Adoption & Effective Use

Three Reasons Why People Protect the Status Quo

Melba looks at the reasons why intelligent and well-meaning people resist change:

When you view resistance to change in the context of guarding the Performance Engine and apply it to your workplace, your boss’s resistance begins to look different and maybe even solveable. If someone is protecting her organization’s profitable, and thus far effective, business model, while she may not articulate it in those terms, when she resists change, she is guarding her and your company’s Performance Engine.

Here’s why responsible and intelligent people protect the status quo, or the Performance Engine:

– Risk: Stakeholders such as shareholders or high-level university administrators want reliable results; change puts productivity and efficiency at risk

– Performance pressures: Middle managers are evaluated on rigid performance targets; they can’t request new targets. If a change lowers their perceived performance, their units will be at risk

– Operational efficiency relies on repeatability and predictability. If a change agent tries to sell her idea that it “breaks all the rules,” people responsible for things running smoothly will do whatever they can to crush the new process or product.

My Comments
1. Melba’s comments ring true with my research on user adoption for new collaboration tools and approaches. You have to be able to prove that the new way works better than the current way, otherwise you are just a “troublemaker” (to use Melba’s word).

2. In Chapter 3 of User Adoption Strategies, I focus on what we know about change. Here’s what I say on page 75 and the top of page 76 – which calls out the three issues above (albeit not in the same words):

If we accept that changing something is a process, not an event, then it follows that people need time and space to make the required changes. In an organizational setting, having this time and space available without fear of reprisal is essential. For example,

  • People need time to consider the impact of the change. They are doing the work, and a new work practice and collaboration technology will re-contour how they do it. Time is required to examine and explore how it will change. We should expect people to want to understand how something is likely to change before leaping ahead with no forethought.
  • People need time to see what works best. The people doing the work have the best understanding of what’s involved getting the work done. If an external party advocates a change in technology, the people doing the work need the opportunity to explore the impact of the change. Does it really make a difference? They will be best placed to make that judgment.
  • Groups need time to discuss potential changes. In re-contouring the way a group works, discussion about work practice will take time. Re-thinking the way work is carried out today, and re-evaluating how it could best be done with new technology requires a significant investment of time and effort.

Lack of time has a negative impact on user adoption too. One respondent to a recent survey on user adoption wrote:

Sadly our user adoption strategy has NOT worked :-(. Folks are just too crazy-busy. I work for a very small non-profit organization with a barebones staff, although we will soon hire several new key people. Existing staff members completely balked at switching out of Google Apps, in which they have a heavy investment of history using the calendar, documents, and email for managing their virtual collaboration. It just did not “take”; there was no buy-in.

While there are other issues on the user adoption front in the comment above, lack of time and space to make the change—due to being “crazy-busy” or “schedule-slammed”—is clearly a contributing factor.

3. Remember the three big ones: risk, performance pressures, and operational efficiency.