Measuring Trust

How do you measure trust? This was not a question I expected myself to ask. Isn’t trust one of those things you have, or you don’t? I know there are degrees, or levels, to trust and I didn’t think I would ever need to measure it. Working with my colleague Keith Cerny and others on how to build high performing Scrum teams, we came to the realization it would be useful to measure trust. Without trust, the teams are not likely going to become high performing, so how can we help them with building trust?

So we need a starting point, a measurement of how much trust there is in our organization. That is trust between team members, and trust between teams and management. With a starting point we can measure the effect of changes on trust. I think the bigger question is, how deep do we want to go in measuring trust? We could keep it simple, like Net Promoter Score, and ask on a scale of zero to ten, “how much do you trust X?”. Or we could create a complex questionnaire that really digs into trust.

A quick search with Google reveals that measuring trust is a new model for some businesses. The big name in the business is Steven Covey Jr., and his new book “At the Speed of Trust“. According to the Speed of Trust web site this is a complex issue because they are”…measuring not simply a trust level but the specific trust components that make up the trust score.“. Wow, that is a lot more complex than “how much do you trust X?”. Then there is a Canadian company, Trust Learning Solutions, which also offers to measure your “organizational trust index”, and/or the individual levels of trust. Again, it sounds like measuring trust is a complex art that requires a PhD to understand. That is perhaps not far from the truth when you look at the Harvard study found here, or at the white paper published by the Institute of Public Relations.

Personally, I am a fan of simple solutions. We might not be able to come up with an eleven point scale of trust similar to the Net Promoter Score, however perhaps a six point scale will work. Starting at zero, which would correspond to “I don’t trust X to tell me the time of day”, to a five which is “I trust X to to always say what they are thinking (without being either defensive or offensive) and do what they say”. And I hope we never see a zero on a survey.

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3 Responses to “Measuring Trust”

  1. Trust stems because of overlapping roles while management wants to establish individualistic appraisal. Roles will always overlap, if we change our appraisal of employees we probably can improve trust.

  2. Here’s what a Harvard Business School Professor says about trust – and that totally summarizes my beliefs!

    “People’s trust in you consists of two key components: their belief in your competence and their faith in your character. People believe you’re competent when they think you know what to do and how to do it. They don’t expect you to be the most knowledgeable. It’s not possible for you to keep up with the technical side of everyone’s work. But you need to know enough to make good decisions, exercise sound judgment, set proper priorities, and move work forward.

    People believe in your character when they understand and have confidence in your intentions, your values and standards, what you truly care about, and your emotional maturity. Competence alone won’t get you far if people don’t know or have confidence in you.”


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