04 Mar 2013

Mastering Change

I’m trying to understand why, over the

04 Mar 2013

I’m trying to understand why, over the years, there is constant repetitive ‘discovery’ of the same collaboration techniques and opportunities over and over again, which then all too often fail to stick in organizations. What follows are then generations of ‘what went wrong’ discussions.

The 1993 American comedy film “Groundhog Day” about a TV weatherman covering the annual Groundhog Day event who finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again epitomizes how many feel in the business. There’s a strong sense of deja vu even amongst people who are on the edges of problem solving to get people to share intelligence and work together.

Yahoo’s attempt to rally their troops for their Hail Mary save-the-company pass by bringing them all back on premise has triggered the latest tsunami of thoughts, with seemingly endless recountings of individuals work experiences in the past, what has worked for them and what hasn’t.

A fundamental is that getting people to work together collectively is a very different proposition to anecdotes about  personal experiences, and the more available technologies shift and evolve, the more the core issues stick out like a sore thumb.

A frequent issue inside companies is the part time ‘not my main job’ focus on collaboration and social computing products – all too often an individual or small team is tasked to explore options as an (often small) portion of their job. They are wary of biting off more than they can handle – especially when they encounter the vast terrain and fiefdoms they are expected to solve problems for. Social software vendor hype looks increasingly attractive as more urgent ‘day job’ tasks pile up, so they arrange a pilot project and engage in a tire kicking exercise.

The result is the predictable ‘ready, fire, aim’ syndrome.

Inadequate planning, interaction and communication with the people expected to live a new more collaborate life was suspect, and there is now an underused piece of expensive software to to be explained at budget time.

You’ve probably had the ‘Groundhog Day’ experience by now as the technology waves have matured.

I’ve worked on strategy projects with very short engagement periods which have been extremely challenging to pull off – a far better approach is an iterative, cumulative process that evolves over time and becomes part of the culture of a company. The superficial understanding of collaboration benefits and possibilities is often because it’s ‘soft’ – there are few metrics in place to measure and compare to begin with, and time is not invested to create them.

Back in 2009 McKinsey put out a paper by Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken titled ‘The Inconvenient Truth about Change Management – Why it isn’t working and what to do about it’, which like the film ‘Groundhog Day’ is a bit of an evergreen.

When we talk about collaboration strategy we are typically primarily talking about change management to achieve well defined goals – the collaborative tools must be  fit for those purposes. It seems elementary but the reality today is that too many companies waste a lot of money on rushing software into service without thinking through supporting enduring use models. The McKinsey paper generalizes about what successful change management looks like and scratches the surface of how to get to success – I’m bringing it up here because these are the sort of building blocks needed to accelerate collective business performance …not simply buying the latest software versions…

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