Innovation in Collaboration:  How Well Are We Managing Change?

In previous postings, my colleagues and I have blogged about the types of technologies enterprises are adopting to help their workers  collaborate—like tablets, social media and collaborative tools.  We’ve underlined the fact that, in order to fully realize their value, the underlying business processes need to be revisited and potentially redesigned.

In my experience, the most important consideration when integrating these new technologies is the people who will use them.  We’re asking them to change the way they collaborate, and that’s a transformation we need to support as it evolves. 

I read recently that the comfort level of most employees when using social collaboration tools is comparatively low.  One survey found that 60% of businesses think their employees may need training, with almost 20% of them reporting their employees don’t understand the purpose of the tools themselves.1

What about your employees?  What strategies are you employing to manage the change that collaborative technologies require? 

Taking an ad hoc approach to changing something as fundamental as how people collaborate (across departments and geographies) simply won’t work on an organizational level. 

There has to be a clear plan for how information will be ordered or prioritized in any new collaboration process. Otherwise a new information stream could simply become a source of frustration for those trying to find the right information at the right time. I have also observed that ways to understand what information streams apply directly to you are critical to not being overwhelmed.

Here at Ricoh we use a number of key best practices in managing change on an organizational level to help businesses make changes to their processes—especially when it involves adopting new technologies.

Make a plan that works within a change management framework and move through it step by step.  Assess and understand where your employees are prior to the change so you know where the strengths and weaknesses are.  Secure executive sponsorship to signal the importance and benefits of better collaboration to the success of the enterprise—and to the employees being asked to change their work styles.  

Make sure sponsors are part of an organizational change management team featuring members with the right competencies in adopting new collaboration technologies.  (Don’t assume these are just Millenials—your Gen X and Boomer generations are using tablets and social media more than you may think and can articulate where their contemporaries may struggle with change).

Develop a communication plan that keeps change front and center—and make good on plans for formal education and training. Be sure to include how these changes fit with an overall content strategy and business objectives. 

In addition, we need to do what we can on a personal level to encourage those that are comfortable with newer technologies, regardless of their generation, to mentor those who need to reach a higher comfort level. Those who are comfortable with social media collaboration should model their activity and successes for their colleagues.  For businesses to remain productive and competitive now is the right time to find the best way to cross-train and share social collaboration know-how.

And, finally, measure your success with Key Performance Indicators your change management team has agreed upon up front so you can not only show management and the board you are making progress, but give positive feedback to the people engaged in making change happen.

1 “Everybody’s Doing It,” ViewDo Labs, 2013.

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