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Adoption or Engagement

In our post, What’s Different Between Adoption and Change Management, we focused on the fact that change management is more focused on the broader context and the value delivered by adopting a new technology.  Adoption is fine when we just want to check off the task – but if we really want to drive value, we need to look for the results we’re getting.  One way to get better results is to stop talking about technology adoption and focus on engagement.

Adoption is Easy

It was a 70s-era meeting room, complete with dark paneling and yellowed ceiling tiles from the smoking that once clouded the air.  The demand was to get to 100% adoption of the new intranet.  Failing to convince the leadership that this wasn’t the right metric, they insisted, and I guaranteed 100% adoption.  They were satisfied.

Like the genie or cursed monkey’s paw that grants wishes that are literally what was asked for, I worked with the information systems team to set the global policy in their network that all browsers would always have their home page set to the intranet.  We did indeed get to 100% compliance with the adoption of the intranet – after having to manually help a few Apple Macintosh machines.  And the results weren’t what they wanted.  No one was actually using the site, and they were complaining that they couldn’t set their home page to Yahoo any longer.  (This was a while ago.)

You see, you can force adoption, because it’s not a state of mind.  It’s a mechanical act rather than a belief system, emotion, or feeling.  (See Going Through the Motions for more.)  If we want to get real results, we’ve got to get people wanting to adopt our change.

Engagement is Powerful

In an ideal world, we’d want everyone to be excited about our change initiatives, but that’s not realistic.  They’re not truly interested in the latest and greatest technology for something that is a small part of their job.  They don’t care if it looks pretty on the back end.  If it helps them out slightly, they’ll be slightly happier – but “excited” would be a high bar.  That’s why the goal shouldn’t be excited.  The goal should be engaged.

An engaged person believes in the change that’s happening – or the people leading the change – and is a willing participant in learning what the new world will be like.  They want to try to make their own lives – and those of their coworkers – better.  Instead of forcing people to make the change and watching the predictable subversion, we engage them to create unexpected opportunities.

No one at 3M started out with the idea of the Post-It note.  The technology at the heart of the innovation was supposed to be a super adhesive to hold things together permanently; but when the stickiness was discovered to be enough to allow pages to be attached and detached, the value was recognized, and a product line was launched.

This is innovation, but it comes from an engaged individual trying to solve problems and create new opportunities.  In this case, it was used to keep bookmarks in a Bible.  That’s not a market that 3M was – or could even consider – pursuing.  By being engaged in the creation and discovery process, we got a totally different – and unexpected – result.

Exchanging Adoption for Engagement

In your next change initiative meeting, try swapping out the word “adoption” for the word “engagement” and watch how the perspectives and options change – and then wait for the innovative ways of using your solutions generate new lines of business for your organization.

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