2014 Main Conference Talk
Topic(s): business, case studies, communication, and leadership
Businesses want return on their web investment. To do that, IAs need to step out from behind the screen, take a seat at the table, balance user and business needs, and create a positive environment for change. Armed with an approach I sometimes call “strategic nagging,” this is the story of how I became a change agent using IA and content strategy to transform the 160-year-old American Society of Civil Engineers for a digital-first world.
Let’s talk about honing the empathic, organisational, and analytical skills we already have to diffuse disruption and work with people and processes, as well as information. Patience and persistence makes our message pervasive so we can motivate decision-makers, find allies, persuade detractors, and provide direction to practitioners.
When I became ASCE’s Web Director in January 2013, I thought I’d tinker with some content management issues, help rewrite some content, and provide governance guidance. Little did I know that I would use change management tactics disguised as web strategy, design, and development to get them to adopt an overarching digital strategy to better reach its members, grow revenue, and start to make stuff that really matters. We’re reaching a pivotal moment, and this is the story so far.
About the speaker(s)
Carrie Hane helps organizations create more effective content more consistently by coordinating the people, processes, and technology to build efficient content operations. For 20 years, she’s been putting together cross-functional teams and creating processes that stick while untangling information to make it usable for today and ready for tomorrow. She is the co-author of Designing Connected Content: Plan and Model Digital Products for Today and Tomorrow (New Riders, 2018). When not taming content, Carrie tries to tame her two boys. Content is easier.
Carrie Hane Dennison: …So I was all excited to be the first speaker after the keynote, so that no one would steal what I had to say before I said it…
Carrie: …And then I watched Irene, and she said half of the things I’m going to say, but it is a different context, and I am not an executive at Yahoo, or Google…
Carrie: …So hopefully you can still learn something. I’m going to put some quotes up here, and I think you might find some that sound familiar. Things like “We’ve always done it that way,” or “The committee approved this, and told us to put it on the website.”
Carrie: “The way we do it now is…” insert your own way of doing things. I’m sure each one of you can add a whole list of things to the things that you hear from the people you work with, or your stakeholders or your clients every day.
What these are, they are something I call true but useless facts. One of the primary things that we need to do as a change agent is to get rid of those. I’m going to talk about some of the ways that I’ve fought to get rid of people saying things like this in my organization.
But first a little bit about how I got here. 25 years ago, when the web was born, I was getting ready to graduate from high school. Then I went off to university and studied international affairs and thought I’d become a diplomat.
That didn’t work out so well. While I’m not solving problems in far flung countries of the world or mending fences with Russia, I am using a lot of the same skills that I would have had I gone that route. Except that I’m doing it in the business world and trying to get people to work together and think digital first.
I went off, I had a couple jobs before the web became a big deal and I had to make a website at the company I was working in, and decided that was where I was going to go. Eventually, I became a consultant for about 10 years, first as a freelancer and then as a content director at a digital agency. Then last year, I ended up at the American Society of Civil Engineers as the web director.
Just a little bit about our organization so that you can see where I’m coming from is, it’s 162-year-old organization. There’s a lot of entrenched ways of doing things, a lot of, “We’ve always done it this way,” “Our members need this,” things like that. I hear that constantly.
We have about 250 people on staff, 9 of whom, including myself, are on the web and social media team. We have over 145,000 members around the world. 40 percent of those are over 50 and male, so this is not a growing demographic. This is a huge problem for our organization to attract younger members and a more diverse set of members.
But even though ASCE is over 160 years old, it wasn’t until last year that they created a position called web director. Actually it has a lot more words in it than that, but they’re pointless. They’re true but useless. Not only was that the first time they created that job, it was the first time they really hired a web professional to run the website. I’m sure you guys can appreciate this.
When I went there, I thought I would be going deep into things. I’d go and I’d start writing content strategically and updating the CMS. Instead of doing this massive redesign that none of us really want to do, we would just start revising the website, section by section, doing that iteration.
I’d implement some governance, set up some new guidelines and standards, and really, for me, it was a large organization compared to where I had worked before. There was a marketing department, communications. I would be working with collaboratively with all these people.
