Adoption & Effective Use

Culture Challenges and Adoption with Collaboration – A Response to Joe Leno

Joe asked about cultural and organizational barriers within the equation of collaboration:

Couldn’t agree more with the equation Michael, but I’m interested in your audiences’ perception (as well as yours) on not just how is this done but how do they deal with cultural and organizational barriers when it comes to the actual engagement dimensions of this equation, meaning connecting, sharing, and collaborating in meaningful ways. I’ve read many of your writings (enjoyed them all!) and like you, we provide services to help activate collaboration in organizations – including the UX design of collab platforms based on SharePoint and other tools, but we find the greatest challenges come from the behavioral change that is required for people to connect and effectively share & collaborate in ways that are new and with people with whom they may not be familiar. Our experiences show that most effective engagement occurs among people and teams who already know each other and extending that beyond the familiar is a significant challenge for them unless there’s a smart way to help breed familiarity among previously disconnected people.

Here’s some thoughts:

1. In my presentation, I chose not to talk about the tactical level of finding, connecting, and sharing. There are many tools to do that – such as Lotus Connections (see re Lowe’s), SharePoint, Jive, and others. As I said during my presentation, and overreliance on the tactical / technology involved will cause all sorts of problems, such as what Joe has indicated.

2. I talked instead about the strategic level of the equation of collaboration – here’s the slide:

When a leader (manager, executive) embraces the equation of collaboration in their sphere of influence, it means:
– Finding opportunities for improving value.
– Connecting collaboration technology with real needs.
– Sharing a culture that supports and extends collaboration.

Activities like these and the disciplines they are composed of go a significant way towards overcoming the challenges Joe indicates. If there is a recognition of value and increased benefit, and user adoption has been done in an appropriate way, then people are more inclined to “connect and effectively share & collaborate in ways that are new and with people with whom they may not be familiar.”

Likewise on the collaboration technology one. If there has been real effort put into exploring the current needs of teams and groups, and technology is carefully selected to enable this – rather than just choosing a product based on being aligned with a particular vendor without any pre-purchase due diligence – the post-implementation task is much easier.

3. Re connecting people who have never been connected before. If there’s no communication, there can be no collaboration. A skilled online moderator can often speed up this process, but if there is significant value in working together via collaboration technology, make the introductions, stimulate the conversation, and invite people in. Face-to-face interaction on projects or other initiatives helps greatly too.

4. There’s more to come on this – most of my time at the moment is going into finalizing the manuscript for Collaboration Roadmap – so keep an eye out for its release (targeting end of November 2011).