Barriers to Change

Change can sometimes be hardChange management has been a widely used term for a decade or two. Some think that the term should already be forgotten, because modern work and leadership are constantly in change. The working environment and culture needs to be evaluated and improved all the time in many organizations.

Yet, many organizations let people, who have no idea about how change should be followed through, manage change. This spring I had the opportunity to witness just that. An organization took a new procedure into use, however, the evangelists and “change agents” didn’t believe in the new way of working themselves. For example, a training session started by stating how the old ways will be missed and how sorry we are about the not-so-good new way of doing things and that one just has to manage somehow. This is fortunately a rare and extreme example, but I was still shocked to encounter such behavior since change management isn’t exactly a new thing.

Bob Pike held a session in the Training Conference in February about how to design participant-centered training. Actually the whole session was about the barriers to change organizations and people can have. After all, training and learning often means learning a new or different way of doing things. After each training there’s always the challenge of how to keep the new procedure as the primary way of doing things, instead of just slipping back to the old habits.

There are three very clear barriers to change. Old habits and customs may be so strong that even if the new way of doing is better, the person may still not want to leave his comfort zone and change the old habit. In an earlier Cloudriven blog post, Janne Haonperä told us how habits are formed and how to break them.

Another obstacle for change is the environment, i.e. the culture. Sometimes the workplace and the organization don’t support the change that a certain individual or group wants to follow through but rather pushes people back to the old ways. If the environment doesn’t support the change, the person has to put on a lot of effort and be even more determined in order to get the new ways into use than if the environment would support the change.

One simple example is doing office work standing instead of sitting. If one doesn’t have an (electrically) adjustable table and there are no tables suitable for working standing up in the office and there are no desires to get a suitable table, is the change hard to follow through. One might have the opportunity to work at home and get a suitable table there but if the support of the environment is lacking the change might be almost impossible. With good arguments one might be able to change the environment’s general stand and eventually get to organize the change with the support of the environment.

Third barrier to change is too many changes happening at the same time. If you try to manage many changes at the same time, it’s much harder to reach the goal successfully. Change and learning always require resources, energy and concentration. Many changes happening at the same time usually leads to bad results.

For instance, if you decide to start a new life, stop smoking, start eating healthier and even exercise more, it is likely that these simultaneous changes take too much energy and you eventually go back to the old and easy ways. However, dividing the one big change into smaller chunks and following each through one by one will help you to achieve long-lasting results. When you’ve finished with the first step successfully, it’s easier and more motivating to take the second step and learn something new. So learn first how to work while you’re standing and after that you can learn how to use the mouse with your left hand. Don’t be too greedy and try to change everything at once or your stress levels will skyrocket and you’ll quit more easily!

Whether you’re planning to make some changes in your personal life or in your organization, you will be more likely to succeed if rhythm, repetition, reflection and recognition are taken into account in your actions. Read more about our TrainEngage Method.

Managers Should Play a Bigger Role in Workplace Learning

Managers Should Play a Bigger Role in Workplace LearningAlmost all organizations are ready to invest in employee training and if they aren’t, employees will certainly demand training. The expenses, mostly course fees, trips, accommodation and lost billable hours, will pay themselves back with increased employee satisfaction and more productive work. Therefore it’s strange that only a few organizations measure what has been learned and how it is applied to work. Organizations rarely manage learning in an active manner.

Too many training programs still consist of just mere training events, but there is an increasing amount of courses, which require preparation before the course and independent training after the course, for instance, in a web-based learning environment. However, this is not enough. Often it can be difficult for the employee to put the skills and knowledge learned into practice and understand how the learnings can be applied to one’s own work. This is where we need the manager to manage learning.

According to research,

  • 55 % of employees listed lack of training implementation as a weakness of most managers.
  • Employees will make a 57 % greater discretionary effort if they are engaged with management and continuously learning.
  • When sales managers are used to reinforce sales training, retention is increased by up to 63 percent.

In other words, managers should participate in their employees learning process and lead it, so that the skills and knowledge can be put to use. In order for this to happen, there are three problems we need to solve:

1. How can we forget the old habits?
2. How can we better remember the things we’ve learned?
3. How can we put the learnings into practice?