That’s not what I’m doing. Instead, within two months, I recommend that we literally blow up a website and start over from scratch. That was accepted; they accepted the logic behind that. I really am introducing the concept of strategy and user experience, just flat out on the surface; they had not been doing either one of those things. I’m really pushing change and disrupting the whole business, not just the web.
I found myself building a team that’s already almost doubled since I started. I brought the web developers in, they moved over from IT into the web team and I added a content strategist position. Hopefully this year, I’ll add a couple more positions, namely, a UX designer and a web designer, which would be wonderful to have on a web team, right?
Overall, I’m pushing us to create a digital strategy, not just a web strategy or a content strategy, but something that encompasses all of our digital products, because, really, all of our products are digital now.
It wasn’t long before I realized what I was doing was some form of change management. I started reading about it, and that led me to realize that this is really about change leadership. Change isn’t necessarily to be managed. It has to be led.
Someone recommended this book “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.” Guess what? Change is always hard. In like so many of the other books and articles I read and videos I watched, Switch talked about how we need to get people to go along with you, when you introduce change.
To do that, you have to address their rational and emotional sides. You need to make them want change and give them tools to accomplish it. Again, change is hard, and people even if they determine they want to, they’re not sure necessarily why, or what’s going to be in it for them.
In the book, Chip and Dan Heath talk about the elephant and the rider as an analogy. The elephant is people’s emotional side. It tends to be lazy and skittish. It looks for instant gratification like, “OK. What’s going to happen to me now?” It really just wants to get things done. It doesn’t really matter how; it just wants to do them.
And, yes. This is an elephant that I saw at the zoo the other day. I was modifying my presentation this morning.
Whereas, the rider is people’s emotional side. It holds the reins and it seems to be in charge. If there’s a disagreement between the rider and the elephant, guess who’s going to win? The elephant. The elephant is a lot bigger than any person.
I’m sure you can think about that when you’ve tried to make some change in your own life, that you know you should do it, but it’s hard to get going. You end up spinning your wheels a lot.
We need to learn how to direct the rider. The rider is often overwhelmed by choices. This often results in what they call “analysis paralysis,” an over analyzing of a situation or problem, spinning your wheels. I’m sure you can all think of many of the same situations where this has happened to you.
In fact, I just had a call with one of our consultants last week, and they used this exact word. They said, “You know, we’re doing something. We feel like we have this ‘analysis paralysis.'” I’m like, “I know exactly what that is. It’s in my presentation.”
We stepped back and cancelled a meeting, and went and did something a little different. We’ll pick it up next week when I get back to the office, so that we’re not stuck in that, and that was a really good decision.
We’re really focused on the outcomes, so that we can engage our emotional side and help get that elephant moving. You need to really start moving, instead of trying to figure out whether to move.
How do we get the elephant moving? Usually, when there is small change, we can use a pattern of analyzing something, thinking about it, and then making the change.
Getting our organizations and colleagues to change how they approach their work is not a small change, it’s a big change. That requires an approach that involves presenting evidence and making people feel something.
This speaks to their elephant and it engages their elephant. They can see the change. They can feel it. They can make it happen.
Something I found effective to get the elephants and the riders moving is what I call “strategic nagging,” patient, but persistent repetition of a message. Really, just constantly reminding people what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what’s working.
Just like in our work we talk about, “To stay on brand, we have to have the same message.” We might say it differently to different members of the audience. It’s the same thing with this.
We’re not going to say the same thing to our office mate as we would to the chief executive, or the person who works in the mail room, or the person who answers the customer service line. You have to think of what everyone needs to hear.
Let’s talk about some of the things that make this effective. It starts with vulnerability. You have to take risks and be open to failure, and let yourself be seen. This is not easy by any means, but it’s necessary.
There’s no such thing as over communicating, whether it’s emails, phone calls, instant messages, or maybe even getting up and talking to a person.
There was just a study released by the Project Management Institute that shows there are two main reasons change fails, and one of them is insufficient communication. The other one is lack of leadership.
Management is really making a system work, while the system is broke. We need to lead its change. You need to take charge and go out there, and figure out what it’s going to take to lead the change that needs to happen.
None of this is easy and none of this is fast. If you stick with it and have some patience, and believe in yourself and what you’re doing, you can ride that wave of; often it’s taking two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps back. Eventually, you get moving forward.
