Technology and Process Change.
Build Controlled Failure into Your TrainingWhen you build training, include all types of scenarios.
Everyone has heard of Sully Sullenberger, the hero who landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson. At the time, he was serving as chairman of a pilots’ association safety committee. Some might say it was luck such a pilot was at the controls when a flock of birds struck Flight 1549. Sully said the many hours of training all pilots receive allowed him to assess the situation and make a timely adjustment.
In stressful, highly complex situations, like flying a plane, it is easy to see the value of training. What we might underappreciate, is the type of training pilots receive.
Picture this scenario: It’s a cloudy winter evening in San Diego, 1977. A plane is taxiing to the runway. All the pre-flight checks appear to be in order. The flight engineer has given the go-ahead to take off. As the plane accelerates down the runway, it begins to pitch upward and lift off the ground before reaching the standard takeoff speed. It’s an odd situation, but not alarming. Unfortunately, it immediately gets worse. The nose of the plane continues to rise while adjustments to the control stick do nothing. It’s a dire situation that requires immediate reaction to avoid a crash.
Captain Jack McMahon knew what to do in this situation. On that evening in San Diego, Delta Flight 1080 was in trouble. With the nose up and airspeed dropping, the plane was critically close to stalling and crashing. When none of the standard fixes stopped the climb, Captain Jack masterfully adjusted his throttles to take advantage of a feature his plane. The engines were arranged so that the wing engines point slightly down, their thrust making the plane pitch up slightly. The tail engine, however, is pointed slightly up. The thrust from the tail engine makes the plane pitch slightly down. By decreasing power to the wing engines and increasing power to the tail engine, he was able to bring the nose down and avoid a stall. More creative problem solving enabled the plane to make a safe emergency landing in Los Angeles. An investigation soon identified the problem was a tail stabilizer stuck in the up position, constantly trying to lift the nose of the plane. Investigators would note that comprehensive training played a critical role in preventing a crash that day.
So what is it about pilot training that makes them so good in a crisis? It is true they spend many hours in training, but it is not just the amount of training that is important. The type of training, and the types of scenarios they practice are just as important. They train for situations where everything seems to be going wrong. The airline industry creates moments of controlled failure in training, to the benefit of pilots and passengers.
What is controlled failure and why is it important? When we design courses, it is common to create scenarios trainees will encounter in real life. In controlled failure scenarios, trainees are set up for trouble, allowing them to solve the problem, learn, and grow. Using only predictable scenarios geared for simple wins gives learners early successes, but it might not prepare them for real-world performance.
The real world doesn’t always give us easy scenarios and quick wins. In The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien captures a more common new hire’s experience: “Out of the frying pan and into the fire.” In any job, issues come up force employees to think on their feet. This is where controlled failure training is important. By mixing difficult scenarios with easy ones, we build both small wins and adaptability into a training course. The result is employees who have the confidence to manage any real-life situation that comes along.
If captains Sully and Jack had practiced only takeoffs and landings in normal conditions, they would have been ill-prepared to handle the situations that threatened the lives of their passengers. The results might have been disastrous. Controlled failure pilot training probably saved many lives.
Most of the training we design doesn’t prepare people for life or death situations. But controlled failure makes for a workforce ready to adapt to difficult situations and keep your business in the air.
New Systems? Don’t Skip This StepDocumenting your current state is a critical investment in the success of your implementation.
You need new technology and processes. You know how you want your organization to use them. So you choose a system and start designing the way you want to do business in the future. What’s wrong with that?
You’re wasting time and money.
Organizations are naturally impatient to describe and document their futures. But it’s sometimes hard to convince them to carefully document where they are right now. I mean, everyone knows what you do now. Isn’t it a waste of time?
No. You must carefully document the current state—of your systems, processes, and work.
Think of it this way. Planning to implement a new system is like planning a road trip. Typically, you have a clear start and end point; with that information you can pick the route, identify sites to hit along the way, and estimate the cost of gas, snacks, and hotel stays. But what if you didn’t know your start location? Now you don’t know any of your routes, what supplies you might need, or even how long it will take to get to your destination.
