e-Records Conference 2015: Rock, Bamboo, or Sponge?

This is the fourth post of a multi-part recap of the 2015 e-Records Conference. Presentation materials from the e-Records Conference are available on the e-Records 2015 website.

Bamboo-StoneOften, when we talk about implementing new strategies and systems for records management, we think of the implications that such innovations can have: procedures may change, business processes could be streamlined, and the outcomes might be different than what we are used to seeing. Many times, however, we forget that there is a human element to records management, and the people who are responsible for creating and using new processes and tools will have to adapt to a new way of doing things. That adaptation can be something that is relatively easy for one person, but very difficult for another.

In her presentation “Rock, Bamboo, or Sponge: Managing Change in the Knowledge Worker Ecosystem”, Anne Tülek explained that people will adapt to new implementations depending on their personality. How workers react to a new system or process can determine whether a project flourishes or fails. She quoted a sobering statistic: 70% of projects we implement have significant failures. However, if we were to dedicate 15% of our budgets for these projects to managing change, the failure rate would be much lower.

She then cited another statistic, one that records managers will be particularly interested in: the average information worker spends nearly 20% of the workweek looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. Tülek asked, “What would happen if we could give knowledge workers just 5% of their time back every day? And make them more effective in the process?” That would add up to 24 minutes per day, 2 hours per week, and finally, 10 days per year. But however an organization decides to change processes or organize information, there will be a human reaction that will affect how these changes are accepted. Let’s look at the different personality types that come up in reaction to change: rock, bamboo, and sponge.

Before she introduced the different personality types, Tülek introduced the concept of the Kübler-Ross Change Curve. This model is probably very familiar to some people as a model of grieving, but it can be applied to almost any situation in which a sizable change occurs. In the model she showed in the presentation, Tülek showed the stages one can go through when reacting to a change: denial, frustration, depression, experiment, and decision. In the denial stage, the knowledge worker reacts to the shock that things are different with disbelief and looks for evidence that it is not true. This leads into frustration, where the worker realizes that things are different and sometimes becomes angry about the change. Sometimes this will lead to depression, which is characterized by a low mood and lack of energy. Typically, this will be followed by the experiment phase, where the knowledge worker will begin the initial engagement with the new situation. This is followed by the decision stage, where workers feel more positive and learn how to work in the new system.

Each of these phases has a corresponding tactic to ease the transition. During denial, the project managers should be creating alignment, so that workers remember that they are all working toward the same goal. When frustration sets in, this is the time for project managers to maximize communication – both allowing the employee to express their dissatisfaction and anger, but also letting the project managers inform the employee about the new system and how it will help them. After depression takes effect, project managers should use it as an opportunity to spark motivation within the knowledge worker and encourage engagement with the new system. Once the employee enters the experimentation phase, project managers should work to develop the capabilities of those workers. And finally, when the employee reaches the decision stage, project managers should work to share knowledge about the new system and other workers reactions to it.

But not everyone will go through these stages at the same time. How quickly a person will move towards accepting a new way of doing things depends on whether their personality is more like a rock, bamboo, or a sponge. People with the rock change management profile typically apply active resistance and non-compliance. People with this profile also have a low capacity for change. Like rocks, there are only really two effective methods to affect change: the drip or the kaboom. The drip, like eroding a rock, happens slowly and may take many months to affect change. The kaboom is a sudden shakeup that demands action and is felt immediately.

The bamboo change management profile is characterized by WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) analysis and whipsaw effects. People with this personality, like bamboo, have a strong capacity for change, but in limited degrees. You can train a piece of bamboo to bend and curl, but it will take time. With these workers, it’s important to emphasize how the new system will help them and build upon that.

People with the sponge change management profile have the highest capacity for change, but their saturation point needs to be monitored closely, which means that too much new information can overwhelm anyone, even someone adept to change. People with this profile are typically early adopters of new systems, and usually provide consistent requests for involvement in projects and focus on continuous improvement. These are the people you want to enlist to help you win over the bamboo and rock profiles.

So, which profile do you think you fit into? Do you recognize other profiles in your coworkers? How would you handle the different profiles as you implemented changes in your organization? Let us know in the comments below!



One thought on “e-Records Conference 2015: Rock, Bamboo, or Sponge?

  1. More important than personality types of the employees is how innovation is introduced. All too often management installs new technology without explaining how to use it. “Just play with it” is a phrase we hear all too often.

    Just last week I attended a meeting in which several highly competent technology professionals struggled to figure out how to use the new projector. Technicians had simply removed the old equipment and installed the new without bothering to show anyone else how to use it. It reminded me of early PowerPoint presentations and SharePoint implementations.

    This phenomenon is not unique to IT. Before the Franco-Prussian War the French developed and manufactured a machine gun in secret. When the war broke out and the high command deployed the guns, the field commanders had no idea how to use them. They looked like cannons artillery, so they were stationed with the artillery rather than with the infantry. And the Germans won.

    My personality type is bamboo. I like new technology when it enables me to work more productively and create a better product. Otherwise, why bother?

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