Being a change agent is not easy, and it’s not for everyone. I’m not going to lie to you. I thought about what all of these things come together, and came up with some characteristics that I would think describe a change agent.
You have to be thick skinned. You can’t take everything personally. You can’t let other people bother you. You’re not there to make everybody happy.
You’re there to do the right things, and get everybody moving in the right direction. You have to be open-minded and willing to listen. You don’t have all the answers. You have to talk to people and find out; work together, to figure out what is going to work for the situation you’re in.
You have to be passionate and believe in your expertise. I’m going to assume that we’re pretty much all in that boat and have that, or we wouldn’t be here at a conference learning about how to do IA, or UX, or change, or whatever you’re going to learn about while you’re here.
You need to be willing to take a seat at the table and speak up. If this is something you’re thinking about doing, or want to do more of, and you have a lot of these characteristics, then being a change agent is for you.
Why am I here at the IA Summit talking about this? Why did I go to the Content Strategy Forum last fall and talk about this? It’s because the things that are involved in making change happen are the things that we do as part of our jobs, as everyday jobs.
You can see this list. This is the things we describe about the things that make a good UX professional. We have to listen. We have to empathize.
We have organizational skills that we can apply to something besides a taxonomy, or a site map, or a wire frame. We analyze things. Again, in different ways than we might for our user experience work.
Being a User Experience Professional is a lot like being a diplomat. Some people call it politics. I like to call it “diplomacy.” We really are bringing people together to come to a solution, to help find the compromises. Just like we do when we’re talking to other people, whether it’s at the highest levels of government, or with your family, or with a friend.
Also, we ask hard questions just to do our jobs. We ask these questions like, “What are your priorities? What are your business objectives? What do our customers want?”
We hear this, and we know we need to do this. This is part of our own change within ourselves to think about things differently. If your experience is anything like mine, this is often what you get when you ask those questions. You get either stunned silence like, “Really? I’m supposed to answer that?” or you get a litany of TBU’s. “We do it this way. We do it that way.”
What do you do when you don’t get answers to those questions? You figure out where to start. You help people get the answers. If you don’t get answers, make them up.
You can work with people, whether it’s a business owner, or a client, or a colleague, or a designer, or a developer. Whoever it is you’re working with, who can’t give you those answers, with them to create measure and iterate something. You can always find someplace to start.
As you do that, more than often you’ll build trust. You’ll be able to guide others on where to start and create a goal. You just have to do something, so that you don’t get caught in that analysis paralysis cycle.
Just keep in mind; it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.
Really, if it’s not us, digital workers, UX professionals, who have this kind of natural ability because of the profession we’re in, then who’s going to do it?
In Paul Boag’s new book “Digital Adaptation,” he says, “Digital workers fully understand the problem and can see a solution.” Really, we as digital workers are in a unique position to make change happen in our organizations with our clients, with our colleagues, and in the business world in general.
What we do is a reflection of business. We understand that digital is the business, not an output, more often than not these days. There are companies that only exist online. This is something that people expect. Everybody shops on Amazon. They expect Amazon in every site they go to.
Well, we can’t all be Amazon. We can give our people a good experience and make them loyal to us, make them join us, make them buy our stuff. We have to find ways to do that.
We’re also used to a constantly changing world. We wouldn’t literally be here in this room if we’re not. There is always something new changing, whether it’s technology, or the way people think about things. We’re used to that. We are always adapting to that in our profession.
How can you do this? How can you learn, how to strategically nag? To start with, don’t act like an archaeologist, someone who uncovers all the things that happened before. When you do that, you often uncover a lot of true but useless facts.
Instead act more like a therapist and use Solutions Focused Therapy, where you’re focusing on the solution rather than the problem. Therapists ask a lot of questions. They listen, and they let people come to their own conclusions.
I’m sure you’ve all been in meetings. If you’re directing meetings or having some brainstorming meetings, you probably have felt like a therapist. There have been times when I come out of meetings. I’ll start it off with one or two questions.
I won’t say a word until the end when we’re wrapping up. Everybody else around the table has been talking and building on what each other person has said. Sometimes I really feel like I should send them all a bill, because therapists make a lot more than I do.
