Times are changing. After having spend years discussing the “what and why”, the enterprise 2.0 world is now focusing on the “how” what is quite a good thing. So we discuss a lot adoption strategies, a wording I’m not comfortable with but that will be used in this blog because I have nothing better to suggest.
The challenge is both simple and complex at the same time. It’s about bringing new ways to collaborate in the workplace, positionning and articulating them with what’s existing, while taking the software side into consideration. Generally, we know where we start from (even if I often recommend a deep audit to avoid the biases caused by the misrepresentation people may have of the way their own business is doing) and with a good methodology and good advisors it’s not hard to know where to do. But finding the right way to get there is not the easiest part of the work.
One may be tempted to directly bring employees from the point A to the point B by selling him the approach in a nice-looking gift box. We now know that it seldom works and employee are blamed for refusing change. In my opinion it’s a too easy shortcut because it relies on the assumption that people go from A to B simply by pressing a on-off switch whereas it’s about travelling through a road. And when it comes to make a long trip in a foreign and unknown land, we’re not all created equal.
When we talk about a starting point, we don’t only mean the current practices in the workplace (that are not even unform but are often aligned by dumbing down) but also personal practices.That’s an important point because a part of the issue is related to social media which is the first significant example of adoption of general public tools in the enterprise world. But we also know that people won’t adopt at work at work behaviors they don’t have in their own private life. So it’s important to know what is their actual state of adoption before going further. Do they use such or such tool ? Are they passive ? Active ? Connectors ? Only readers ? It really matter even if these practices will have to be professionalized. This has to be assessed at both individual and collective levels because we’re talking about collective practices. If 2% employees are heavy users and 98% refuse to have a Facebook account, even if the 2% are a real opportunity, the 90% are the limitating factor. Encouraging the firsts won’t be of any use if the others don’t make any progress.
In order to make the 98% make some progress we can wait for the “practice leaders” to help them. It may take some time, leaders can discourage. That’s a good idea but maybe some facilitation is needed. And to go further we need to go beyond the way they master tools and their capacity to adopt new behaviors. We need to care about their comfort !
We often think in terms of know-how, want-to-do, being able to do…and work hard on these levers. But we often forgot the invisible relationship that links these levers together : comfort. That’s a vague and very personal concept that is very well adapted : it’s about how people feel when they face a given situation. If they are in their “comfort zone”, where they feel well, they don’t fear anything, don’t fear doing a mistake, understand how things work and interact,. They know what to do, when to do it, how to do it and can anticipate the effects of their actions, of the others’ actions. In this context everything is fine. Note : I’m talking about comfort and not about domination or mastery : one can be comfortable in a given situation that’s mastered and dominated by someone else. It’s a matter of trust.
What to know about the “comfort zone” ?
– it’s defined by the trust in oneself, in others, in the tools that are used and one’s capacity to use them
– people engage when they are in the zone and disengage when they’re pushed to go outside of it.
– the size of the zone can be increased step by step by bringing anyone at the limits of his zone, ask him to make one more step, and analyze the situation with him. If everything’s ok, he can make one more step and so on as he becomes bolder. If he doesn’t feel well, then a work has to be done on the dimensions of trust. Of course, seing the others going further helps to improve oneself.
– the capacity to make small steps highly relies on sense and alignment.
Of course it’s a complex approach that needs a lot of human investment. But it can’t be overlooked. Change can’t be managed only with communication, buzz and exhortations. Meanwhile, remember that even if
Bien sur c’est une dÃ©marche complexe et longue qui demande beaucoup d’investissement humain. Mais elle est indispensable. On ne manage pas le changement uniquement avec de la communication, du “buzz”, et des exhortations.
One more thing : if the extent, the consistency and the depth of the new practices depends on a few leaders, the pace of change and the capacity for the organization to achieve its project without running out of breath before reaching the finish line depends on the collective comfort zone. The collective comfort zone can be defined as the lowest common denominator among all concerned people. Happily, a good work can make this denominator grow and so it won’t remain a set barrier