User adoption – navigating (un) chartered waters

User adoption is at the heart of successful launch of any new idea, product, and solutionthat will enhance the way of thinking, of interacting and the style of living of the user and of those they interact with. It is the enhanced quality and quantity of interaction with their environment that makes user adoption important to value creation and the measurement of the Return on Investment.

User adoption is extensively used in the context of new technology implementation but applies the same way beyond it. What we observe is that user adoption and user experience are increasingly becoming the panacea of assuring successful business renewal.

So, what is in the architecture of such success?

We know that there is no positive transformation without user adoption. And it is the positive user experience that leads to user adoption.

Both require:

  1. Design of the solution with the end user in mind (customer centric solution design),
  2. Expert implementation and migration to the new environment whenever the technology is involved,
  3. Organization Change management (OCM) work,
  4. Measurement of the outcomes, and
  5. Ongoing support.

User adoption does not happen in isolation – it takes an effective Organisational Change Management (OCM) work to lead to user adoption. The OCM work assures a process is in place to oversee and coordinate the implementation of the following steps:

  • Creating a solid user adoption strategy,
  • Dedicating resources for its execution,
  • Acquire competency for executing it, and
  • Executing it.

In this article I talk about the user adoption strategy.

A solid user adoption strategy takes care of balancing the execution of the following critical components:

  1. Gaining commitment of senior management to drive the change through an organization. When users sense that upper management visibly and actively supports the change, they are likelier to make the effort to learn a new way of doing things. This commitment is often gained when senior management aspirations are in synch with the expected value to be created by the intended change
  2. Stakeholder management – Identifying key influencers and user representatives and getting them create a positive attitude towards the transformation is the most daunting yet critical mission in creating user adoption. Getting key influencers (including user representatives) involved increases their understanding, makes them part of the decision-making process, and makes them much more appreciative of the final solution. Research indicates that 70% of the change efforts fail as the management commitment and the involvement of the key influencers is rarely addressed.
  3. Communicating early, often, and in a tailored way. It takes well-crafted communication to get the message across. Messages to employees should first address the what, when, and why of the change and definitely “what’s in it for them”. Users are more likely to embrace a change if they understand the real necessity for it, and when they understand what is changing and what is not changing. In the upcoming article I’ll elaborate more on the 10 rules of well-crafted communication.
  4. Customized learning of new skills. While the new solution(s) may be user friendly and intuitive, facilitating the learning of new skills drives adoption. A customized learning program shall allow the user to select a learning method that fits best to their learning style. Also, a good learning program shall balance acquisition of new skills in coping well with the larger, system change and the specific practical skills for coping on the day to day. For a learning program to instill adoption, content need to appeal the ambition and the new identity of the user. This is totally neglected by most of the learning programs I’ve evaluated.
  5. Establishing ongoing resources and support. Even with a great training program, users will not be able to absorb all of the information they are given. And there are always going to be new employees or users who change roles and need training on the systems. Effective support for user adoption shall provide ongoing access to training materials, videos, and reference guides to help users continuous learning of new the skills.

A solid user adoption strategy creates a sense of confidence and curiosity; it keeps change leaders alert and sharpens their “navigational listening”.

A solid user adoption strategy entails following a solid and shared organizational change management process and identifying measurable expected outcomes.

The key words here are “solid”, “shared” and “measurable”.

  • “Solid” understands an OCM process that provides flexibility to adjust to the context which providing clarity on the options to navigate towards the target.
  • “Shared” means that all the organizational levels concerned by the change are aware of the journey – this will reduce fear and criticisms and allow people to focus on pathways of progress towards the sought benefits.
  • “Measurable” outcomes remind us on the importance of defining the “settings” of our navigator. Being quite clear on what the goal is makes a big difference on the how we address OCM work. If we implement new technology without being clarity on the business value it will deliver, user adoption becomes a struggle and results are jeopardized.

In leading OCM work I’ve experienced that few are the organizations to ask the solution provider to include a user adoption program as part of the process. and very few are those that have a user adoption strategy defined.

To change the trend, organizations investing on a new idea, product, or solution need to plan for reinforcing the change management competency of their change leaders, for time to create a user adoption strategy, as well as for time and competency to execute it.

In the next article I’ll talk about dedicating resources for creating and executing the user adoption strategy.

As any change work is unique, inducing user adoption will always feel like navigating into unchartered waters. However, drafting the user adoption strategy at the outset of a transformation program will help leaders and the change team navigate with confidence in the unknown.