You need to dig deep and find your inner toddler. If you’ve ever spent time around young children, and this is my son about three or four years ago, their favorite thing to say is, “Why?” They ask “Why?” over, and over, and over again. They ask a lot of questions. Even after they’re toddlers, they still do. Chanel your inner toddler, and ask “Why?” a lot.
We have to stop thinking about this as a zero sum game. This is really a win-win situation we’re in. It’s not us versus them. It’s us plus them. You have to believe this. You have to make others believe this. Let the people you’re working with and talking to know that you’re their ally, that you’re there to help them achieve their goals. It’s not your goal. Your goal is to help other people do what they need to do. When you do that, you can build that trust among the people working with.
You can create that win-win environment by taking every chance you get to explain why you’re doing something. Whether it’s showing them the step, drawing things out, just help people understand how you developed whatever it is you’re working on. Then they can internalize that and be part of the process and the next go around.
You’re going to see this word a lot. I can’t emphasize it enough. Under-communication is our biggest problem. That same PMI report about managing change says that creating an effective communication plan and communicating the intended benefits of change are the key factors in implementing change. Really, there is no such thing as over communication.
While there are many ways to communicate, I find the best is to talk to people. Have meetings, go for drinks after work, walk over to someone’s desk. Just get out from behind your screen and talk to people. The benefit of getting up and going to talk to people in person is that you can read their non-verbal views that you can’t over the phone or by email or the tone of the voice is even lost in email and instant messages.
You can get some off-the-record information. I do this a lot. There is a lot of questions I have that I know aren’t going to be answered frankly if I send them in an email, because I wouldn’t even want to be known to have asked the question where someone can trace it, let alone make someone answer it in writing because we all know that once it’s written down, it stays forever on the Internet. You never know where it’s going to come up.
I can walk into someone’s office and whether it’s speaking lowly or closing the door, say, “Hey, I got this going on. What do you know about this person, about this process? Give me some history.” You can get that off-the-record type of information when you’re actually talking to people.
Remember that you’re leading change. Leaders define the vision of what they’re trying to achieve. The vision is the glue. Dan Heath calls this creating a destination postcard. You don’t walk in with the answers; you walk in with the picture of the goal. Where are we going? You make it clear, because resistance is often the result of a lack of clarity. When you define the vision, you remove a lot of the ambiguity. You have to share that.
Remember, before, we had the same message but we talked about it in different ways to different people. I’ve laid out four layers of any organization. Your org chart may be a lot bigger or a lot smaller than this. This is just a generic one. At the top, we have the executives. They are the people who allow things to happen, and they are the elephants. You have to get them on your side or you’re going to have impossible time doing this, if not, a very difficult time.
Find out what speaks to your executive or your executive team and talk to them about that, whether it’s the bottom line or more customers or happy customers or maybe even their legacy of what are they going to leave behind, what can they do to leave this company or this organization in the better shape than when they found it.
Then you have the senior management. These are the people who set things up and get things working. They only have maybe only one person to report to, fewer people to report to, but they have to get things going. You can talk to them about making maybe the staff and the customers happy and help them to see how things need to be set up.
Then you have the middle management. These are the architects, the people who are…Actually, they’re told what they have to do and they can set things up and put things in place. They have to do a lot of up and down management. At the same time they are leading their teams, they have to report to the senior managers to let them know what’s working and what’s not. They all have goals that they need to meet.
You can talk to them how to meet those goals and how to help their teams be set up for doing things well. Then you have the practitioners, the workers, the people who are doing this every day, most of whom probably don’t think the web has anything to do with their job. Guess what, the web is everybody’s job now. This is something I’m starting to say more and more in my organization when I get back, start doing the content development for our new site, and I’m going to have a lot of people who write for the web because they’re not afraid of it. That’s not really a qualification for being a good web writer.
I’ve got to give them tools and processes to help them do what needs to be done and help them understand what’s in it for them. Frankly, today, especially among younger people as they work up, the more they know about the web. They need to be user experienced people. They don’t need to be web workers. They need to understand what makes something good on the web so that they can do their job and contribute to that.
As you’re doing this, you’re going to have some successes. You need to celebrate those short-term wins. Remember, this isn’t going to happen fast. You need to have patience. When you can celebrate the little things along the way to the bigger goal, it’s going to help your patients.
