On control and trust

Making a difference by design…

Here’s an idea I’ve been playing with. It’s not polished yet, but it’s a subject I’m exploring.
It started with a question: Why are some people good at running projects? What is it? It’s not the tools. Many people understand and have experience with project management tools, yet their projects don’t run smoothly and aren’t fun to be part of.

There’s something about the way great project managers behave. How they are. Who they are being. They’re great leaders. People you’d love to work with. They ooze an intensity AND a calm.

In my mind there’s a play between trust and control in a project. As a project manager you try to control the projects scope, timeline and budget. And there are lots of moving parts and unknowns. Which makes it hard to keep an overview and keep the project on track.

As a project manager you’re also working with a team of people who typically don’t report to you and they do work you can’t do. I.e. you can’t tell them how to do their job. The only thing you can do is ASK them to do a good job and to keep you up to speed on their progress as they perform the tasks.

I.e. you need to TRUST that they can do their work, can do it well and on-time.

And that’s where the challenge is. If you don’t trust a team member, what do you do? Micromanage? It’s almost the only ‘tool’ left to use and yet you and I both know that it’s not a nice solution. It doesn’t work for the team member (who will feel belittled) and it doesn’t work for you as a project manager either. It takes up a lot of time, which means taking your eye of the bigger picture and other areas of the project.

What you want is a team you can trust. An engaged team, who are keen to do a good job and do it with integrity. To me integrity means doing what you’d promised to do, in full and on time. And, if for some reason you can’t, be in touch early and let me when you can have it finished by.

It’s what I tell my teenage son: if I can trust you, you can have your freedom. But break my trust and you lose that freedom. He will tell you; the world is a lot more fun if you have freedom! (We all know that very well right now!)

To get a humming team you need to build trust. Which starts with getting to know each other, appreciating each other’s strengths and skills. And each other’s differences!

If you find yourself micromanaging, check in with yourself. (You probably feel a bit like a dictator.) Why don’t you trust the team(member) to get the job done well and on time? You probably need to check in with them.

Without trust and no control, it’s just a riot. 

If you’ve got a great trusting team, keen to do a good job, but it’s chaotic, you’ll need some controls. To control a project, you want to manage the timeline, budget and scope.  Start with getting an overview, clearly defined goals, and a few ‘game rules’ to play by. Work out with the team what the route is to reach the end goals and some ‘stop & check-in’ points along the way.

Author, professor and podcast host Brene Brown in her 2nd TED talk says:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change.”

If you want to deliver a great innovative product, a fantastic solution to the market, you’ll need all the different specialists in the project to work well together. You want them to feel comfortable to share their ideas, their thoughts. To do that, you need to have trust. To put your ideas out there takes a level of vulnerability. Which takes courage. And you won’t do it again if it gets slapped down. But if you feel appreciated and listened to, you’ll feel encouraged to keep working at it, to improve.

Imagine what your team can do…

Let’s design for the better!

Onwards & upwards,


About Saskia

Saskia is a new product development expert. She helps organisations to unlock their potential to consistently deliver new products faster, better, more profitable and with more fun.


Need a Safari guide? Do you have a project that you’re keen to get to market quickly? Is there pressure to perform and make it work? Worried about the project going off track?

Would it be great to have a ‘expedition guide’ on your journey? Someone to bounce ideas off, give guidance and tips and training where needed? That way drastically improving the chance of success and the ROI? Whilst having fun doing it?!
I’m rolling out a new service and am looking for 3 projects to start with. Be the first and I’ll shout you a special deal. Just give me a ring (021-68 49 68) or flick me an email. I look forward to hearing from you!


P.S. – Here are five ways I can help you to make a difference by design:
(1) Set up a time to talk, give me a call (021-68 49 68) or send me an email.
(2) Download my “Product Development Warriors’ whitepaper. Find it here!
(3) Sign up to my newsletter.
(4) Connect with me on LinkedIn, you’ll also find me regularly posting there.
(5) Forward this email to a colleague.

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