Great questions Jeffrey! I will start with this one then respond to the others you have posted.
I would not go on the record saying that "planning alone" or any one tactic alone can build trust. What I am saying is that when assigning a team project that will be conducted online (at work or in a class) we should give some thought to the relationship-building, trust-building steps. Let me give some background here---
A first step is to look at the context for the collaborative process and the characteristics of the collaborative partners. What is the skill level of participants in team/group process or in online communication? What level of complexity is represented? In a book titled Mastering Virtual Teams, Duarte and Snyder lay out this set of factors for determining the level of complexity:
1. Has members from more than one organization
2. Has members from more than one function
3. Has members who transition on and off the team
4. Is geographically dispersed over more than three contiguous time zones
5. Is geographically dispersed so that some team members are 8–12 hours apart
6. Has members from more than two national cultures
7. Has members whose native language is different from the majority of other team members
8. Has members who do not have equal access to electronic communication and collaboration technology
9. Has members who are not formally assigned to the team
Total number of categories checked:
1–2 = some complexity 3–5 = moderate complexity 6–8 = high complexity
(Duarte & Snyder, 2006 p. 9)
The more complexity, the more time is needed to establish relationships and communication protocols, etc.
In an article, "The Enemies of Trust," Galford and Drapeau say that people use the word "trust" to refer to three different kinds:
1) strategic trust-- the trust people have in the leaders of the organization to make the right decisions;
2) personal trust-- the trust people have in their own managers to treat employees fairly and consider their needs when making decisions; and
3) organizational trust-- trust in the organizational policies, processes and systems. (Galford & Drapeau, 2003) To translate into an academic setting we could say that 1) learners have strategic trust in the instructor/teacher to be fair about how assignments are made and graded, and trust that he/she will be available\responsive if there are problems; 2) learners have personal with peers who are their collaborative partners; and 3) learnes have organizational trust in the value of the course as part of a degree or program, including trust in fair policies to do with grades and assessment.
We might generally think that personal trust must come first and that personal trust is developed when we develop relationships with collaborative partners. In some cases time and other factors mean we need to move the collaboration forward, before these personal trust can meaningfully serve as the foundation. In Chris Huxham’s trust–building loop, she suggests two strategies that can occur when the collaboration must move forward before personal trust is established (Huxham, 2005):
1.) Build on foundation of strategic or organizational trust, reputations, and fair agreements—build expectations that partners will not act opportunistically. As instructors, we have the responsibility to build strategic trust by communicating fair and realistic expectations, creating assignments that are achievable by learners given skill levels etc., and being responsive. So while learners may not have yet established trust in peers they are collaborating with, they trust that the process is fair and the instructor is there to help if things don't work out.
2.) Begin with small project that encourages collaborative partners to take the risk and initiate collaboration. In my study, research participants discussed ways to begin with safe, fun, non-graded activities to build learners' confidence and trust. Another "small project" can be the work agreement/charter, which gives them a tangible statement of how they will proceed with the assignment/task they must accomplish collaboratively, and how they will be accountable to each other. (This is a foundational Dialogue task.)
Huxham suggests that trust-building must be seen as a cyclic process within which positive outcomes form the basis for deeper trust, enabling more significant levels of collaboration. From this view, organizational/classroom and instructional factors are influential even when collaboration occurs at an individual level.
So...to back to your question...while we can't "plan" to build personal trust, we can plan ways to support successful collaborative processes.
I'll respond to your other excellent questions in the other thread later today.
Duarte, D., & Snyder, N. (2006). Mastering virtual teams (Third ed.). San Francisco: Jossey Bass
Galford, R., & Drapeau, A. S. (2003). The enemies of trust. Harvard Business Review, Reprint #3035(February).
Huxham, C., & Hibbert, P. (2005). More or less than give and take: Manifested attitudes to inter-partner learning in collaboration: Advanced Institute of Management Research.