How important is Swift trust in the new normal?
Many times, organisations create temporary teams to do a project or complete other forms of temporary tasks. Such temporary teams may consist of people from different locations, different business functions or different departments. Temporary teams may consist of SMEs (subject matter experts) from different areas of the business and deal with problems with higher degree of complexity (high risk and high stake) and often lack any formal structure that enables control, trust, and better coordination.
Trust is very important in this temporary organizing of people. However, it takes time to build trust. Temporary teams are usually created either the business is very ambitious and is planning something big or 2) something has gone wrong. In such settings there is very little time for any formal confidence-building activities. They do not have time for engage and build traditional sources of trust like shared experiences, familiarity or fulfilled promises. One will be surprised as temporary teams show signs that presupposes trust. Trust in this temporary and transient business trust is often called as ‘Swift trust’.
Swift trust has attracted great deal of attention especially because of COVID-19 where business models are on risk of collapse, needed serious changes or new revenue streams.
- Tastecard few of us may be familiar with, offers dining discounts. Now they offer savings on pizza delivery, movie rentals etc, clearly the business model changed which will help them survive but not flourish. There will be deep scars on the company financials.
- Another example is Open Table which is owned by Booking holdings is a restaurant table booking service. During the pandemic Open table started offering supermarket bookings. Not quite sure how this will pan out for the business.
- John Lewis announced in July 2020 that it will not open its Birmingham store and in November 2020 further announced that it will axe further 1500 jobs at the head office, which may save the business £300m.
These are few of the examples where temporary teams are needed to act quickly (high stakes). Trust in such temporary teams is not conventional neither it is like a ‘one night stand.’ These teams are often assembled when there is an imminent need to manage uncertainty, risk, or vulnerability. Goodman and Goodman defined swift trust as ‘team of people with diverse skill set working in sync on a complex problem over a limited time.’ Goodman’s theory was based on theatre productions in 1970’s. In the modern business setting performers have been replaced by the project managers, whose work is pre-dominantly in temporary forms or organizing. People in temporary teams deal with each other as roles and skill set needed rather than as individuals.
Covid-19 has presented opportunities to organisations for digitization, reassess business models and find alternatives for broken supply relationships. The need for temporary teams to solve business puzzles and work in sync are higher than ever, as it is very likely that the world may enter one of the deepest recessions. The ink from the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent decade of austerity has hardly dried. With more and more people either shielding or isolation due to the infection, a lot of organisation have turned to gig economy, which has the potential to keep the businesses going even in the toughest of time. Businesses are now less optimistic and are preparing on whether, when, how or why things may change and affect the business model.
The so-called new normal is an aide-mémoire of an uncertain future. It gives a pressing message to all businesses in every sector to take immediate and significant actions so businesses can survive and thrive amidst the obscurity. If HR practitioners can harness the learnings from the ‘Swift trust’ and implement in the ordinary remote working, it will give them a double edged sword to thrive in the new normal.