Tag Archives: enterprise culture

Digital Transformation Dialogues – Part 4 – Creating the Right Culture around Collaboration Tools

[Here’s more from my ongoing dialogue with transformation expert and friend Scott K Wilder. In the last post, we discussed ways to make an older workforce more digitally savvy. Scott ended that post with this: “Personally, I would rather be HipChatted vs. Slacked. But technology sometimes like religion. You have to find out what people are most comfortable with. At Marketo, it was Slack. At Salesforce, it is Chatter. For me, I prefer to be Skyped!. How about you?”]

GA: I’m a reluctant video user. I was always the kid who liked to sit in the very back of the class hunched down behind somebody who played Right Guard on the football team. That being said, I have some issues with chat too. It’s a very interruptive technology. I know that’s it’s super popular with developers – and I see the point particularly in Agile teams. But I always viewed serious code writing as essentially monastic. That may seem ludicrous, but writing large scale software is a real intellectual undertaking – requiring you to hold hundreds of thousands of lines of code in your head and have at least a general sense of how they fit together and what’s there. I’m not convinced you can do that while you’re regularly dropping in and out of chat sessions (or, for that matter, having meetings every 30 minutes). When I was writing large-scale code I pretty much talked to no one. Of course, a vanishingly tiny percentage of people are writing serious code. But I feel the same way about writing – something I do regularly. When I’m writing a piece I care about, I seriously don’t want to be interrupted. So my question really is about protecting culture – you’ve talked about adoption – and creating a culture of usage. I agree that’s important – in fact it’s a far more common failure point. Life being what it is, though, we also have to worry about too much success (and part of adoption is assuring people that culture won’t change too much – even if it will). So how do you create an etiquette culture around collaborative technologies that protects other types of behavior we value? After all, no company wants the family equivalent of everyone whipping out their iPhones at the dinner table…

SW: Ah, now we are getting into a little psychology and ethnography. For me, there are two ways to approach this (business) issue:

  1. Constantly try to understand the different personalities in your company
  2. Consistently establish and communicate company values throughout the organization

In every organization, there are many personality types. Each responds to new challenges in different ways, especially when it comes to adopting new technologies. Individual or team behaviors can be looked at through a Myers Briggs lens. Or you can examine various personas involved.

Ironically, 80% of companies do market segmentation with personas or some other kind approach, but few take the time to do the same thing when trying to figure out how to work with their own employees. Few companies step back and look at the different ways their own people adopt technology. There is often little conversation about how new processes and technologies diffuse throughout an organization. So what’s my point about all of this psycho mumbo jumbo.

Before you can create a culture around the adoption of a new technology, you need to understand the different personality types in your organization. And it helps if you leverage a topography like Myers Briggs, to help understand how people learn or adopt new technologies.

For example some people might prefer to learn on their own either studying a user manual or watching videos before kicking the tires and testing out a new product. Others might prefer to learn with a mentor or teacher to guide them. And others might want to learn by participating with others. The important thing is to first understand how an individual responds and adapt to new ways of doing business.

After you know the different types of people/personalities you are dealing with, you can begin to focus a culture that fosters the adoption of new technologies while protecting people’s values (or how they want to start using the new technology).

Finally, the challenge is getting these different types of people to function on a day-to-day basis with each other. This will be easier if you have provide a comfortable and safe environment for them to learn at their own speed and in their own way.

Secondly, when creating an etiquette culture around collaborative technologies, it’s important to present them to your employees by showing how they map to your core company values (This assumes you have company values). Atlassian, my current employer, has very strong values which are reviewed every time the company works on a project. Some of them include:

  • Don’t #@!% the customer: This statement promotes honesty and transparency. The company knows that their Customers are their lifeblood. Without happy customers, they are doomed
  • Play, as a team: As they say “We spend a huge amount of our time at work. So the more that time doesn’t feel like “work,” the better. We can be serious, without taking ourselves too seriously. We strive to put what’s right for the team first – whether in a meeting room or on a football pitch.”

These are just two of the values. There are others, but each one is used to help keep every employee aligned and heading towards the company’s True North, especially when adopting a new collaborative technology or trying to change behavior across the organization.

Finally, collaboration has no beginning nor end It is a continuous journey that involves multiple parts of your organization.

GA: There’s a lot here to respond to. I’m totally on board with your thoughts around corporate culture and values. Most companies pretend to have values – some actually do. And while I’ve argued in some other cases that you can drive analytics without necessarily having top-down support (though it sure does help), culture building is either hierarchic or anarchic – and anarchic rarely works as a model. That isn’t to say that individual managers can’t create micro-cultures inside a larger organization. They do – and pretty constantly. But those micro-cultures – for good or ill – are always getting worn down and eroded by the broader culture. There’s no place where the impact of senior folks is more pronounced than on setting the tone for this kind of culture building – and, as I’ve argued elsewhere, culture building isn’t done with words. In the beginning was the deed! You can talk “Don’t #@!% the customertill you’re blue in the face, but the first time an executive makes a decision to the contrary, all that talk will be less than worthless (and I do mean less since it creates negative value in the company). That’s one good reason why it’s important to have values you A) actually care about and B) can reasonably live up to.

I’m less comfortable with tests like Myers-Briggs for employee segmentation. I’ve never been confident that personality tests capture anything real. I know they have a lot of fans (and a lot of fans among people whose opinions I respect) – but I’m unconvinced. Sure, we all see ourselves in the results of these tests. But we see ourselves in our horoscopes too. Self identification isn’t objective verification. But I’ll give you the validity of personality types and still question whether it’s a good tool to help drive cultural adoption (and proper etiquette) around social technologies. I’ll buy that segmentation would bring something to crafting a change management and adoption strategy – but would I use personality types or would I use things like rank, role, and behavior?

Convince me if you can!

Finally, let’s talk technology. I’d love to get your thoughts on what types of collaborative technologies make the biggest difference in an organization. And I’d also like your thoughts on whether that’s even the right question. Do you need to think about a collaborative suite? Will one tool likely die on the vine where a constellation of tools might work? I’ve seen both approaches fail – but that’s never conclusive. We live in a “baseball” world where failure is always the most common outcome.