Conversational Intelligence essentials: Creating favorable reception of your message

How can you make your audience sympathetic to your message before introducing it?

The attempts to create a favourable reception of your message and request are successful only to the extent that the associations they trigger are positive to requested change.

What are these associations? Here I’ve created a list of them that have made a difference in my work and that of my clients:

  1. Reciprocity – a morally abiding, social norm. To reciprocate, what you give should be experienced as “meaningful, unexpected, customized”.
  2. Liking – show your audience “you like them”! Underline similarities and provide complements / strokes of recognition.
  3. Social proof – we are influenced to believe, think, feel, do what other comparable ones believe, think, feel , do at the extent that doing so is “valid” and “feasible”. Indicate “who else and what results”.
  4. Authority – key is Expertise and Trustworthiness. Consider and apply what fits best in the given context: “Merit” is the message, “Medium” is the message, “Messenger” is the message, “Multitude” is the message, “Merger/Unity” is the message
  5. Scarcity – Our innate aversion to loosing something of value makes scarcity drive desire. Any constraint in access increases the worth of what is being offered. Highlight what valuable opportunity someone will lose by not acting/assenting to the request.
  6. Consistency – brain loves consistency. If you get confirmation for a small first step in the targeted direction, the need for consistency will take care of the rest.
  7. Unity – when a WE relationship is raised to consciousness it leads to more acceptable, cooperation, liking trust and assent. – Feeling that “this person is OF us, perceived shared identities make us feel at one with, merge with others. This is underlined by “particular” ways of being together and “particular” ways of acting together.

Clearly, the associations are linked to the characteristics of an audience. Pose these questions to check out how you understand your audience:

  • Do they want to “fit in” or “stand-out”?
  • What is the self-relevance of your message, request, offering, feature?
  • What is something important happening “next” for members of your audience?
  • What kind of “Authority” demonstration fits the context

But the most important thing of all is to understand the drivers of your communication:

  • What is your goal?
  • What is the most salient feature of what you’re offering?
  • What is the “mystery” of your story?

I’ve used this model with different degrees of maturity in working with 112 teams to deliver critical messages, products or solutions; to win business deals and to mediate conflicting interests. It is amazing how this one pager has persistently made the difference between teams success and failure.

I’m mindful through that you may have also derived your lessons learned and navigating system. quite have to receive your view and watch out points.

Till next.

Organisational Development in focus – 5 critical allies (or influencers?) in preparing organisation for generative change

The only constant in the organisation development is change – generative change that propels growth and renewal. Being prepared for change is the main factor leading to successful organisational development initiatives.

How to prepare an organisation for generative change?

While in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, change predictions are short term, some trends can be well spotted.  As management need to sort out the priorities in the organisation development interventions, considering the evolving trends in setting these priorities will give them and their organisations leap advantage in preparing for change – shaping and driving its adoption. They will define the change, rather than assume it.

Here some influencing trends that are shaping and re-focusing the OD work:

  1. Growth of transversal and multi-generational teams

Transversal, or the cross-functional, roles are becoming a business norm especially for high performing teams.

The workforce of today is composed of different generations of workers (Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials, and Baby Boomers). Creating teams with members that work transversally and belong to different generations may generate significant business value when managed properly, as well as it may create unprecedented challenges when left unattended.

Often HR and business managers react when caught in the hit of emergency. This approach has shown to be costly. Finding effective strategies for enabling teams to work better across functional and generational boundaries is the key to generate growth and efficiency in the evolving business dynamics.

OD work can guide a purposeful inclusion and strategic leverage of this evolution which create the flipping point between stagnation and renewal. This will particularly influence the organisational design models, the stakeholder management approaches, and particularly the learning and development strategies and solutions.

  • Hybrid organisations – Redefinition of the job of the future & Changing face of Talent Management:

According to a McKinsey study 27% of the workforce in the US was self-employed in 2017; while in Europe-15 this amount to 22%.

The increasing trend of the self-employed workforce is expected to have a big impact on the workforce laws and tax models. But most importantly it is directly impacting the design of jobs, the models of recruiting and the nurturing of talent.

The hybrid organisations, composed of employees and independent professionals are entering the “mainstream phase” of the model maturity, with more and more organisations opening up to the independent professionals. Yet, most of the organisations are still in the phase of figuring out how to make the hybrid model ignite organisational growth and renewal. Aspects of nurturing diversity and inclusion become acute, as do those of common/coherent ways of working, of shared goals and of shared values (i.e. of culture aspects).

