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Questions from Week 2 of the Seamless Teamwork Online Study Group

With the Seamless Teamwork Online Study Group shifting to a more open format, we invited questions … and then extended an invitation to those people to attend the live portion. For week 2, there were some real doosies, but not everyone who asked was able to participate in the discussion. I may not be able to do this for all questions / all weeks, but I wanted to share some thoughts on a couple from Week 2.

Question on Avoiding SharePoint Becoming Dominated by a Strong Orator

Shannon wrote:

“So why do we work in teams anyway?” This is a question that is somewhat like a double-edged sword. The advantages of bringing people together in a room to “create” can bring out the best of some people and the worst of others, causing what is commonly know as “analysis paralysis”. Strong team members may want the floor all the time making it difficult for others to contribute. More timid team members might be hesitant about sharing their ideas. I see this idea of using Sharepoint as a way to offer both personalities the ability to share their ideas on a more level playing field. However, I say this with some reservation,in that the written word also has the ability to cause that same “analysis paralysis”. In either case, the organizational skills of the team leader are very import. This brings me to my real question. How does a team leader avoid having SharePoint serve as a platform for the strong orator who now just uses the written work vs. the spoken word?

My answer: equally strong moderation. This is actually one of the focus points of my current PhD research, so it’s very interesting to me. In an in-person meeting, with a moderator in the room, the way to shut-up a dominant speaker is for the moderator to state in the hearing of everyone that “Frank has contributed a number of ideas, and before he talks again, we need to get input and feedback from Sally, Jess and Norman.” Such a statement puts in place a social sanction on Frank. You can do the same thing in SharePoint … if a discussion thread is being dominated by Frank, then call Frank on the phone and ask him to tone it down (that gives “individual sanction” – much like what would happen in a meeting if you had a “quiet word” with Frank during a break), or for “social sanctioning” effect, post a discussion item with the subject “Frank — please hold off; We need to hear from others now”.

Comment on Duplication of Work

Bill comments:

I’m on a support team, so at least there are long term benefits to using SharePoint for us, but there has been a lot more push back from project teams. They feel like they’re duplicating work between SharePoint and regular intranet publishing. On larger initiatives, there is no one to take the time to push for maximizing SharePoint use and you often see the LAN reconstructed in SharePoint Libraries.

Yup … that happens. Can you state in more detail what the “duplication” involves? It sounds to me like you have a different technology platform for the Intranet vs using SharePoint for collaboration. Is that right? The goal here, per Seamless Teamwork, is to make SharePoint the place to work … the place where collaboration between project team members takes place. And then if there Intranet publishing implications, and if the Intranet was built using SharePoint too, you would use something like workflow to make that process more seamless. But I would need more context to state specifically what should happen, and that’s probably best done as an inhouse conversation.

In terms of not having anyone to take the time to push for maximizing SharePoint use, it comes back to the business reason for using SharePoint (per Step 1 in SharePoint for Business). If your business leaders aren’t clear on that, and the implications of that haven’t been worked through, then SharePoint will be left to suffer, wither and die.

Adoption Mismatch

Nancy writes:

My challenge is twofold; I must champion SharePoint while simultaneously learning to use it. Potential “enemy” stakeholders demand proven sucess stories before wanting to commit their time toward creation of solutions that may or may not result in more work for them. Meanwhile, the technology is so new here, there aren’t proven success stories yet. And even if there were, when it comes to SharePoint, one person sees as a “success” may have zero value to the other. In addition, my company’s tams are so entrenched in their ways they fall back on old methods in spite of themselves. I build it and they won’t come, all the while praising my work. Then I hear them complain about “not getting that last status report.” Sob.

Hey Nancy … yes, there are many people in the same situation as you re needing success stories. One place to devour is the Microsoft Case Study site on SharePoint … that will give you some ideas on where organizations are finding value with SharePoint. Now of course, case studies written by vendors are slanted, but you can take some top-level ideas from these. Another place to explore is a local SharePoint user group meeting … you should be able to meet real people from real firms doing real things. And finally, I’m planning something in this space that will help …

With respect to getting user adoption and changing habits of usage … unlike installing SharePoint software code, that’s the hard piece (and a big piece too). I have laid out some ideas in Steps 3 and 4 of SharePoint for Business, but you need to find an early adopter group to work with closely. Build a success with SharePoint with them, and then build out from there.

When the Powers That Be Have No Clue

Aunt Ralph says:

I share Nancy’s dilemma of not being able to find a problem that The Powers That Be will permit me to solve. In addition, I’ve been tasked with duplicating the same architecture that made the move to Sharepoint necesary. “Make the new one look like the old one”. Oh, and anything with a Web Part is ‘Not Sharepoint.’ — go fight that.

That’s called being caught between a rock and a hard place. Why is SharePoint being used at your place? Who brought it in?

More on Adoption

Sandra comments:

I’m a Project Manager (indepedent consultant) and use Sharepoint team sites on all my applications IT projects now. Each new company I go to has its own challenges in accepting and adopting Sharepoint for its projects, including:
– fear of the technology or being overwhelmed with all the “parts” (documents, issues, tasks)
– uncertainty how and when to update the Sharepoint site or perception that it is extra work
– lack of access to the site by 3rd party team members
– overwhelming “Outook” culture, too married to email to evolve, won’t take the time to learn
With persistence (and sometimes logging others’ items for them) I finally get success but it’s hard to get the whole team adoption needed for really achieving the benefits.

Hey Sandra … yes, it takes time — and neither you nor me know that we can expect anything different. We can’t expect people to dump 10-15 years of embedded practice every time something new and shiny shows up. Sticking to old habits is entirely rational — because they have become second nature to us, and we are efficient with them. Unsticking those habits takes multiple things to go right … ideas for improvement, stories that show how people can cope with the new way and not get lost, stories that show how it all hangs together, making it simple and coherent … and more …

Yes, keep persisting.