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Frank Font
Frank Font

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How much do you trust a person that demonstrates ill intent toward you? How much would you trust a liar to return money you loaned them? How much would you trust a toddler to travel alone through miles of wild forest? How much would you trust a pilot to fly a plane if his last three flights ended in wreckage?

If you're like most people, you'd feel pretty uncomfortable.

Trust between people has tremendous bearing on how much we free ourselves to relax and be creative.

Trusting relationships create opportunities to focus our attention on new horizons instead of watching our backs and our butts.

Trust between people matters to health, wealth, happiness, and productivity.

What happens to health, wealth, happiness, and productivity when we don't trust our critical software?

Trusting software

What is critical software? Anything your health, wealth, happiness, or productivity depend on. Use a spreadsheet to calculate contract costs? Medical device runs on software? Airplane piloted by software? Autopilot cars? Hell, under the right circumstances any software you depend on is critical at that moment.

We want to trust our critical software for the same reasons we want to be around people we trust. So we can relax and do our thing, not worry and squander our energies overly rechecking outcomes and being in a nervously vigilant state of mind.

Trusting software requires trusting people

Today, sophisticated software is still created by people: Fallible moody people, not antiseptic clockwork machines. Complicated amazing software comes out of people's distractable minds through their flesh and bone fingers into what they hope is an executable version of their idea. More often than not, it's groups of people working together that create the polished software many of us adopt and depend on.

To trust the complicated software people create, you have to trust the people that created it. The two are tied together.

Seeking processes and systems that substitute for interpersonal trust is to discard the goal of producing the best that can be produced. Processes and rules are just synthetic patches trying to cover gaps in trust.

There is no process, there is no automated system, there is no book of rules that can turn a low trust group of technologist into a competitor to the equivalently skilled group that has high interpersonal trust. There is simply less overhead in the high trust group.

The four pillars of trust

For solid trust, interpersonal dynamics need to be right in each of the following four dimensions:

Pillar Useful question
Intent Do we perceive an alignment of objectives?
Integrity Is there a continuity of character?
Capability Qualified to do what needs to be done?
Results Anything demonstrated before that builds confidence now?

Focusing on these four pillars is enough to build a team that can kick all other teams to the curb given equivalent skills between them. I'll expand on these in a future post.

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