You might be thinking, this is silly. Of course you know where to start your road trip; it’s right where you’re sitting! And you’d be right, except on this particular trip, you’re not the only one on the road. You’re traveling with everyone in your organization; you all have to end up in the same place. Say everyone agrees to meet at the Starbucks parking lot, but no one clarifies which one; now the wheels are falling off, and you haven’t even left yet. You need to get in touch with everyone, figure out where they are, and tell them where to go…you’re spending time, and maybe money, rounding everyone up. And when you’re finally together, everyone might not agree to follow your original plan.
Sounds pointlessly exhausting, right? Well it’s nothing compared to a system implementation without a properly documented current state.
Documenting the current state isn’t just about avoiding pitfalls on the road. There are significant advantages as well.
Knowing the “as-is” enables you to pick or design the system properly, analyze the impacts, and design employee engagement and good training.
So what does it take?
- Leadership must align on where the organization stands. What are the current assets and liabilities, and what are the obstacles to success? To figure that out, establish a common vocabulary and confirm current workflows. This identifies the current dependencies and interfaces to maintain, and illuminates gaps the new system must fill if you want to reach your goals.
- Concurrently, identify repetitive processes and cut down on customization where it’s not necessary. Get the right amount of technology to reach your goals, don’t pay for fancy features you don’t need!
- Speaking choosing technology, make sure all decision-makers understand something: the system is NOT the destination; it is the car. This is important. Technology is a tool that helps you achieve the business outcomes you want. Make sure you pick the right tool for the job.
- After identifying your start and end locations and selecting your vehicle, you’re ready to plot a course. This includes assessing the gaps between current and future states and conducting an impact analysis. Studying who is impacted and how gives you a blueprint for the employee transition—engagement activities, communications, and training. In other words, you’ll deliver the right solutions for the right people at the right times. (Check out our three key principles of organization change: familiar, controlled, and successful.)
Documenting your current state is a critical investment in the success of your implementation. Give it the time and effort it needs, and your journey to those business outcomes will be a lot more rewarding.
The People Side of Supply Chain Risk ManagementTo guide your organization through a big change you need to understand who is impacted and how.
Phil Knight, the legendary founder of Nike, said “supply and demand is always the root problem in business.” Weak demand for a product is a bitter pill for any company to swallow. Inability to meet demand based on supply challenges is maddening.
Coronavirus has highlighted just how fragile our supply chain has become. In some cases, the chain is very complex. Even seemingly basic products like disinfectants, not to mention higher-end products like automobiles, can have many links in the chain of component ingredients or parts. Other times, there are too few links. For example, grocery stores may not able to meet the consumer demand for meat because there are relatively few animal processing plants. Production disruption at only a handful of major plants can leave meat displays nearly empty.
A global pandemic is a black swan event, but large-scale supply disruptions are becoming more common due to events like natural disasters, changing economic policies, and geopolitical disruption. Managing risk differently is a must. Tactics include:
- Identifying alternative sources of origins of component materials
- Diversifying suppliers
- Moving to nearshore or even onshore suppliers.
New solutions often mean new processes and digital technologies, and they always require people to perform differently. Change management – the people-centered solution – is crucial.
The Case for Change Management
Coronavirus is a trigger event for supply chain transformation and transformation is complex. Digital technologies like analytics and artificial intelligence are part of the solution. New processes are part of the solution. Employee behavior change is part of the solution.
In the face of a big, complex change, employees might be confused and fearful – they might disengage or actively resist the new way of working. But you need that behavioral system to work just as well as your processes and technology. Managing this change is crucial.
Messages must be clear and concise in times of complex change. We help clients boil down their message to four words – one to describe the problem, the solution, the approach, and the result. Together, the four words anchor the message. Leaders and other advocates need only remember these four words to ensure a consistent message. To make each communication compelling, add supporting details that are relevant to the audience.
To guide the organization through a change you need to understand who is impacted and how. Any change management novice knows how to identify stakeholders. We typically define them by team or department and design custom communications, training, and performance support for each group. But this type of analysis is incomplete. Teams and individuals should be categorized based on their disposition to change. Some stakeholders emerge as early adopters, who are pre-disposed to embracing new concepts. They make the change safe for the next segment of adopters: the early majority. The early majority makes the change feel like “this is how we’ve always done business” to yet another segment of the population: the late majority. Identifying, enlisting, and deploying the right people creates a bandwagon effect, until you have the momentum you need to engage the entire organization.
