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Project Success is all about Culture, Culture, Culture

A lot of these collaboration and enterprise social networking tools run the risk of becoming shelf software – you know the software that never gets used or that quickly falls into disuse. This is not only incredibly frustrating for the teams who invested their time and effort to acquire and use these tools, but also it’s an expensive habit. So how do you make sure your efforts aren’t in vain? It all comes back to culture.

“You can’t force collaboration unless you have a culture that aspires it,” said Dan Pontefract, head of learning and collaboration at Canadian telecom Telus, during a panel discussion. “If you just dump a bunch of tools on people it’s not going to work. You might get that 9 or 10 percent [of people engaged], but the other 90 percent is what you want.”

Trying to unlock the other 90 percent isn’t easy. We know that trying to force top-down change is an uphill, Sisyphean battle. However instead of focusing on the tools, managers should focus on altering the culture. It’s easy to acquire and roll-out a new tool, but the installation is really only half the battle. If you want real adoption, the key is to hone in on altering the culture. That makes all the difference.

So how do you do it?

1. Educate – The fastest way for a new solution to never get adopted is if no one learns how to use it. “Knowledge is power”, but it’s not only about teaching the “ins” and “outs” of the technology. It’s also about educating people to the “why”. As in, why are we adopting this new tool? And what’s in it for me? Explaining how new tools will help people and the reasoning behind their selection will go a long way in motivating people to adopt them.

2. Communicate – This goes hand in hand with education. You can never overestimate the power of communication. Explaining how the changes you are asking fit into the grander corporate vision and strategy will do a lot in alleviating unnecessary anxiety and angst.

3. Motivate – You can execute the other two to perfection, but if you don’t motivate individuals to change then you’re never going to tap into that golden 90 percent who just never really got involved. The best way to motivate others is to lead from the front. Get major stake holders to adopt new tools and habits and you’ll quickly see others begin to change too.

While there is no one step solution, if you follow these three tips you’ll see significantly greater success during your next major shift. This frame work may not be right for every situation, but regardless the number one thing to keep in mind is that to get real change it has to come from within. Whatever your goals are, remember to always focus on the culture.

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