Janne introduced a couple of ways to handle the first problem in his latest blog post. A habit is comprised of three parts: the cue, the routine and the reward. To get rid of an old habit, you need to understand and become aware of these three elements and try to make changes to them.

In my previous blog post, I already stated that repetition is a very important part of learning, because it helps you to remember the things you’ve learned. Without repetition, you will quickly forget. With his own actions manager can help and ensure that the employee remembers the significance of repetition. By setting up goals for learning, we can make sure that the person will focus on the right things during the training and can apply the learning to his own work and achieve the set goals.

Manager’s role is crucial when it comes to putting learning into practice. If he doesn’t have the time to sit down with the employees and discuss about the work, there are other possibilities as well. Manager can organize peer groups in which the employees will reflect on their learnings and get support from colleagues. The discussion in peer groups is likely to flow more freely than with a face-to-face meeting with the manager. The third option is to set two employees to work together. This way they can both learn from each other. This is particularly efficient if the employees share a different skill set.

Learning should not be limited to training events; it should be the managers’ responsibility to design and develop the learning process as a whole. When the manager has a vision of what skills and knowledge his team needs, he can lead the employees to put the learning into practice.

Gamification Training Program Launched in Kajaani, Finland

Gamificate 2, the second in-service training program in gamification, was launched in Kajaani, Finland, last weekend. The training is jointly organized by the University of Oulu and Kajaani University of Applied Sciences and it’s targeted for highly-educated people, who are interested in taking advantage of gamification in their work. The training program runs for the whole school year and it includes ten days of contact teaching in Kajaani

Cloudriven’s CEO Jukka Koskenkanto is one of the trainers. He was also teaching at the first Gamificate training a year ago. Jukka started the course by familiarizing the participants with the basics of gamification, the market need and the process view.

“From a business perspective, it’s important to remember that gamification can only add value if it is part of the company’s business processes”, Jukka says.

Next time the participants will deepen their knowledge on what gamification is in practice and how it can be applied in the workplace. Cloudriven’s gamified Habit solution is being used at the training to support learning; the participants can track their progress during the course.


SharePoint Team Sites Fit Every Situation

It’s so normal for me to use SharePoint that when I start in any team or project I have a need to get SharePoint team sites into use. The latest example is me getting into the board of trustees of society for the prevention of cruelty to animals last year. I tried to keep up with all the e-mail conversations and attachments, but was soon dreaming about SharePoint. There we could save all the necessary files from meeting invites and minutes to pet foster home agreements. It would be so much easier to use discussion board instead of a lot of e-mails, create a calendar where all the board meetings and events are marked, manage a to-do list, pet foster home list, list of all the animals that our society is taking care of and the list goes on. As a new board member I didn’t have any means to read previous e-mail discussions whereas discussion board in SharePoint would have offered me also all the past discussions as well.

A need before that is dated a little over a year back when we purchased a house that needed a massive renovation. All of the sudden we were in a situation where we needed to plan the timetable, budget, look at the pictures, graphs, floor plan, contractors contact information and download files of the renovation project. My partner understood to use a SharePoint team site for the project and now all the needed files, pictures, timetable and budget are saved there as well as next tasks in prioritized order and several contact information.

My favorite child in business world is the team site that I designed for managing trainings. The first picture shows the original team site designed for SharePoint 2010. I didn’t create the whole in one session, but I have added features little by little when needs occur. This in my opinion is the key factor in designing team sites: first one needs to figure out the needs – why is the team site needed, what could it be used for, what’s the challenge that is set out to solve. I myself had two main challenges which I wanted to tackle with the training team site: where can one find the needed training material and where have I been sold to train (when, where, what, who?).

Training workspace in SharePoint 2010

Training workspace in SharePoint 2010

The first challenge was easily solved. I created a library where I downloaded all the existing training materials (nearly one hundred files). I thought carefully what information do I need of each file and what would be the easiest way to find the right material. This lead to noteworthy amount of different columns, i.e. metadata, and the front page only shows the most important ones. Now if I need to find a certain material, I find it with just a few filtering clicks on the columns. Later on I created a library for customer-tailored material and one for our organizations internal training material. Sure all these could be saved in one library as specific content types. Separate libraries make it possible to create different user rights for the libraries and share something in the extranet in the future. I wouldn’t want to share our internal training material for everybody!

