Adoption & Effective Use

Slinging Mud

I was talking with a colleague last week, and asked about a recent learning and development program on change management he attended. He said that in his discussions with prospective clients about adoption services for Office 365 he was often asked: “Is this real change management, or just adoption?”


After I wrote my book on adoption strategies, I fielded a similar question in workshops and consulting engagements. “What’s different about adoption strategies and change management?” (for consistency, that should really be “adoption management” not “adoption strategies”). My answer was always to this effect:

Too often change management is practiced as an afterthought, and one email from the CEO is viewed as enough to have done ‘change management’ (ticked the box). I used a new term to force a re-think about what’s actually involved in helping people to embrace a new way of working with collaboration tools and approaches.”

I have spent the better part of the last decade in research and writing mode to create a strong foundation to help adoption strategists and adoption managers practice their craft better. That is:
User Adoption Strategies, with a model and a set of strategies for approaching adoption of collaboration tools. One of the reasons for writing this book (and the first edition in 2010) was that organisations were fixated on training as the answer, and that just didn’t work (very low effectiveness).
Collaboration Roadmap, providing the strategic view on how to conceptualise the approach to and use of collaboration tools. There’s a lot of strong guidance in this book around change and adoption.
– three books on using real-to-life scenarios (an adoption strategy) to create the context for adoption activities. These books focus on vision and possibility, not click-here-and-then-here training. See Seamless Teamwork (SharePoint 2007), Doing Business with IBM Connections (Connections 4.5) and Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365 (Office 365, at May 2016).

At their best both change management and adoption management aim high and for a similar goal: to create beneficial change by setting up the context, equipping people with competence to embrace the change, and providing craft skills to make the changes the new and accepted way of working. But here’s the rub in the mud: at their worst, change management is practiced as a one-time email from the CEO, and adoption management is practiced as training.

To those practicing change management at such a low level, go learn the craft properly.

To those practicing adoption management as training, go learn the craft properly … or find yourself a new field. Stop inflating your training business by calling it adoption. While training can and should be part of managing adoption, it is never the full story. And we should never accept any training program in an organisation unless we first understand the place of training in the larger adoption picture: context, competence, and craft.

“Adoption is just about training.” Not so much.