Tuesday, 2 February 2010

"The rules of trust " by Charles Handy

Charles Handy is one of my favorites contemporary thinkers.
This article is about changes in economy and work organization. It was published fifteen years ago, but still echoes actuality to me.
His point is that organizations and workers need to build up on trust because workplace is changing due to technology and economics.
Many jobs are going virtual. People now work from home, meet with video conference and eye-to-eye contact is almost an exception. However, in this selvage capitalism era, organizations and workers cannot easily set a trustful relationship, and need to continuous check if their needs are being met.
Handy points out that, "if we are to enjoy the efficiencies and other benefits of the virtual organization, we will have to discover how to run organizations based more on trust than on control." (page 44), and he continues, enumerating rules for trust to work in this setting:
"Trust in not blind;
Trust needs boundaries;
Trust demands learning;
Trust is tough;
Trust needs bonding;
Trust needs touch;
Trust requires leaders."
While reading this article, I made several parallels to parenting. The parent-child relationship is also built on trust. This sense of trust is intimately related to attachment. It made me think that when we break the trust connection, individuals and organizations are no longer securely attached, and this truly separates their worlds, values and objectives. The same happens with child-parent relationships, and is deeply described in Bowlby and Ainsworth work.
Is it possible that changes in society, technology, economy are so transversal that we can see parallel in organizations-employees and parent-child relationships?
Handy emphasizes that in the past, "The organization was an instrument of its owners, and the individual was the instrument of the organization.", but now the human assets of an organization are very fragile because employees do not truly commit themselves to the organizations they work for. He notes that virtual organizations feed on 3i (information, ideas, and intelligence), and need to work with their employees in a membership basis. The instrumental contract should give place to a membership contract. Therefore, individuals will change their sense of belonging to a place to a sense of belonging to a community, and thus, will be more attuned to the virtual organization's idiosyncrasies. He observes that, "high tech has to be balanced with high touch to build high-trust organizations" and "Paradoxically, the more virtual an organization becomes, the more its people need to meet in person"(page 46).
While thinking about this it occurred to me that virtual communities we can find in Facebook may be less sensitive to this high touch need for build on their high trust... and why is that?

Handy, Charles. 1995. Trust and the Virtual Organization. Harvard Business Review 73, no. 3 (May): 40-50.
Bowlby, J. 1969. Attachment and Loss. Vol. 1: Attachment. New York
Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1968). Object Relations, Dependency, and Attachment: A Theoretical Review of the Infant Mother Relationship. Child Development 40: 969-1025.

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