Need to take users by the hand ? Remember they only have two !

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It does not matter things are seen from the people or technology point of view, since we all know that people seldom embrace new things keeping their eyes shut and without questionning (even more in the workplace) we all understand that users have to be taken by the hand and accompanied. On the other hand, the failure of many strategies aiming at doing so show that many change programs do not know where to find the hand or have a wrong idea about its location.

It means that beyond the myth of multitasking, employees focus on two things and that all their attention goes there. It’s not a matter of lack of goodwill but they can’t do more if they want to do things well and keep their concentration. So any other issue is seen as peripheral, and dealing with it will force employees either to make it superficially or to stop doing something important, come back to it later and make up the delay later. Nothing pleasant at all.

Every day, people have one hand in their email client and the other in their structured activities (call it process, workflow…) and the tools that help them to manage and deal with these activities. The first is their principal means of communication, the only that even if it’s not properly used, keep them in touch with everyone. The second is the reason why they have been hired, what they are evaluated on, what they have to do (and do it well) before thinking of doing anything else.

That can help us to draw some conclusions in terms of change management. Since, in order to grab a hand we have to know where it is, it’s impossible to do anything without taking into account the email and its place in employees workaday life or the relationship between the new things and the structured activities. Any other angle won’t impact employees and will fail. Then, we’ll have to explain how to put their hands elsewhere won’t prevent them from doing what they used to do before, what is essential to their job.

Any other approach would be like telling a driver “take you hands off the wheel” without telling him that, on top of being enabled to do much more things, he’ll be provided by something that will at least help him to drive better than with a steering wheel.

It also has consequences on technology for both companies that try to implement social software and vendors who provide solutions to these companies. There is an incredible number on players on this market despite it has reached a consolidation phase and each of them is pushing a different approach, focusing on a specific kind of social activity to seduce buyers. The truth is there are only two valid approaches and not one more. The rest is only marketing blah-blah and even if the verbiage may sound seducing, it never survives to the confrontation with real business.

No solution can be sustainably adopted on a large scale in any organization if it doesn’t meet at least one of the following requirements (both is better) :

– high integration in email clients. It can come in different ways, from the most simple one (alerts / notifications) to the most accomplished (widget in the client, shared data and services)

– integration with tools that are used for structured activities (CRM, ERP, BPM…even ECM). Interactions and conversations often come from the need to solve a business problem…guess where these problems emerge and are identified ?

Many lines can be taken in front of employees, many tools can be proposed. The truth is much simple : who does not tackle one of these points of entry is saying things that make no sense for employees, adds problems without bringing any solution.