Collaboration and social tools promise to transform how organisation work, dramatically improving the way that staff communicate and work together. They also provide new ways of storing (and retrieving) corporate information.
For all this, these are deeply unfamiliar tools for most “normal” staff (ie not us). They are not drop-in replacements for our old ways of working, and require different behaviours and ways of thinking.
It is therefore strange to see so many organisations rolling out these tools with little or no training or support. In many cases, there isn’t even an announcement heralding the release of these new tools, with adoption left to organic growth through word-of-mouth.
Is it any surprise, therefore, to see staff replicate their old behaviours in the new tools?
Rich team spaces become online copies of the file shares they were meant to replace, with the same problems. Social tools are used as replacements for all-staff emails, increasing noise rather than reducing it. Collaboration spaces are created as experiments, and then quickly abandoned.
If these tools are meant to transform our organisations, why are we not making the change management effort required to achieve this outcome?
Communication and support
When collaboration and social tools are deployed, they shouldn’t be rolled out quietly. An overall communications strategy is needed to:
- inform staff about the new tools
- educate them on how to use them
- sell them on the benefits
- encourage them to change their working practices
- answer their questions
- help them to be effective
For example, we’ve seen some great videos produced within organisations to promote the adoption of collaboration tools (including in this year’s soon-to-be-announced Intranet Innovation Awards).
Michael Sampson’s book User Adoption Strategies is also a must-read. In it, he compellingly outlines the need behavioural change if collaboration tools are going to succeed within organisations, and provides a simple four-stage model for planning this transformation.
Most importantly, he outlines 20 (!) different change strategies that can be applied to gain adoption of collaboration tools. These range from quick-and-easy activities to major enterprise initiatives; all are worth considering.
This is a masterwork, and it highlights what organisations must do make collaboration tools work. As Michael reminds us, “hope is not a strategy”.