Trust is the New Coin of the Realm

By July 26, 2019Beyond Supply Chain
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“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”

― George MacDonald, Scottish author and mentor to Lewis Carroll

The Wall Street Journal published an article last week titled, “The New Ways Your Boss Is Spying on You.” To quote the WSJ: “The tone of your voice in a meeting. How often you’re away from your desk. How quickly you respond to emails. Where you roam in the office. What’s on your computer screen. To be an employee of a large company in the U.S. now often means becoming a workforce data generator — from the first email sent from bed in the morning to the Wi-Fi hotspot used during lunch to the new business contact added before going home. Employers are parsing those interactions to learn who is influential, which teams are most productive and who is a flight risk. Companies, which have wide legal latitude in the U.S. to monitor workers, don’t always tell them what they are tracking.”

How does everyone feel about this development? As a bit of a self-proclaimed privacy nut, this story prompted dual reactions of acceptance (“well, of course they are”) and incredulity (“what the — insert expletive of choice!”) It could also be filed under the category of “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.” For instance, it is one thing to conduct a time and motion study on a factory floor with everyone’s knowing participation and quite another to surveil employees in a system that offers no visibility or control back to the observed. Somewhere in the middle are the increasingly common real-time performance management systems found in the instrumented warehouses and long-haul truck cabs used in our extended supply chains.

Ultimately, it comes down to a performance trade-off between trust and control. As a society, where should we draw the line? For the roughly fifth of the global population living in China, a grand experiment has begun on a social credit system that pushes this line further toward centralized control. Per Wikipedia, “By 2020, the system will manage the rewards, or punishments, of citizens on the basis of their economic and personal behavior. Some types of punishments will include: flight bans, exclusion from private schools, slow internet connections, exclusion from high prestige work, exclusion from hotels, and registration on a public blacklist.”

The Value of Trust

Dystopian fears aside, a more productive question to ask is, “What do we gain by swinging the pendulum back toward trust (but verify) types of approaches with our partners and employees?”

Starting with upstream supply, experience has shown that trust-based partner models yield a much higher return with suppliers that are in the circle of collaboration. 3M, for instance, has empowered broader partnership with strategic suppliers across multiple engineering, procurement and logistics roles.

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The results of this work have yielded faster time-to-issue resolution and ultimately happier customers.  In one instance, a 10-minute phone call between the technical teams at 3M and two raw materials suppliers generated a solution to a product performance problem that had previously cost 3M north of $1 million per year to work around. This is employee empowerment at its finest.

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What is the value of trust at the other end of the value chain? Now, more than ever, people buy from companies and brands they trust. A recent Gartner survey on cultural attitudes and behaviors in the U.S. shows significant drops in trust when it comes to big brands and more generally, Corporate America, for both millennials and older consumers, over the last two years.

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Since most research and common sense draws a strong relationship between positive employee experience and customer experience, shouldn’t we foster work environments where employees feel empowered and trusted to do the right things for customers and themselves?

This is a good idea … trust me.

Stan Aronow, VP Distinguished Analyst, Gartner

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