Trust me, I’m an NDT engineer!

There is a television programme called ‘Only Connect’. The premise of the game is to find the common link, or connection, between apparently unrelated things. Like most good TV quizzes, it is also possible to play the game yourself by buying the board game, obtaining a book of connections or finding an online version. Driven by my desire to assist you in keeping healthy and alert, and as a taster before you plunge into this particular quiz format, what is the connection between the following: Brexit; Volkswagen; the election of Donald Trump; beef burgers; banks? Whilst you are pondering this, a one-off television programme, entitled ‘Fake News’, was recently broadcast. In one round of questions, the teams had to state whether a particular statement was true or false. One such statement was: ‘A study about butter, funded by the butter industry, found that butter is bad for you’. The answer was true! The statement was a headline from the Washington Post in August 2015, which can still be accessed today. Needless to say, the teams on the show got the answer wrong, because we have all been conditioned to suspect that research paid for by an interested body will provide results favourable to that body. We do not trust research paid for by a party with a vested interest in a particular result. That leads us to the connection between the above selection: trust or rather the loss of trust.

The importance of trust in business was the subject of a conversation on a recent visit to the BINDT headquarters. On the way home, whilst awaiting my train at Manchester Piccadilly, I wandered into WHSmith and, having the subject of trust in my recent memory, my eyes were immediately drawn to a business magazine with an article about the psychology of trust on its cover. My delight at having had the topic of this article chosen for me was soon quenched when I started to look deeper into the subject. Everywhere you turn, trust is currently an important factor: how do I give it justice in a small article? I have decided that the best approach is just to direct you to illustrations.

In case you get the impression I spend all of my downtime watching TV, you should know that this next reference was given to me by a colleague. In episode 7 of the television series ‘The Crown’, the British governmental system is dysfunctional. Elizabeth is taught that there must be harmony and trust between the cabinet and the monarch. Unfortunately, this trust is destroyed as the cabinet uses complicated lies to keep the severity of Churchill and Eden’s illnesses from the queen. Changing media, the BBC’s ‘In Business’ programme produced an episode called ‘The Business of Trust’ in early January 2017. The presenter interviewed contributors from Audi and John Lewis, plus a former chairman of Severn Trent Water. The programme finished by looking at how our relationship with trust is changing due to technology. This episode is still available online.

So, why does it matter? Well, the consequences of a loss in trust are easy to see. A loss of trust in the establishment had an influence on Brexit and the American election result. The financial cost of losing trust in a business is huge, as illustrated by the fines and loss in sales incurred by Volkswagen for cheating on emissions tests, the payouts by the banks for PPI and the impact of the horsemeat scandal on sales of beef burgers. On a more personal level, trust is seen as a key attribute of leadership and it is not possible to be an effective leader without this trust. Communication is key. Poor communication leads to ambiguity and uncertainty and hints at secrecy, all of which degrade trust. The main vehicle of communication that engenders trust is behaviour, not words. When trust is lost between leaders and workers, it is often addressed by the implementation of more procedures and checks, which increase cost and reduce productivity. There are a plethora of articles online describing how trust can be built between leaders and their followers.

Trust is defined as: reliance on and confidence in the truth, worth, reliability, etc, of a person or thing; to place confidence in someone to do something; rely upon. So, it is not hard to see the importance of trust in the context of NDT: clients have to have confidence in the NDT vendors, who in turn rely on the expertise of their operators, who in turn have to trust the client and their employing vendor to provide them with the necessary support. As members of BINDT we are required to embrace the Code of Conduct, which states that: ‘Making a clear and public commitment to operating with integrity and honesty is essential to create a greater level of trust and confidence and a positive perception of the non-destructive testing profession’. Trust is something we should all look to cultivate and maintain.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within the NDT Newspaper. They do not represent the views of Amec Foster Wheeler or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX. Fax: +44 (0)1604 438300; Email: or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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