picked up a study done on the impact of trust in global virtual teams by Jarvenpaa, Shaw and Staples which provided some of the usual trust suspects but also highlighted another angle for me: that trust can potentially be overshadowed by structure. Specifically, the study cited that “Trust is likely to have the greatest effect in situations or conditions with weak structure, some effect in situations with moderately strong structure, and little effect in situations with strong structure.”
In our book Speed Lead, we highlight the importance of establishing team operating norms and practices right up front. We provide a detailed template for a kick-off meeting outlining all of the critical components that should be covered at the start of a team project.
Our research has shown us that by taking the time to clarify purpose, reflect on past learnings, identify roles and initial action steps, and highlight ways and processes for team working, we not only are off to a strong start but have the chance of reaching our end goal by up to 25% more quickly. This increase and clarification around operating norms can subsequently increase the trust factor.
The article defines trust as “an intention or willingness to depend on another party” and while structure can help alleviate some of this “dependency”, it does not, in my opinion, remove the need for trust completely. Trust is a critical element of virtual team working. In a highly structured team environment the role of trust may be somewhat downplayed, but the absence of trust, regardless of structure, can be detrimental.
Take the upfront time to establish both structure and trust!
Source: Toward Contextualized Theories of Trust: The Role of Trust in Global Virtual Teams, by Jarvenpaa, Shaw and Staples. Information Systems Research Vol. 15, No. 3, 7 September 2004, pp. 250–26