Behaviors, Habits, and Culture
Peter Drucker said “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It’s true. Results are marginal if your supply chain strategy doesn’t fit your culture.
How do we know whether a strategy aligns with culture? The sum of organizational habits form a culture. Habits are regularly repeated behaviors. We have to identify the behaviors that enable the desired business outcomes, and then decide whether those behaviors do or could align with the dominant culture. New behaviors can become part of the culture if they turn into habits.
Assess where you are today vs. where you need to be.
- Identify the behaviors that drive the to-be state.
- Consider what triggers or prompts each behavior.
- Make sure there is a positive consequence to reinforce the behavior.
- Ensure that employees have the ability to execute the behavior.
- Develop a plan to practice the behaviors and start creating habits.
We’ve heard the phrase “What gets measured gets rewarded, and what gets rewarded gets done.” Consider this when engineering behavior change. Are employees rewarded for managing risk? Probably not — at least not yet. Cost control or cost reduction has typically been king in the decades-long quest for efficiency. But performance ratings or bonuses tied to cost savings may not reinforce risk management behavior. It’s pretty basic: leaders must ensure that KPIs and employee reward structures match the business outcomes they want.
The global pandemic and other natural disasters may be changing the business landscape for good. However, the age-old problem of supply and demand remains. Business leaders have no choice but to change their supply chain strategy to be more nimble, more planful, and avoid risk. Mastering the change to people’s performance may be the difference between good and great outcomes.
- Fogg, B.J. Tiny Habits,
- Rogers, Everett. Diffusion of Innovations
More Virtual Meetings? Meet SmarterVirtual meetings are often inefficient and just plain awkward. Here are some tips to cure your virtual meeting woes.
Sorry, I was on mute. Can you hear me? Great, let’s get started.
Virtual meetings are nothing new, but in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are the only way many of us can meet. Which means all the annoying, inefficient, and counterproductive aspects of working together, while apart, are magnified.
When people are in a room together, there are subtle visual and auditory cues that manage the flow of conversation. Online, we lose so much of that information. We talk over each other. We start and stop talking abruptly. Some people just choose to clam up. Because we aren’t in the same room, we can’t point at things, huddle around the same flipchart to add our ideas, or pass out information and tools to use during the session. Our virtual meetings are often inefficient and just plain awkward.
Here are some tips to cure our virtual meeting woes.
Be the boss. One person should act as host of the meeting. Tell folks how it’s going to be and maintain those new norms. Virtual meetings are harder to get right, so they need more structure and a firmer hand. Before the meeting, make sure everyone has the information and technology to participate. After you share your screen and confirm that they see it, show everyone the participant list and take attendance. Show them the agenda and walk through it. Tell everyone that you will build in engagement – how you will be using the chat and other shared spaces to capture all of their input, facilitate good work, and make sure everyone has the summary and clear action items after the meeting.
Chat them up. Everyone should keep the chat window open and use it. Encourage participants to chat their comments or “raise their hands” on chat. Read those comments and stop from time to time to ask participants to speak. Notice who’s not speaking OR chatting; call on the quiet kid in the back of the room to give that person the floor for a minute. At the end of the call, invite participants to leave any final comments in the chat, then make sure you capture those in your meeting notes.
And promote a little chat anarchy. During our internal virtual meetings at Emerson, we do a lot of socializing on the chat – greeting each other, joking around, and posting shout-outs and celebration. Even if it’s not strictly on-topic, that’s ok! You should allow the kind of connection that normally happens as people gather in-person.
Use your words. Even if you’re on video, your facial expressions and gestures won’t land the same way as when you’re in-person. So add a layer of words. Make sure everyone knows where you are in the agenda, all the time. Ask them whether they can see what you think they’re seeing. You can’t point at something with your hand, so use your cursor and tell everyone where you are looking and which item you’re talking about. Pause at critical points to confirm that everyone is with you. Also, capture on screen and online, agreements, issues, comments, and next steps.
Think outside the screen. Consider structuring your work differently. For example, if you would normally ask small groups to put their heads together during an in-person session, chunk up your virtual meeting: a set-up, a break for small group work on the phone or email, and then a sharing session so groups can report out virtually. What might have been a continuous session in-person could be conducted in smaller sessions over a two-day period.
End on a high note. Use humor. Congratulate someone or celebrate a win. Switch to a grid or gallery view, so everyone can see all the faces on video. Ask participants to answer a fun question in the last few minutes. Do this often enough, and it becomes part of your culture.