When you do this, it helps you personally to know that you’re making progress, that you’re going to boost morale, keep those elephants and writers moving. You’re going to remove roadblocks, and you’re really going to generate energy and forward momentum. Just keep in mind that progress is more important than perfection. You have to remind yourself, probably daily, maybe many times a day, and you have to remind others.
Just last week, I had a business owner of a project in my office. We were creating a new forum to get some information from our members. During our meeting, as we were creating it, we came up with two options. Everyone looked at me, “Which one is better?” Of course, I said, “It depends. Let’s ask our users.” We did.
Again, this is very new in our organization. We went out; we did a really super quick and dirty usability test to see how people use these two different forums. We came back with three options, the best, the second best, the least best. They couldn’t do the stuff to make the first best happen, couldn’t do the stuff in the second. We ended up with the last one. He was lamenting about, “We just did this, but they can’t do what we wanted them to do anyway. What was the point?”
I said, “Look.” I pointed to this. This is on a whiteboard in my office that I point to a lot and read every day. I said, “We did testing. We found out what worked. That is progress here.” He walked away, feeling a little bit better that we had tried something new. Even if it didn’t go exactly how we wanted it, it was a step forward.
Not everyone is going to go along with us and with change no matter what we do. We have to be prepared for people who resist change. This is where the thick skin is important. There is a saying, “The best defense is a good offense.” You really need to stay one step ahead and anticipate questions and understand where people are coming from.
Once again, you’re going to use many of the same skills you use every day as a UX professional to help you shape the nature of these relationships. We often talk about having empathy for our users. What about empathy for the people our work is disrupting? The people we see every day at work. There are a lot of people who have been doing their jobs for a long time, and they’re firmly entrenched in processes and systems that we are breaking.
Basically, in so many words, I hope, and not directly, we’re saying, “What you’re doing is wrong. We have to find a new way.” If we take a moment to think about this and understand how change is scary and threatening and disruptive, we’d really develop better relationships and be able to work better with these people.
At last year’s ISM, Steven Anderson did a talk called “Stop Doing What You’re Told.” The first thing he did was tell us to draw a vase. This is what I drew. He told us to compare. Everyone had something like this on their notepad. Then he told us to draw a container to display flowers. That’s what I drew. That didn’t look like anything anybody else drew. Everybody drew something different.
Then he created a Google Doc of bad problems. What he did is he made names for these problems that we see every day. What he did here is show us that when you’re told to draw a vase, you’re going to draw exactly a vase. This is a solution. What we really need is a container to display flowers. The problem is how are we going to display these flowers? I think he called this one solution airing or something like that.
There’s a whole list of them. I encourage you to go to this and identify which of the bad problems you see most often in your organization so that you can steer people away from them. This happens a lot not only with the detractors but this is going to be more often with the people who don’t want to change. We need to implement a group of CMS or we need to have a blog or whatever it is.
The way to steer people away from these bad problems is by asking why a lot until you get to the bottom of the issue so that you can focus on the solution and not the problem. You can ignore these people, these detractors or resistors. You have to invite them in to be a part of the process and let them have their say. You have to anticipate their attacks and be clear, simple, and respectful in your response. Eventually, as you do that, you’ll be able to rely in others to help you make your point and to help you work with these people.
Constant progress and forward movement keeps people motivated. Don’t light up. When you keep moving, those resistors, the people who really don’t want to do anything new are going to go underground and they’re going to become the minority. They will eventually, hopefully, not everyone will do this, eventually; they’ll stop detracting from the things. Because there’ll be 10 people around the table and 9 people are on board. That 10th person isn’t going to be as likely to speak up. You’ve gained the majority the people on your side.
Here is the motivational speech part. Be vulnerable. Take a seat at the table, not behind your desk, quite literally. Get up and go talk to people. Lean into the discomfort and be vulnerable. Complaining about how no one listens to us, how people just don’t get it isn’t going to help. Own your expertise and speak up. Let yourself be seen and eventually, let yourself shine. Take charge, lead the way, and keep the focus on the vision.
You’re going to find fellow change agents in likely and unlikely places. I found two by going to happy hour in December with some people from our continuing education department. They told me they had just given a presentation about creating websites for Gen Y. I’m like, “Shouldn’t I know something about that, since I run our website?”
We talked. We started talking. I found out the reason they were doing that and this was a thing for them. was because they’re dealing with a new generation of people, who are relying on digital for lifelong learning.
