A horse called Trust

Trust in Construction

A horse called TrustHow much do you trust your project team?

Do you feel the constant need to confirm everything in writing? Are you spending endless hours maintaining an audit-trail and agreeing legal terms? How much is it costing your project?

We recently spoke to a well known London based property developer who spends very little resources putting legal agreements in place. They have developed good relationships with their consultants and contractors over a number of decades and operate an open book approach. They pay their team in good time and do not keep retention fees from the contactor. Their project development director is a no-nonsense type of guy who likes to talks to people, gets in amongst the team and listens to their concerns.  He says it is all about trust and open communications.

The Construction Industry Institute says; “based on research gathered on more than 260 projects, the notion that mutual trust and project cost are correlated is statistically supported”. (CCI), University of Salford says that trust delivers the following benefits on projects;

  • Time and money can be saved
  • Risk can be better managed between people
  • Flexibility is improved as trusting relationships mean people are more able to respond to new information and approach work in a more flexible manner
  • Uncertainty of outcomes is reduced with better communication

How much money do we spent on; procurement, contacts, risk management and the “audit trails”. Invaluable as these are, the starting block should be to centre our projects on skills and relationships.  We are all aware of the project challenges; tight deadlines, complexities, market conditions, uncertainty, large teams, organisational pressures and human error, but trust is built through collaborative problem solving, as opposed to blaming. Trust is built over time, by sharing goals and by acting reasonably and professionally.

Stephen Covey said “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships”.

We all know that executing a contract does not necessarily create understanding, nor does it automatically foster partnerships. Trust is hard to create and easily undone. There needs to be a cultural change from a “blame culture” to a “problem-solving culture”. It is a change of emphasis. An ancient Greek lawmaker said “Put more trust in nobility of character than in an oath”. Perhaps time to put the cart behind the horse again for many of us.


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