Thursday, December 27, 2007

Who's the guy with the blue head?

Recently, the organization I work for acquired another company within the same industry. Because the acquired company is very successful in their own right, all employees were retained and we are currently sharing best practices and working towards integrating what is now two separate divisions within a larger company. The end goal is to implement the best practices from each division, companywide. For the purposes of this article I will refer to the acquiring company as “Division A,” and the acquired division as “Division B.”

As human nature dictates, each division believes that there way is the best way and that any change would be counterproductive. However, senior management see’s the big picture and has done a great job of uncovering the best practices from each division. The first major change we are going to implement is integrating Division B into Division A’s Information Systems. This is going to be a big project for me because I am the guy from Division A, who trains everybody on the Information Systems. Therefore, I will be the guy who trains everybody from Division B on the new information systems being implemented in their organization.

In order to develop a training plan I needed to familiarize myself with Division B so that I know who to train on what and to get to know my audience so I can start thinking about what the best delivery methods may be. So, I put on my consultant hat and made a trip up to Seattle to spend a day in Division B’s corporate office for a scouting trip.

Boy did I feel like the guy with a blue face in Division B’s corporate office. I could hear the whispers of “Who’s that guy?” “What’s he doing here?” “Ohhhh! He’s from Division A!” There is definitely a level of resentment rooting from fear in Division B towards Division A. Although Division A retained all of the employees from Division B and gave them more perks then they had before there is still a fear of the impending changes. Because I come from Division A and play a key role in implementing these changes I am not exactly welcomed with open arms.

Prior to this scouting trip I thought my biggest challenge was going to be the timeline we are working on. Little did I know I was in for a rude awakening. I now know that my biggest challenge will be establishing credibility and overcoming Division B’s fear of the change. I can have the best training plan in the world but that won’t make any difference if I cannot gain their acceptance of the change.

This leads me into territory I am not familiar with. In my role I have a history of implementing change in Division A but that change was usually welcomed with open arms because they know I am there to make their job easier. Unfortunately my batting average doesn’t mean squat to Division B. Division B doesn’t have the understanding that this change will make them more efficient and is a huge improvement for the company as a whole.
At this point I need to come up with a plan for overcoming this fear and helping the general staff of Division B to see the big picture. If I can sell them on the benefits of these changes then my training efforts will go much smoother. This project is giving me a good taste of what an external consultant goes through when trying to sell their services to a client. I am usually the client so hopefully I can track down advice from somebody who feels my pain : )

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cheat Sheets

I stumbled upon Tim’s Blog which is chock full of “One Page Guides” that are simple, one page job aids covering a variety of topics. Browsing through these one page guides reminded me that simpler is better most of the time. A well designed job aid such as the one page guides can be much more effective than a day long training course.

I routinely create PDF’s similar to the one page guides and make them available on the company intranet which works out great but after looking at the one page guides I know I can do better. By keeping the job aids down to one page and laying out the information in a more user friendly format I can get much better results. Keeping these principles in mind, I am going to start creating one page “Cheat Sheets,” rather than long documents covering everything under the sun regarding the topic.

Here are a couple of my favorite one page guides from Tim’s Blog:
Online Video Editing
Introducing Wikis

Monday, December 17, 2007

Off and Running

We’re off and running with the Wiki. It’s installed and running like a dream. Now we are dealing with the task of writing the content which is turning out to be quite a task. I have no prior Wiki experience and I was under the impression that I could just copy and paste sections of training manuals that I have written into the Wiki and have it ready to go in no time. Little did I know that Wikis have a whole language of their own. With the help of a cheat sheet I picked up the Wiki formatting language pretty quickly and I am basically copy and pasting a line at a time then adding the formatting.

So far we have written about 20 articles and I really like how it is all laying out. We’ve been playing around with the categories which appear to be a huge factor in user friendliness. From my small amount of Wiki experience I have learned that if the Wiki is going to be effective then it will need to be constantly maintained and updated. I know the whole idea behind a Wiki is that the users will keep it maintained and updated but let’s get real here; very few people will be able to see the big picture of the Wiki. It is going to be crucial to have a team of people that understand the big picture and can keep the contents maintained so that it is well structured.
This has lead me to the idea of starting a Wiki team that not only maintains the Wiki but does most of the writing of new articles and updating of older articles. Due to the formatting language it doesn’t seem feasible to have just anybody doing this. The average user will have no idea what commands they need to enter for headings, etc. I envision having a team of “Wikivangelists” that maintain a watch list for certain subjects. I can take experts from different areas of the company and train them on the Wiki so that they can be responsible for their area.

Before I get started on developing my team of “Wikivangelists” I need to get some more content pumped out. Once I get a good base of content I will be able to help potential “Wikivangelists” get an idea of the overall big picture.

Next Steps:

  • Keep pumping out content – Once I get a base of content, it will all start coming together.
  • Advertise – Once the content is there I need to advertise it. I am going to have a Wiki naming contest, scavenger hunt, and make a “Wikivangelist Wanted” ad.
  • Develop – Develop team of “Wikivangelist” and get them fired up about it. Think of possible name for role other than “Wikivangelist.” Wiki Guru or something?

Wiki Research

Through my research into Wiki implementations in corporate settings I have found that there is just not a lot of info out there. I am having a hard time finding good and bad examples of Wiki implementations and how they are best used in corporate settings. I have found a few blog posts regarding Wikis in corporate settings but overall I am going at this blind. I am assuming this is because Wikis are not being used in many corporate settings at this point and there are not many people with this type of experience.

Once I have the Wiki off and running I will begin working on a case study that will hopefully benefit somebody else looking for help with Wikis. Hopefully a good description of my wins and losses will benefit somebody else.

This is a case study that helped me get my head wrapped around this project. It really reminded me of how important marketing the Wiki will be to its overall success.