Reflections On Trusting…

I’ve just been watching Laura Thomson’s excellent talk “Minimum Viable Bureaucracy” on She talks about “chaordic” management. “Chaords” are a combination of chaos and order, and a chaordic, bottom-up management style is enabled (in part, and to summarize) by trusting people who work for you, and letting them get on with it.

Trust needs to be earned, but Laura said that we need to assume that people have earned trust by passing through the hiring process, and therefore once they are a colleague of yours, you should simply trust them.

I can see the wisdom in that advice in the context of an ordinary company, but it made me think: what sort of trust have they earned in this scenario? It seems rather like they could earn “MoCo trust” that way, but not “whole community trust”. MoCo employees have more visibility into, and are more likely to trust the MoCo hiring process than non-employees. Unless the MoCo hiring process were very open and participatory, which it is not. (Doubtless for good legal reasons.) And if new employees are treated as if they’ve already earned the trust of the peers who surround them in the office, would they be less inclined to see a need to earn “whole community trust” as well? Does it subtly reinforce the employee/non-employee divide, and make it harder to be a core contributor as a non-employee, because inter-employee relationships are assumed-trust, and other relationships are not?

3 thoughts on “Reflections On Trusting…

  1. Hey Gerv,

    Thanks for the feedback. Really interesting way of looking at this, too.

    As a side note, the talk was originally aimed at a general audience.

    The type of thing I was directly targeting with my ideas on trust were comments like:
    – I don’t know why they did it that way, anyone could see it was wrong
    – That was Team X’s fault, they don’t know what they are doing
    – The UI for that is ugly; our designers are incompetent
    – etc

    In general I think one should assume a positive motive on the part of one’s colleagues, and that they acted in the way they thought best at the time based on the knowledge available to them. I strongly encourage people to engage with others to understand the motivations and rationale for their actions.

    Places I think we fall down are on the “knowledge available to them” and “assume a positive motive”.

    For example, some people who are newer to the project haven’t been exposed to the cultural values of Mozilla, and may not take them into account in decision making. This is a mission for each of us: to share and transmit the awesomeness of our culture, and be open to evolving it into something even more splendid, too. Rather than assuming the worst, take the time to understand why someone acted as they did, and if you still feel they should have acted differently, then explain why you feel that way, to them, in a constructive way.

    Getting angry with people rarely makes a positive difference in the world. I should possibly put this on a sign over my desk. It is a lesson I have drummed into me over and over again. I am personally trying to iterate towards being more constructive on that – self-awareness and mindfulness is the first step in all of these things.

  2. Gerv, that’s really interesting topics, and esp. the questions at the end of this are really great and something to think about, esp. in the light of tension that we are definitely seeing. I hope a lot of those discussions will be had on the Summit and beyond (we need to keep in mind that our community is much larger than what we can have at the Summit).
    I think the most important thing there though is to communicate early and often within individuals and groups of the community – that includes volunteers as much as employees, with each other and amongst themselves. The more (bi-directional) communication you have with other people, the easier it is to know each other in some way and build trust on both sides.

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