Goals Not Tools

Several years ago at the Australian SharePoint Conference (hosted by ShareThePoint), Lou Zulli presented a session called Making Sure That the SharePoint Solutions Your Team Has Created Don’t Go to Waste. One of his points created an a-ha in my head. This was his point:

Make things easier. Eg., teachers were asked to store all of their course materials electronically. The original intent was to scan everything in. Instead, developed a new application using InfoPath, with lookups, pre-population of the form based on lookups. Unintended consequence – teachers are now collaborating with other teachers, because they can see what others are going to teach. And it’s cross-disciplinary, eg., science working with maths.

This was my train of thought …

1. When the focus is on introducing a new tool, you will look at what is currently done in the work process and find the new equivalent way to do it in the new tool. While there are benefits in having course materials available electronically, much more could be done.

2. The more could be described as improving the process, as Lou’s team did in developing a new InfoPath application. SharePoint provided many more options beyond just storing a scanned image file; the process could be re-imagined as an online app that took advantage of the capabilities of SharePoint. But something greater could happen too.

3. The something greater was when the goal changed – to that of cross-disciplinary collaboration. We often break the world into easy to digest chunks, and start thinking in content silos, but there’s a lot of overlap and cross-pollination that happens from having a wider perspective. Education is taught in subjects, but life is not experienced that way. What Lou’s team did with the InfoPath form brought back something of the origin story of education.

And then this was my a-ha moment – a new way of seeing something I’d already written about in several of my books (see image above):

1. If you focus on the goal (outcome), process improvements and tools are just implications. If the population of affected people embrace the goal, the change to process and tool are just implications / consequences. No big deal.

2. When you focus on the process improvement, the tools are just implications. You have to be careful that you don’t optimise an increasingly irrelevant process, however, and the need to change process design may be questioned.

3. When you just focus on introducing a new tool, you have the highest likelihood of either resistance to the proposed change, or that the tool is embraced in the most basic way possible. It doesn’t change the process. It doesn’t affect the goal.

Thanks Lou.

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