Six months ago, major questions lingered about the return to work. Even when that happened, how it would play out was anything but certain. (Make no mistake: That doubt still exists today.)
Against this backdrop, an executive at a mid-sized healthcare company contacted me about the role that collaboration technology will play in its future. Specifically, Sophia (a pseudonym) wanted me to create a project plan that detailed each of the following:
- The steps that her organization should take to become more collaborative.
- When it should take them.
- The criteria by which we could gauge success.
Seems reasonable, right?
The Importance of Gathering Essential Data
I told Sophia that providing such a plan without any type of discovery phase was an exercise in futility.1 In short, the number of critical variables made such an exercise impossible. Specifically and in no particular order, I wanted to know:
I know the definition of bad business.
- The current collaboration tools that her organization currently used.
- The tools that it tried to adopt in the past.
- The results of those efforts.
- The level of technical sophistication of its employees.
- Basic but anonymized data on its workforce. (Average tenure is particularly important.)
No, I’m not nosy, but I wanted to conduct a confidential and comprehensive employee survey before proposing any solutions. I just know the definition of bad business. In this case, an example will illustrate my concern.
A six-month engagement for a small startup already using the rudiments of Slack or Microsoft Teams may be overkill. Conversely, consider a vastly different example: A hidebound organization with risk-averse employees and antiquated business processes. In all likelihood, the latter won’t be able to transform itself in the same time period. Any productivity or efficiency gains are unlikely to stick.
Simon Says: Successful change management eschews a cookie-cutter approach.
Ultimately, Sophia didn’t hire me—and I didn’t lose any sleep over it. Even under ideal circumstances, change management is tricky. Tossing in massive uncertainty all but guarantees failure.