Trust-based steering of large Engineering-to-Order offshore/onshore projects: is it possible?

  • Dagrun Dvergsdal Dvergsdal Consulting
  • Trond Haga Kværner Stord


The various traditions of socio-technical system design (STSD) emphasise different aspects of such systems, but the core relationship in the literature is between the use of technology and the set-up of organisations. Therefore, much attention has been paid to organisational issues, including work tasks, distributed responsibilities and processes. An organisation where tasks and responsibilities are distributed requires other forms of co-operation and clarification and, not least, that the actors trust each other. Nevertheless, trust has received little discussion in the STSD literature.

This paper focuses on trust as a relational tool: the factors decisive for developing trust in a project management team established ad hoc to implement an offshore development project, how to develop trust in practice, and whether a focus on trust reduces the need for control measures. The purpose of systematic trust building is to develop team members who are, individually and as team members, able to deliver the results expected for their area and to support colleagues to do the same, thereby reducing the need for control measures. Trust building represents one way for the project manager to acquire control of the organisation, and it must therefore be better understood, starting with this question: how efficient are the various factors for the project manager in exercising power, i.e. ensuring control over project execution? The case in this paper illustrates the need to address trust and control in the set-up of a project management team, a focus which is also important for STSD in general.