OD work is challenged to encompass the systemic changes at large and to consider the members of an organization on their multiple roles and evolving identities.

  • Increased workforce agility and redefinition of Succession Management

As baby-boomers prepare for retirement (by 2030 all the baby-boomers would have reached the age of 65) and the youngest generation enters the workforce with a dynamic that is firmly questioning established HR functions and practices, succession planning is in a “critical path”. Not only shall the managers assure succession of the wisdom of the departing employees, but they shall assure the organisation keep performing while transforming in response to the impetus of the younger generation of management.  Establishing a healthy balance between retention and attrition appears to escalate in the management agenda. Their definition is drastically changing.

We know now that the challenge in Succession Management is not the replacement of a departing or retiring employee with a younger and experienced one – rather in replacing a “legacy system” of experience, competency, thoughts and believes, with a “new system” that evolves at a much faster pace than ever before and in managing the co-existence of different legacy systems.

While the brain drain may inhibit growth, I’ve found that the application in the OD work of generative strategies for business renewal is helping organisations reinvent succession management. The success stays in the preparation and shift of perspective. The leverage of cross-generational teams and transversal roles teams becomes a strong ally for Succession Management as workforce becomes increasingly agile.

  • The birth of wired organization

The increasing use of smart gadget apps from interconnecting on after-work activities to capturing information of workforce performance attributes, is making its way into gaining deeper insight on optimizing team and organisational performance.

Pervasive within circles of the youngest generations, the smart gadget apps are redefining interconnectivity and the value system of relationships intragenerational groups and as a result are creating strains among generational groups which are guided by other value systems.

The birth of the wired organisation is redefining the OD work context, methods, and pace.

Collaboration, learning and productivity applications easily exploitable from app-enabled devices can be used to enact individual, team and organisation wide changes quicker, and with better results. They can also be used to collect data on the progress towards the change goal. In addition, they can be used to benchmark and create “non-intrusive” insight on workforce performance attributes. Such insight can create breakthrough awareness and subsequent culture change.

While post of the OD professionals are making themselves aware of and at ease in using new collaborative technologies, their challenge is to create shared acceptance in make them beneficial at the individual self-development level.

OD professionals shall facilitate the purposeful adoption of these gadgets, the contrary will cause an organisation to lack behind in speed and depth of self-renewal.

  • Increased organisational complexity

The adoption of new technologies, the diversifications of business activities and on top of that the shortened life-cycle of products or solutions  both in the production and the consumption process) have increased the complexity of interaction dynamics in our organisations. The job of the future will no longer be a function, but a set of tasks that an individual will carry according to what he/she is best placed to do. 37% of the jobs will be new in 2022, as compared to 22% in 2018. So, not only will we have cross-functional, cross-generational and virtual teams, but also new jobs will be created for which we have no titles yet and jobs will have no standard definition, they will be a collection of tasks and their composition will depend on the talents of the individual.

Organisations that are starting now to create the right flexibility in their job definition, performance management and reward systems, will as a result build agility and create space to let grow the new on the ruins of the old. Transforming while performing will be the norm for sustainable growth.

Yet, most of the companies start their transformation projects on the hit of a crisis. The preparation work is missing, and the success rate is souring. OD work will need to step up to this new organisational reality and become a role model into acquiring the skills for leading the future.

The increasing use of cross-functional teams, the increased diversification of teams, and the amplification of the wired organization effects create a promising ground for positive viral change.

Organisational Development strategies and their delivery expertise are put on the spot.

Organizational Development in focus – an approach tested through groundwork

Organisational Development (OD) is an ever-evolving area reflecting the increased organisational complexity and the trends of a VUCA organization world. Although every organisation has a unique context and requires a tailored application of the OD work, I use the following approach as the red thread of my work:

1. Keep abreast of the trends and evolutions in the OD area.

In my article “ OD in Focus – 5 critical allies (and influencers) in preparing organisation for change” I talk about the influencing evolutions that are shaping OD work and put particular competency challenges to the OD professionals.

Among the trends that follow closely are:

  • The acute need for agile succession management
  • The alternative organisational models – the evolution of the hybrid organisation
  • The changing face of talent management
  • The matrix teams and transversal roles
  • The multi-generational work force
  • The birth of the wired organization
  • The increased organisational complexity

I gain this insight from memberships in thought leading forums land associations International Association of Generative Change (IAGC), Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP), World Business and Executive Coaching Summit (WBECS), International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centred Coaching and Leadership Centre (MGSCC) and of the Conversational Intelligence Coach (CIQ) Community.