The other challenge was a bit harder. How do I make the sales people to use my team site and write down the sold/agreed trainings there? Technically it wasn’t a big challenge. I created a custom list in the site and created just the columns/fields that were needed when I go to a training (for example who was the sales person, what are the names of the customer and the contact person, what’s the address etc.). It was just that the button “Add new item” was not so noticeable so the usability in the eyes of the sales people wasn’t so good. I came up with the solution to add a big button “Add new training” in the front page and copied the hyperlink from “Add new item”. That way the big button opens a new create item form. All I had to do was to explain to the sales people that you need to click on the big button and fill out the form.

For finishing touch I created a workflow for the training calendar that sends an e-mail to the assigned trainer every time someone edits a field in that list. This way neither me nor any other trainer has to check the site every once in a while; the info in the form is delivered directly in one’s inbox. Taking possible newbie trainers into account I added a page where the entire training process from selling the training into analyzing the feedback is explained thoroughly. I created that schema with MS Visio. This way even the ones who train seldom remember to do the necessary things before and after training. Later on I added one more metadata to the training material library, link list, information about the contact person of the site (that’s me of course), commenting feature etc. Even Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I just finished updating my training team site into SharePoint 2013 era. The whole idea of the team site was created for SharePoint 2010 so it was a bit outdated. The last spark to do this were the tips given by well-known WonderLaura and Jennifer Ann Mason at the Las Vegas SharePoint conference. As you compare the pictures of the team site in SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 you may notice that I added some visual elements in the front page with picture links, changed the layout to Oslo (left navigation is up so more room for content) and changed the commenting feature into Yammer-feed of training group. What do you think of the changes?

Training workspace in SharePoint 2013

Training team site in SharePoint 2013


P.S. You’ll never guess how fast it was to get the number of trainings held last year for my boss!

Don’t Listen to Mumbo Jumbo ― Gamification Can Be a Profitable Investment

I got excited about productivity improving information systems about ten years ago. After around hundred project deliveries, several systems developed for our customers and our products Virta and Sydän, I ended up studying the benefits of gamification in different organizations. I’ve lectured a popular negotiation skills course for several years in Aalto university. The course offers a cross-disciplinary approach to the noble skill of negotiation. Gamification also draws from several branches of science: motivation psychology helps in understanding changes in human behaviour, mathematical modeling reveals causal factors leading to results and information science sheds light on the technology.

Besides academic interest and my own practical experience, I have closely followed the hype around gamification and the different approaches companies have to the subject. Choose the right approach to gamification and you’ll make sure that your organization’s investment is worth every penny. Don’t be fooled by the uncovered nonsense and mumbo jumbo the technology-oriented propeller heads try to feed you. The companies that offer gamified systems or gamify business solutions can be divided into roughly three categories:

  • Entertainment producers believe that productivity is improved by an animated Santa Claus who drops answers from his gift bag to frequently asked questions when clicking with the mouse
  • Technology believers trust that productivity will increase, for example, when every employee gathers badges or scores points by commenting on any SharePoint blog
  • Business solution providers solve business problems and improve customer’s results by changing behaviors and influencing business critical processes using game mechanisms

Cloudriven wants to provide value for your company. We are a business solution provider. We don’t cash in by selling “feature porn” and maximizing the billable hours of our employees as IT suppliers typically do. Instead we invest in gamified enterprise systems ― Virta, Sydän and soon to be launched Habit ― that solve our customers’ business problems and are used as productively as possible. That’s how we help our customers to change the behaviors of employees, partners and customers in a way that can be seen down to the last row of the income statement. At the same time it produces an exceptionally good ROI (Return on Investment) for the system investment.

I’m extremely glad for the possibility to be one of the lecturers in a course called Gamificate (in Finnish) which is arranged by the University of Oulu and Kajaani University of Applied Sciences during this autumn and winter 2014. I promise to use my observations and the things I’ve learned the hard way as examples in addition to theory. You can still sign up to the course before 31.8.! I’m sure you’ll find hands-on tips to benefit your business from the successful and not-so-successful examples given by me and other lecturers during course.