As an external partner coming into an organisation, we’re always conscious of encountering a certain level of mistrust early on. It’s normal for stakeholders to feel wary; we know that people don’t inherently trust strangers or they may have been burned by third parties in the past. And like any blended team, where people from different backgrounds and different norms are coming together, it can take time to adjust and become a single entity functioning at high velocity.
But to deliver on what we promise, we also need to hit a project with pace. We require engagement and participation with the right people - people who have likely not been involved in getting us onboard in the first place. And when they’re suddenly being asked to contribute time and vital (and potentially sensitive) information without the right context, often buy-in can be slow.
We ask a lot of business users in terms of both time and engagement, and how we work is different to what they may have seen before from other partners. The methods we use - co-design, user stories, ideation - are typically foreign to business users. However, our ability to deliver value quickly relies on our ability to get the information we need, fast. To do that, we need our clients’ representatives to trust that these methods are going to work, so we can move them from apathy to engaged participation quickly.
We recognise, though, that trust doesn’t come with luck, it has to be earned.
Our approach to building trust
Over many projects, we’ve learned that building trust relies on key characteristics: being empathetic, punctual, prepared, honest, and most importantly consistent.
We know that when we stay true to these attributes in all our engagements, we help representatives understand their role, the methods we use and the value the project will bring to them. We demonstrate a level of competency that keeps disruption to a minimum. And we help bridge potential gaps in internal communication that might otherwise be creating roadblocks.
Here’s how that looks for us:
We recognise that everyone has their challenges. If teams aren’t able to move towards their goals we’ll co-create a solution to build new ways of working that works for everyone. For example, using digital tools to visualise complex concepts, or running an alignment workshop enabling everyone to participate.
We show that we value our stakeholders’ time by setting clear agendas, being explicit about what can be expected and rehearsing demonstrations to ensure that meetings are as efficient as they can be.
We’re big on transparency with all that we do. While we set clear expectations about deliverables, if we’re unable to meet a goal, we’ll be explicit about why. We document and raise all risks as we find them, as well as the corresponding mitigation. All fortnightly retrospective meetings are documented in Miro (digital white board) allowing anyone to see the improvements the blended team has made over the whole project.
Everyone is aware of the progress the team is making. Every 2 weeks we deliver a progress report outlining the client’s business outcomes the team achieved together. Regular sprint reports contain updates in 3 different levels of detail: a one pager for business leaders/sponsors, and 2 different levels of detailed views of the project for business owners and project members.
It’s important to us that the representative team we’re working with is seen as the hero of the project - particularly if we’re also working alongside internal data and analytics teams. We’ve found that co-delivering a quality product in an efficient way helps ensure the internal team gets the kudos for the project outcomes.
Importantly, we keep things human. We’re really authentic in how we show up, and how we treat our staff and business partners (which is something we consider in our approach to hiring, too). We give people space when they need it, we remind them about outstanding items, we celebrate together, and we improve together. There is no pretence or personas, just honest conversations and genuine engagement.
The proof is in our execution - check out some of our recent client stories and the measurable results we’ve helped other organisations achieve, all by starting with the right foundation of trust. And if you’re ready to chat more about how our approach could help your business, get in touch to book a free initial chat.