Get ready to work. Arrive ahead of time and test your audio/video. Make sure you’re in a quiet place – no construction, family activity, or barking dogs. And just in case, MUTE when you’re not speaking. True Story: one of my virtual meetings was interrupted by a rooster crowing outside my colleague’s window! To be fair, it wasn’t his rooster. But do try to make sure your next call is rooster-free.
Don’t just join the meeting; be present. This is really hard, but don’t multi-task. Would you be texting or answering emails if you were in a small group in-person meeting? Probably not. Follow your host’s direction, so you don’t lose track of the conversation. And engage! Have mercy of your poor facilitator. Nothing’s worse than that dead silence when they ask for a response.
Be part of the solution. Are you frustrated with the meeting process or see an improvement? Don’t resign yourself to it— let your facilitator know, one on one. Your input can help virtual work evolve to serve your organization better.
Virtual meetings are here to stay especially after the COVID-19 crisis. But virtual work can evolve and change. Let’s resolve to be better at virtual tomorrow than we were yesterday.
Advice for Learning New Technology: Get the Context RightContext matters when it comes to learning new tech. Here are three ways to make it real.
Research on behavior and learning shows that the learning context matters. So, when users learn to use new technology, make it click. Put them in a realistic context. That means immersing them in the right setting and information, so they can imagine themselves doing business in the new way.
How do you make it real?
Scenarios. Training scenarios describe all the conditions under which people will practice using the new technology to do their jobs. This is a great opportunity to merge the things they already know with the elements of their to-be world.
Data. The data the user sees during a practice session or simulation should look as real as possible. Customer names, product names, services, sales data… all these should mimic live data. Resist the urge to get too creative by building whimsical data into the training program. It’s fun for us, but for the learner it’s more of a distraction than a delight.
Job Context. Yes, training should be developed by role, and roles combine to make jobs. But use any job information you can. If there are only a few jobs that perform a certain role in the organization, let the learner branch from one job’s version of training or another. Have instructors or coaches embellish training by discussing real issues, process hand-offs, and the other roles users will deal with on the job.
Wrapping realistic discussions around realistic training helps people make the mental leap to the new way of doing business.
A model workspace is as real as it gets.
The model workspace is a dedicated and supported space equipped with the same hardware and infrastructure as a real workspace – desks, tables, computers, printers, chairs, reference materials, and conference spaces. Participants use a training environment that mimics live production. The model workspace is staffed by project team members and – most importantly – change agents or super users from the stakeholder groups being trained.
Better? Have entire work teams use the model workspace all at once, so learners can rely on their peers and the people who will be there on Day One.
Even better? Use the actual workplace or space inside the same building.
Does it have to be an office? Nope! A plant floor, medical facility, or an employee’s home office can be made into a model workspace. Whatever the setting, you can simulate it.
Realism is not just a cherry on top of your training – it has real business impact. The more real you get, the better people learn, retain information, and perform with your new technology.
Simple Tips for Migrating to the CloudThree tips for a smooth transition to the cloud
Most kids today have never seen an actual floppy disk. They know the icon means “save”. Over the years, where and how information is saved and accessed changed significantly. In the days of floppy disks (and writable CDs and thumb drives), working on a group project meant making several copies of the disk so each person had one. When anyone made a change on one copy, none of the others would update. The final days of work on the project were spent consolidating work into a single file. Even with email to share project pieces back and forth, one person had to consolidate everyone’s work.
When I entered the working world, tasks were very much like one big group project. Several employees would update deliverables and, in the end, it was consolidated into a single product for customers.
By 2009 processes changed. Instead of saving individual pieces of data locally, we used a centralized system. Software ensured formatted deliverables, we just entered the data. Clicking “save” on my PC, meant validated work was passed to a company owned data center 1700 miles away on the ninth floor of a building in Chicago. There was no need to compile work across all 2000 employees. It compiled as we worked! That data center had to cost a fortune, but it housed all our company’s data. The cost for rent, electricity, and 24/7 IT support was surely worth it, right?