In the Civil Engineering profession, most engineers need to be licensed. They have to have on-going education. We offer that. That’s another part of our business that’s declining. We need to figure out how to overcome that.
Collaborate, communicate, and celebrate. Don’t go it alone, we really achieve more when we work together.
Now, I am not magic, but a lot of people I work with think I am. Literally, people have said that. Even one person said, “Are you a wizard?” I’m like, “If I did, I wouldn’t be doing my dishes at home. That’s for sure”
I’m really the man behind the curtain. Much like the Wizard of Oz, my main trick is common sense and saying things out loud that people are thinking, and also asking the right questions.
We need more people willing to challenge the status quo. Let’s stop messing with the little things. Let’s leave the change to make things that don’t suck and to get shit done!
Carrie: I’ve been doing this change agent stuff for about a year now. I’ve made a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time. I’ve accepted that I can’t do everything at once.
I am building momentum. It’s still an uphill climb. I know where the top is now, even if I really can’t quite see it. The pinnacle is where the culture has evolved to accept change as a constant, and to be able to adapt to it.
Now, I’m hearing things like this, “Can I come up and talk to you about this problem? Can we triage this problem?” These things show that I have made an impact, that people are not coming in just putting a ticket in to say, “Do this. I need a website for this. I need a blog. Add this picture to this page.” They’re saying, “OK, I have a problem. Let’s work together to solve it.”
Finally, this bottom one came from one of our people on the executive team. When we saw the visual design, he said, “For the first time, I feel like we’re having a good website.” These are the things that keep me going every day and show that I’m making progress.
I hope you’re motivated and start doing these types of things right away. What are some of the things that you can do next week, when you go back to work?
Embrace your vulnerability. Maybe you invite yourself to a meeting or speak up, but be careful what you ask for, I started doing that a year ago, and now I get invited to way too many meetings. I don’t like being the popular kid.
Find allies and recruit other change agents. If you can find a champion towards the top of the organization, even better. That’s going to make your life a lot easier.
Maybe you go out and you talk to someone who you’ve never talked to before, whether it’s someone above you, below you, in the next cubicle over, just find out what they do. It’s amazing what you’ll learn.
Communication and collaboration, and focusing on the outcomes. Ask more questions. Have patience and empathy for the people you work with. Think about where they’re coming from, so that you can help them make that transition.
Thank you and good luck!
Carrie: We have a little more than five minutes for questions. Is that right? There’s a mic in the middle if anybody has questions.
Audience Member: That was an awesome talk Carrie! Thanks so much. In the spirit of making yourself vulnerable, what do you do when you kind of recognize all of these things about the responsibility that you have to take, but you just can’t do it today? How do you think about that?
Carrie: You can’t do it internally, or it’s just been…?
Audience Member: You just personally had enough. [laughs]
Carrie: Find a new job. [laughs]
Audience Member: Do you never have days like that?
Carrie: Yes. I think about running away all the time. This was something I think Irene talked about in the keynote, if you guys were in the keynote. You have to figure out what you can do, and apply all of these to yourself.
This also can be a personal journey. Making yourself vulnerable is a personal thing. It’s not necessarily a professional thing. You have to start personally. Use all these same techniques on yourself, and do that.
Celebrate that whole inviting yourself to your meeting. That was the hardest thing for me to do. Once I started doing it, like I said I only had to do it once or twice, and then people started inviting me.
If you can find just one thing to do and start there. Really, it’s all that same kind of stuff. It is hard and it’s scary for ourselves.
Audience Member: Hi, Carrie. Thank you, again. My question is, “How did you get past the obstacle of people kind of going around you, and kind of annoyingly undermining you?”
I’m finding that I’m running into that issue a lot. I think it’s just because people don’t know my job just yet. They just do what they think they need to do.
Carrie: Or what they’ve always done?
Audience Member: Yeah.
Carrie: Yes. I had that a lot. Not so much anymore, because I got out there and talked to people and built that trust, and communicated what we’re doing.
I also have champions above, so people are saying, “Hey. Talk to Carrie.” It’s finding those other allies and communicating, so that people understand that you know what you’re doing, and that we need to change the process.
