Enterprise 2.0 adoption : you need both a voice and a screwdriver

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This is a sequel of my previous post related to enterprise 2.0 adoption, enriched by the many discussions and comments that followed. Here’s a synthesis of what emerged from that.

• There must be someone on the driver seat

As Oscar Berg pointed out, there must be someone in the driver’s seat. Seen from this angle, of course, adoption can be driven. Rather, it has to be embodied : someone has to embody both change and novelty and carry it all with a loud, clear and intelligible voice. It’s about explaining, convincing and, in some ways, create dynamics and a kind of enthusiasm that will help things to happen. That’s the role of internal evangelists, adoption leaders and advocates.

• Enthusiasm and good words are not enough.

Even if those who are convinced, the passionate ones, the early adopters are numerous, we are forced to admit this is not enough. If it was, the adoption isue would have been solved for long and we wouldn’t be discussing it anymore. In their daily job, employees can hear the voice that says “it’s possible, it’s good, it’s beneficial….” and still prefer the status quo. Sometimes by fear but it can be dealt with with a good accompaniment. Sometimes the problem is deeper. Employees think that “yes, in a perfect world it would really be great, but it makes no sense in my particular case”. And they are often right.

John Tropea tackles a part of the issue here and here. Generally, if what the voice says is counter to what the common logic would make employees do, they won’t listen to it and follow the old rules that design their job and the way they are measured  even if they find them irrelevant. More, the benefits being inexistant if only a few people change, one has to change with his peers (or a large number of them) in a coherent way.

This pointis not about convinction or carrying a message. Even the bggest enthusiasm can’t do many things against the daily reality nnd workaday concerns. So it’s about working on alignement and make things become coherent. This is the manager’s call and has to be done as close to employees as possible. Of course the “voice” matters, it will explain things to managers, will share hints, best practices, but at the end the solution will imply a screw will be given in the organizational day to day mechanism, that will make that what the voices says will  not be only words anuymore but will be turned into facts.

This adoption depends in no way of enthusiasm and advocacy. It’s a matter of sense and alignment.

• What can be driven ?

Obviously everyone has his own vision and I won’t pretend mine is better. In my opinion, to drive something, you must be able to concretely change it by your own will and actions. One must have a hold on something to actually be able to drive it. So a part of the daily activities can be redesigned in order to align them with the pursued goal, assessment and measurement too as it was done at Cisco. But, in the other hand, and despite the hudge amount of energy spent, it’s impossible to have a hold on people’s mind, to be sure they will be convinced and change their minds. Evangelists can only do their best to make it happen but, since they don’t have any hold on the complex human mechanisme, it’s impossible to modelize what will make everyone see the light whithout any exception.

In the strict sense of the word, if activities’ transformation can be driven, leaders can only do their best to change people’s minds. We also have to acknowledge that the ratio between the ressource that are involved and the final result are more predictable in one case than in the other.

• Neither top-down nor bottom up but both

As I wrote in my previous post, evangelization without alignement means trying to make  people do unnatural things. So it often leads to nowhere. Some may also say that alignement may work without evangelization but, according to me, it would take too much time and many opportunies would be lost.

So, this leads us back to the implementation question. Top down ? Bottom up ? If there is no one-size-fits-all answer, it seems that a good mix could is what works best :

– top down for choosing tools and building a global internal framework, a support team for managers and users, dedicated to help them to solve operating Evangelization is a key here.

– bottow-up for deployment : the above mentioned team, rather than pushing a tool on a global scale without taking operating issues into account, starts with these issue to deploy in a targeted fashion with intensive internal consultancy related to alignment / activities redesign. As things goes on, a local projects increases, as local ones meet cross functional ones, one day, deployment becomes global.

So both approaches are mixed : a global framework for local needs. Of course its depends on the context so other options can be relevant depending on a given situation.

It’s the same, and there’s no surprise here, for the “adoption” part : top-down to evangelize and from the bottom to align.

• Culture matters

It’s been one of the most discussed isue at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit, and for good reason : there are real cultural differences among countries, what was confirmed by my discussions with lots of professionals from all over the word. The Anglo-Saxon mind (and most of all the US one) makes it possible to achieve many things through evangelization. There’s a kind of positivism that makes that, with energy and passion, one can make people say “ok…let’s try…looks good”.

In Europe (and most of all in France) there is a natural skepticism toward novelty which is a real barrier. The energy and the passion of the evangelists can ever backfire o them. There are reasons why the concept of evangelist is quite new and barely used in France. Too much passion makes things shady and non -corporate, the engagement and the membershiop feeling toward a group or the enterprise has much more balanced expressions and employees often tend to be suspicious and distant when the organization try to integrate them too much

In his post, Oscar talked about the importance of weak ties to make people shift. In an open culture that rewards people who try his point is relevant. In the opposite kind of culture, weak ties will mostly try to hold back those who are willing to follow the evangelists. The “if they try I should try too” becomes “that’s not reasonable, I have to deter them before they put themselves in danger”.

This explains why the convept of adoption and all the things that come with are not considered in the same way depending on countries or local culture.

• Conclusion : the voice and the screwdriver

Adoption is complex. That’s a well known fact. A part can be driven, another can’t. And both are needed. So it’s made of two elements :

• A intentional part : that’s the idea that change would be both possible and beneficial. It has to be spred and supported and creates a suitable climate. But it’s not drivable in the strict sense of the word.

• A material part : that’s the fact of turning words into action. It’s not always the consequence of the intentional part. It depends on more drivable things related to workaday context and is the result on a work done on the mechanisms of work in the organization.

What’s the interface between both ? Employees. They need both reasons to believe and reasons to act.

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Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
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