Sustainable membership in these forums and associations requires attendance in thought leadership seminars, contributions as speaker or content developer as well delivering client work based on the acquired knowledge.

It also requires that I propagate this knowledge to other professionals – a practice, which Vrioni Consulting has put in place through the monthly Circle of Wisdom event. In these events my collaborators, existing clients and prospects have an opportunity for knowledge sharing and problem solving through co-development techniques.

Understanding trends and hot topics allow me to support the OD teams and business managers to prioritise their interventions, to understand interconnections and interdependencies, as well as to upgrade their competency toolset proactively.

2. Understand the specific challenges of the organization overall and of the specific team that requires my OD work support.

Next to understanding the trends and how they reflect or relate to a specific organisation, I take time to understand the specific challenges of the organisation. The intake interviews, brainstorming sessions, workshops, “camping out” practices have helped me and above all the interested organisation to create a deeper and sometimes 360* understanding of the real challenge and of the pathways for addressing it.

3. Select a method of work that fits to the context

On these bases I select the approach, the tool or the method and define how I need to apply it for addressing the challenge and helping the organisation realise its ambitions.

4. Create understanding in the organisation and the concerned team of this method

As a pioneer of the co-creating and generative change methods, engaging the client on the OD work is the cornerstone of my approach. This method of work has been recently formalised in the Generative Intelligence Coaching model, a trademark of Vrioni Consulting, which has been validated by the trademark authorities.

5. Identify what success will look like and define measurement of progress

I measure the success of my work at the extent to which my client, individually and collectively, is one step ahead in achieving their aspirations and enhancing their competencies.

6. Synthesise and celebrate

Whether my interventions are of several days or of several months, there is one particular step the will always be present – synthesising the experience and celebrating the step made ahead. It is the moment of mindfully articulating the lessons learned and anchoring them in the growth pathway of those I interacted with during the intervention and of my own.

I’ve applied and refined this approach since the very start of my OD practitioner experience – a ground work that has distilled what really works.

Conversational Intelligence in use: Is User Adoption a new buzz word?

100 leaders from international companies and organisations participated in the User Adoption survey conducted by Vrioni Consulting on October -November 2018.

They were asked to rate their inclination towards application of change management in transformation programs. Participants were asked to rate a series of items in transformation programs with a vocabulary oriented towards “change management” as compared to those oriented towards “user adoption”. The results are synthesised in the table below:

Leaders and organisations associate the word “change management” with anxiety, resistance and high risk of failure. Yet, they associate the word “user adoption” with excitement, engagement, and higher success rate. What is behind these findings?

While this survey needs to be conducted on a broader base, it does underline what conversational intelligence is screaming outload: “words create worlds”.

“User adoption” talk in the context of ICT change initiatives seems to put the end user more into the centre of the strategy definition, solution design and solution implementation plans. The effect of ‘being considered’ is known to positively influence attention, action and acceptance.

The effect of using the right words to influence change is certainly not new – and, although the term is overused, a strategic and methodological application of user adoption is only recently gaining wider acceptance as a mechanism of improving transformation success odds.

User adoption of the intended change is ultimately the only factor that creates positive return on investment (ROI). Although organizations shy away or resist measuring or communicating the ROI of change initiatives, measuring user adoption throughout the change process can be a channel of communication that can create convergence and engagement. What is key is not the measurement per se, rather the focus on the user and recognition of his primordial role in value creation (or destruction).

I’ve found very helpful the use of these 4 guiding principles in setting up for measuring user adoption of intended change:

  • Have a clear picture of what success looks like, reflecting the specifics for the different user types
  • Use measurement to inform the next step in the process, to acknowledge what has been achieved so far and to propel positive engagement
  • Make measurements personal, reflecting what is under the user’s control and space of interest(s)
  • Make measurements a way of life, not a one-of event

When there is clarity on the goal and the measurement approach reflects the nature of change, following a simple process to measure user adoption can take the change team a long way to gauging user adoption. The insight gained is the best source for developing “connection intimacy” which eventually leads to instilling successful change.

However, when the concept is void of meaning and the intended change is far from being “user centric”, it creates noise and pollution more than anything else.

Is user adoption a new buzz word?  – My take is that it depends on the meaning that the change leaders attach to it!