By 2012 it was all gone. The risk and cost associated with keeping everything in-house were simply too high. A single natural disaster, malware, or IT screw up could wipe out all our work. The solution was the “cloud.” Not simply a data center, but the ethereal server farms somewhere in the world. It was impervious to being wiped out by a single event. It also freed up overhead for investment in new services. The way forward was obvious, but that didn’t mean there weren’t bumps along the way.
My experience in migrating to the cloud was as a passenger. However, I picked up considerations along the way.
3 tips cloud migration
Who are you going to call?
When saving work locally, it became part of my responsibility to format and secure the data quarterly. Being fairly technical, I didn’t have much trouble adhering to those standards. However, it was a challenge for all employees with various backgrounds and proficiencies to follow the same standards. If a piece of data wouldn’t merge properly when packaging the final product, it could be an exhausting investigation to figure out what happened and how to fix it.
In 2009, our internal IT department oversaw a large database stored at the data center. The software ensured proper formatting, so managers could trust consistent product delivery. If there was a problem, we all knew who to call: IT. If there was an issue packaging the final product, the managers and IT worked it out.
Once on the “cloud”, who to call became unclear. The IT professionals were on the vendor side now and they treated all client data the same. If there was a problem, who should help? The vendor? Only a privileged few had access to the vendor, and it was on their schedule, not ours.
When migrating to the cloud, it is important to consider the impact and roles the IT department will play post-migration. They may no longer hold the keys to the Porsche, but if the Porsche is in the shop, it’s good to have a spare mechanic or driver around to ensure the business runs smoothly.
Don’t forget apps
Running apps in the cloud became a big deal around 2017. Some benefits include no installs, centralized tech support, on the fly company-wide updates. On the downside, if apps are proprietary, should that IP be out there in the open world? Working for a data-driven company that used proprietary software, this became a concern.
The solution was to create an entirely new piece of lite, online software. The legacy software would do the grunt work, while the cloud-based software would handle the rapid data input. Of course, the two had to talk to each other, and it required more people to validate the data on the back end. The faster, more efficient “cloud” based solution, turned into an amalgamation of tools and responsibilities, causing confusion across the board.
Consider how all employees will interact with the software. Do apps even need to be in the cloud? When migrating to the cloud, think about the benefits of running software from the cloud or whether customizing an off the shelf solution is an option. Allow extra time and roll it out in stages to build on successes.
Anticipate employee adoption
When migrating to the cloud, the saved data location changes. Don’t overlook changes to the literal “save” button. The user interface can completely change and impact skillsets in unanticipated ways. For innovators and early adopters, this can be an exciting new world, but those fearful of change can potentially bring down the boat and delay full adoption of cloud-based systems and software.
The first time I went through a similar migration, we had trainers and champions communicating a consistent positive message. They advocated for the new tool and the benefits it would bring. They were quick to point out improvements and show us the software in advance. Our office looked forward to discussions about the new system as we lamented the challenges of the old software. This was due in large part to the solid communication channels established by our training department. The 12 trainers, leveraging the early adopters, spread tastes of the new system across 2000 geographically dispersed employees.
When go-live was close at hand, a massive training initiative was executed within a month of the go-live date. As can be expected with complex systems, there were last-minute delays, and the release of our new cloud-based infrastructure was pushed back. Fortunately, our training team anticipated this might happen, and post-go-live materials were repurposed for just in time training.
When migrating to the cloud, it’s about more than bits and software on a computer. Software stability and employee preparedness must meet at the same intersection. Be prepared for the human aspect of migration. Communicate a positive message through the early adopters and take advantage of flexible training delivery tools such as microlearning or just in time training to ensure a smooth transition.
How to Use Hacking as a Learning ToolTry this experiential learning approach to teach low-code platforms.
Learning new technology platforms can be difficult, even for experienced techies. It’s even harder for those who aren’t tech-savvy. Many organizations are introducing low-code platforms as tools that are easily learned by everyone. Users are called “citizen developers,” people who may be required to build apps but do not have technical backgrounds. Companies use experiential learning approaches to teach these new platforms. You may be surprised to learn organizations use hacking as a learning tool.
What Is Experiential Learning?
Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience. Recently, I had the privilege of leading an experiential approach for learning Microsoft’s PowerApps platform. To prepare this client for PowerApps, we used a Hackathon. This is where hacking as a learning tool comes into play.
