Organizations with cultural dysfunction almost never live up to their potential. And one area where bad culture can upend even the most talented organizations is in launching new software solutions.
In fact, in our experience business culture is the biggest barrier to widespread successful adoption of new technology within organizations.
Organizational cultures can fail in many ways – too many to cover in one blog post. But as someone who sees the inside of a lot of businesses, I’ve noticed three particular types of cultural dysfunction that tend to impede user adoption most often:
1. Christopher Columbus Cultures. We all know the basics of the story. It took him seven years to raise money for his three ships, before finally sailing off to discover the New World. What most don’t know is that years later, the crew had barely moved off the Caribbean islands. It’s often the same in IT. A new tool will be purchased at great expense and launched with much fanfare, but years later it really hasn’t moved much past its initial release phase in terms of capability.
Buying a piece of sophisticated business software is sexy, but the real work begins after the deployment. Many organizations see the go-live date as the finish line of a new-technology deployment, when in fact it’s just the beginning.
Planning for the year beyond the launch of a new tool – and executing on your plan – is how your organization can get real benefit from its software investment. Start small, roll out new capabilities to a single team or a handful of people. See what works and what doesn’t, then scale up. Get out there and explore. You might end up discovering a new continent…
2. One-Size-Fits-All Communication Cultures. You’ve probably heard of the Telephone Game, in which one person whispers a message in another’s ear, who then whispers it to the next person, and so on, until eventually the last person announces the message to the entire group. At a party, it’s fun to see how little resemblance the final message has to the original. But business leaders who are stunned by how poorly they’re message has been understood organization-wide are usually falling prey to a version of the Telephone Game.
Generic messaging inevitably leaves out key details that are of interest to different audiences. So, lacking those particulars, audiences begin filling in the gaps with supposition and speculation. Much like the Telephone Game, the original generic message begins to acquire a whole new character, until soon it becomes unrecognizable and unmanageable.
The solution is to craft messages that will resonate with each audience within your organization. Have department heads help with crafting each message and put them in charge of delivering it to their team. Communicate in the language of the people who actually will be using the technology every day in the way that they will use it. Folks in accounting will need to hear a different pitch than those who work in the supply room. Their jobs are different, their interactions with the software will likewise be different.
Great Expectations Cultures. It’s usually high-level decision makers who choose which software to deploy. The thing is, they might not have the greatest awareness of what is happening out in the field. But they’ll have seen the software perform at its best during a demo from a savvy salesperson, and naturally they’ll want that kind of execution within their company. And that’s where trouble can be found. There’s no way new software will run at full capacity at the start. When projects and people are judged against impossible expectations, even the best ones will fall short. Whatever the performance of a new piece of software is, if it’s not meeting expectations – however unrealistic – then the new software will always be seen as an under-achiever, because expectations are the only human key performance indicator.
So work to set realistic expectations at the start. Remember, only the most critical capabilities of new software will be utilized on Day 1. Make sure leaders and end-users are aware of that. Focus instead on having the budget and the people necessary to adapt to new technology and business needs.
One last word: Cultures can change. Even deeply entrenched ones. It starts with a belief that change CAN happen. Don’t just accept the culture you’re in. Get together with a coworker or several coworkers and create a better culture for yourselves. Do whatever you think needs to be done – communicate better, support each other more effectively, plan for the long haul, whatever it takes. I firmly believe that creating a new culture – even on a small scale – will be recognized within the company, and rewarded.
We’ve worked hard here at Intact to change our own culture in recent years, and while it hasn’t been easy, it’s been worth it. We don’t just want great players; we want a great team.
For a deeper conversation about how to build the kind of culture where IT success is easier, just reach out.