History of the Survey
The survey originated in a consulting assignment in 1991. I was working with a group of community leaders and decision-makers who wanted to know "how much trust do we really need?" In an impromptu way I sketched out on one page five levels of trust that reflected my experiences with a variety of teams. For the "Traditional Practice" level, I described typical groups, then sorted through the patterns I had experienced above and below this trust level. That first intervention successfully helped my clients talk about and agree that they needed to restore respectful behavior to their relationships. And since the client group was a city council and there were reporters in the room, their assessment of being at -1 and their commitment to make things better showed up in the local newspaper!
For the next few years, as a culture change and leadership consultant, I simply refined the levels, drawing on additional experiences and using the five-level scale as part of training and other trust improvement efforts. As co-author of two books on speaking up at work, Driving Fear Out of the Workplace and The Courageous Messenger, I found plenty of opportunities to talk about and apply the scale within my work, but it was still just a one-page set of descriptions. I found that people could identify with the levels I expressed, and that it helped them interpret their own experiences. It served as a kind of mirror and also helped people think about the way things could and should be in their own teams. It gave people a vocabulary to talk about their differing perceptions of what good work relationships are like. It is not at all uncommon for some people, reviewing the five-level scale, to feel "we are doing pretty good" until other voices speak up to share either their concerns about behavior in the team or to share their experiences of very high trust groups in which they have participated. I found that sharing these stories could lead people to face the realities of their team dynamics, including what had been previously undiscussable, and that it could also help set a vision for the type of team people wanted to be part of.
In 2005 and 2006, I began to think about a survey device that could help people be even clearer about where they saw their team on the scale, and that would help break out the specific elements of trust that might need improvement. Drawing on ten years of experience in employment testing, including the creation of semantic scales, I began to assemble the survey in its current form. By 2007, I began to offer it for free from my website and blog.
I felt the survey should be free for any leader or team member to use in their self-initiated team development efforts. Of course, in a way this was advertising for me, but I also deeply believe that the energy for change within a group generally cannot come from anyone outside the group and may not even come from a team's leader as much as the members themselves. They know that trust levels and performance -- and their own sense of personal fulfillment within a group context -- could be higher. We live in a networked, matrixed world, and one that increasingly depends on collaborative group efforts. But an older world based on hierarchical views and outmoded communications, including the fear of repercussions and cynical perspectives, still lies under our feet; not entirely gone and too easily triggered when stress and change come forward.
And yet the number of tools actually available to help people move toward the future by talking about their real experiences with one another remains relatively small. "Team building," when other surveys or other profiles are used, often relates more to developing respect for individual styles than actually assessing how relationships in the group are working for or against people. While that approach is one ingredient, I believe there are others, as well, and I wanted to make another kind of tool accessible. While of course I have a personal and a financial stake in the survey (through the Registered Use option), I also, like a lot of people, want to make a contribution to a better world. This is one small way I can do that.
I want to especially acknowledge the support of the Ultimate Software company in Florida. Ultimate Software approached me with an offer to share the survey through their own email campaign. I was delighted and honored to be part of that effort. As a result, the survey has been downloaded about 3,000 times (as of October, 2010) via my own site and through Ultimate Software. Encouraged by this interest in the survey, I have set up this dedicated site to support all who would like to share in the project of creating a different kind of team.
Please help make this site a useful one for others by sharing your feedback and your stories of using the survey. We are, after all, a community. I look forward to continuously improving this tool for your benefit.
Dan Oestreich, Oestreich Associates
October 1, 2010