The Hackathon is a fast-paced, three-day, team-based, competitive event. In this event teams are formed, use cases are assigned, and teams huddle to design and build business-enabling applications. At the end of the event, teams pitch their solutions to a panel of judges like the television show Shark Tank. The judges determine the winner. Prizes are awarded.
During the Hackathon, participants enjoy music, food, snacks, and beverages, while learning new skills leveraging the low-code platform. Participants attempt to prove their ideas for new business applications in a friendly competition. This is an opportunity to accelerate innovation. Participants work through new concepts while broadening knowledge and a company’s internal network of new developers.
The Hackathon Process
- Hackathons are usually made up of 20 participants from across a company or business unit. Individuals with software development experience or anyone with a little computer savvy and desire to learn is welcome to participate. Participation is not limited to IT professionals.
- To start, participants attend the (one-day) App-in-a-Day Session (prior to the Hackathon). They get introductory training in PowerApps or whatever low code platform you’re introducing.
- Between the App-in-a-Day Session and the Hackathon, participants can use what they learned in the App-in-a-Day Session to “play” in the low code sandbox environment. They can explore other online training and information before the hackathon.
- The Hackathon itself usually runs for three days. At the end of the third day, the judging takes place.
Have you considered using hacking as a learning tool? Think about hosting a hackathon. It is a great way to parachute your employees into the wonderful world of low-code apps. Give it a try!
5 Ways to Support Your Digital TransformationEmbracing technology transformation is easier said than done. Use our guidelines to support it.
You realize that your old business model can’t keep up with your growth strategy. The increasing disconnect between your operating processes and the systems that supports them are becoming more obvious. You are reading everywhere about “digital transformation” and “business disruption”, and even your management team and shareholders are all “experts” in these subject matters. They keep asking, when is your organization jumping on the bandwagon? If this is you, don’t worry, you are not alone.
You are part of the 84% who believe digital transformation is essential to your company’s future but only 3% have actually successfully completed an enterprise-wide implementation. You must redefine your technology landscape and deploy a robust project that will impact all areas of the business while avoiding disrupting the organization’s day to day operations.
Embracing technology transformation is easier said than done. But minimizing business disruption and dips in performance levels is not as hard as it seems. The key is establishing some guidelines to support it.
How to Support Your Digital Transformation
Frame it. Communicate with your employees. Over and over. State the “from… to…”; share your vision and how you will realize it.
Explain it. Unexpected disruptors deviate your employees’ focus. Don’t panic and fill in the blanks, make sure they get the information needed as the transformation progresses.
Resource it. You need a dedicated core team for the transformation. They are responsible for the end-to-end implementation of the project. The core team is supported by a network of appointed subject matters experts (SMEs) and change agents. This group provides advice and serves as an extension of the core team inside the organization. Finally, stakeholders/users ensure the business keeps going.
Stage it. Break the project in small chunks (90-day mini projects) to allow the organization to digest the change, manage the disruption and appreciate the benefits of the transformation. This makes it easier for you to manage budget and resources.
Practice it. Create a plan for users to adopt the key skills necessary to embrace this transformation. Expose them to prototypes, simulations, test environments and allow them to practice and become familiar with the future state.
You will soon realize one-time projects will no longer be enough to support the pace of technology transformations. Instead, you will need to constantly plan, frame, explain, resource, stage and practice the ever-changing technology landscape that your organization will demand to stay relevant and competitive.
3 Behaviors Hackers Count On to Steal Your DataThe key to defending your organization against hackers is to understand their game.
Social engineering is a term that’s been around for a while and so have the methods used by hackers to manipulate employees into giving up sensitive information. As cybersecurity technology continues to improve, criminals are finding more human ways to hack into our systems. Criminals understand that companies are aggressively educating their employee to watch out for flash drives in the parking lot and emails with enticing links, so they adjust their approach and find innovative ways to trip you up. Next week’s scam will be different than this week’s, so the key to defending yourself is to understand their game.
Behaviors Hackers Capitalize On to Steal Your Data
You know me. Criminals depend on getting your trust quickly and the fastest way to get there is to convince you that you’re all part of the same team. They will go to great lengths to convince you that they are part of your ecosystem – a fellow employee, a trusted partner, or a valued customer. They will pretend to be someone that you will want to please and not disappoint. They will replicate your company’s email footer, steal your company’s hold music, take on identities from your IT employee directory, and even use your firm’s acronyms and terms.