There are a lot of things I’ve said. I’ve come out with a lot of new processes explaining it to people, because people don’t understand. It’s that whole part of explaining what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
Maybe sitting down with your team. I don’t know. For me, I had to sit down with my team and say, “How should this work?” Then we had to communicate that to the people.
Once we do that, again be careful what you wish for, because now we are overwhelmed with these requests. It’s a lot easier to just put a picture up on the website, then it is to have a meeting and talk about what this really means.
It’s really the communication and defining what you’re doing, and letting people know that.
Audience Member: Thank you.
Audience Member: I have a question. How do you implement change when a business owner or a stakeholder is indecisive, or always changes their mind? That never happens, right?
Carrie: I don’t know anything about that. Decide on something. I never have a meeting, where we’re trying to come up with a path forward, without leaving it with exactly what we’re going to do and we’re going to measure.
Facilitating that meeting and coming to a conclusion at the end of it, and writing it down afterwards. I send them a follow-up email saying, “This is what we’re going to do, and this is who’s going to do it.” I found that to be effective, because then it’s in writing.
Then when they say they want to change it say, “Let’s try this first. We’ll measure it, and then we’ll change it if it’s not working.”
Audience Member: Thank you.
Audience Member: I’m like four levels down from the top of my organization. I have to go through four levels to get something approved. It becomes very challenging to make change. I’m in a really large organization, and to get to speak to the VP is really, really hard.
For me to understand what drives him what he needs and to talk to him, I don’t know how to do that actually. We all sit around and have meetings trying to interpret what he meant.
In that sort of situation, how do you get to have that information? How do you build that trust, especially if you want to create organizational change, but you’re just not on a high enough level of management to have access to the people you need to talk to?
Carrie: Be sneaky.
Audience Member: How?
Carrie: Find something little that you can do and show that it works. Go through those different channels. Go as high as you can. You might not get to that VP first. If you can get a few people under him thinking about it and talking about it in the places where he is, then he might latch onto that.
It really is just starting somewhere. Think of something that isn’t going to have an impact, that you can do in the time that you have. Document the success in whatever way that’s possible in your organization. It’s going to be different everywhere. If you do something, show the success and communicate it. It will eventually trinkle up.
My organization is not huge. I don’t necessarily have a direct line to the executive director, but my boss does. He’s been my biggest champion.
I changed bosses. When I started, I had a different boss now. When I realized in talking with some other people that I worked with, that what we were going to do needed a different type of champion, I switched over to who I am working for now, who is the CFO.
Which makes no sense that the CFO is in charge of the web, but it works. He knows what he doesn’t know, but he is willing to listen, and willing to understand, and willing to be the champion, and to have those direct conversations with our executive director. I hope that helps.
Audience Member: Yeah. Thank you.
Audience Member: I work in an organization where there’s a strong history of working off sites. There’s hardly any time where the whole team is in the office all together at any given time. At the same time there’s also quite a resistance of organizing more meetings where everybody has to be there.
I was wondering if you have any tips of how communication could be improved if there’s very little face time at all between everybody?
Carrie: Yeah. The agency I worked for, we started out fairly distributed and had a harder time with that. Just picking up the phone more, then instead of relying on instant messaging and email.
I know it worked for me in that situation, because we were trying to put processes in place as we grew. In that case, it was more for content than overall organizational change.
It really is talking, even if you can’t be face-to-face, to me is preferable than typing something. So that you can read that tone and get out there.
When you do have meetings, bring up the things that are working. Take those times to really use them effectively.
Audience Member: One thing that I find difficult though is if you start having these one-on-one phone calls with people, then you sort of exclude the rest of the team, then you have to catch up with everybody else.
It’s really hard to have these personal conversations and not just broadcasting an email, then nobody then feels in charge of needing to respond to.
Carrie: Can you have conference calls?
Audience Member: Yes. I guess we could, but that’s almost considered like another meeting on the phone. That’s how we have our meeting situations.
Carrie: Maybe it’s when someone says, “I wasn’t invited.” Say, “Well, I invite you next time,” and they can always not come.
But yeah, if people feel like you’re working around them, it’s not going to work. Invite them, and then you can say, “I invited you.” Obviously, you’re not going to say it that way, but invite them.
Audience Member: Thank you.
Carrie; That’s all the time I have. Thank you all very much.