You’re nice. They know that if they follow closely behind, you’ll hold the door open for them and that it’s hard to question a smile. They are masters at being sympathetic and helpful, the kind of person that you want around and would never double check. They will put you in situations to get the information they want and make you think they are helping you while they do it. “Someone put a ticket in about the network running slow in this building. Would you mind logging out and logging back in for me real quick? Maybe I can speed things up for you.”
You’re frustrated. Hackers love to commiserate. They count on common frustrations in every work environment – slow computers, ridiculous rules, clueless executives, etc. They use these frustrations to create common ground for conversations and justification for coming to your rescue. “Just another day in paradise. It’s inventory time again, do you mind letting me in the server room? I’ve got about 15 billion serial numbers to take down by the end of the day, or the suits in accounting are going to have my hide.”
So how do we combat these tactics? Should we stop being nice, or wanting to help our colleagues? Of course not, but we do need to have a degree of skepticism and be particularly aware of people we have never seen, even if they seem familiar and seem to know us. Also, we need to be aware of how these familiar people make us feel and what are they asking of you. Feeling obligated is a warning sign. Focus on your actions outside of the reasons why you are doing them. Are you giving up your password, or letting someone in a secure area? Forget the story or circumstances and focus on what they are actually asking you to do. Criminals are clever, but they count on you behaving a certain way in order to get what they want. Focus on your behaviors and you will be fine.
Don’t Simply Communicate, Focus AttentionUse these three elements to create meaningful communication.
Do I need to be on this call? Is this mass email directed at me? We’ve all had these thoughts at some point. It’s because we live in an era of constant change, where communication is king. Everyone needs to know everything so nothing slips through the cracks. Seems plausible, right? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on communication. It is critical, from the smallest software update to the grandest transformation. You can’t expect success without spreading awareness, but not all communications are created equal. If you want your audience to embrace and adopt your change endeavor, it’s not enough to send an email, you need to change behaviors. To do that, you need to change habits; literally, reshape the brain. You can’t just communicate, you have to focus attention.
Elements of meaningful communication
Focus on what though? You need a target and the desired end-state. Identify the key behaviors you want your audience to exhibit and the enabling habits that lead to those behaviors. With these in mind, you can develop an action plan of short, achievable objectives to build momentum, develop good habits, and drive behavior change.
Establishing an action plan is just the first step. You need to get the word out and gain traction, but you can’t do that with broad messages, they need to be focused. Too often we overvalue information because we don’t want to miss anything, so we over-correct and send too much. It’s like blasting a fire hydrant when all we need is a trickle of water. Your people only need to know what’s relevant to them, which means communication needs to be focused, and more explicitly: timed, measured, and specific.
How to focus attention
Information must be delivered when people need it. It’s too easy to dismiss something months away, and no one appreciates last minute updates. A good way to navigate this “Goldilocks Zone” is to establish an overall communication timeline to match your project milestones. Post it publicly around the office, on SharePoint, on the project website, in Slack, or even in a custom app. Set the expectation for deliberate email updates about your project, and then reinforce your communications with a push notification, a banner on your website, an alert in SharePoint, or any other tool you can leverage beyond email.
Timing isn’t enough, you need a measured approach to the information you send. Develop a meaningful content schedule aimed at delivering the right amount of information at the right time. Highlight the important details and avoid minutia. Nothing makes eyes glaze over like diving into the weeds with technical jargon about a system update. On the other hand, a simple announcement doesn’t carry enough weight, and people may feel lost. When is the update occurring, and how will it impact your recipients? Satisfy your audiences’ needs and questions without overwhelming them.
You read that right, plural audiences. You can’t send the same information to everyone and expect it to be relevant and impactful. You need to make sure each person gets the specific information for their role in the organization and the project. A sales VP and a customer service representative do not need the same exact information. Just like how training needs to be role-specific, you can’t tell everyone everything and expect the information to stick. Customize your messages and resources for each role, organize your SharePoint to support this role-based approach, build separate pages on your website for each audience, and push out notifications and alerts tailored to those affected by the upcoming change.
It’s not enough to simply push information out to everyone. Identify your key behaviors, build an action plan of achievable objectives, and then build a communication plan and content schedule to support your action plan. Leverage tools to reinforce your communications and build momentum. That’s how you focus attention. That’s how you transform.