The Most Common Types of Manager Resistance To Enterprise Collaboration and How to Deal With It


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Based on a research report Chess Media Group released last year on the State of Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration, the most common types of managers resistance to collaboration are: not a priority, uncertainty about tangible ROI, uncertainty about overall business value, and lack of a supportive culture. Let’s take a look at each one in more detail and explore how to deal with them.

Not a Priority

I have found that often this response happens not because it’s not a priority but because there is a lack of education about the benefits that can be achieved and because of a high degree of fear. In these situations a few things can be done. First, I recommend drumming up support from employees and colleagues throughout the organization. Surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one meetings with employees can be an effective way to show managers that this should be a priority. Second, sitting down and speaking with several managers one on one to understand their fears, concerns, and perceived benefits is also effective. Chess Media Group conducted several multi-day interviews in which we sat down and spoke one on one with almost all the VPs and key stakeholders as well as several employees during a client project (often it’s best if a third party does this because people are more comfortable sharing personal information when they know they won’t be judged or reprimanded for it). Third, I recommend education and training on what exactly all this means to the organization. Several hours devoted to introducing the concept, what other organizations are doing, case studies, and potential benefits and risks and then brainstorming some potential next steps can be very effective. Simply approaching someone and saying, “We want to invest in emergent collaborative software” doesn’t mean much to many people, and so “It’s not a priority” is a very easy answer to give. But by focusing on solving very real and tangible existing problems with new tools and strategies, the chances of support are much greater. Showing practical use cases for collaboration is also effective. Focus on existing problems within the organization that can be solved with these new tools and strategies.

Uncertainty about Tangible ROI

This is a very common form of resistance, and it’s quite understandable. Why would an executive want to invest in something without understanding the financial impact it will have on the organization? Then again, there are many investments organizations make without clearly understanding the financial return: Billboards, print ads, printers for the office, phone systems, and television commercials are all difficult to show a return on, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. I’m not going to lie and say that I have an ROI formula or a simple way to calculate exactly what the ROI of collaboration is. In fact, there is only one formula for ROI, which is (gain from investment – cost of investment)/cost of investment. Instead, I can point to lots of collaboration case studies and examples as well as pieces of research which show a very clear ROI (more on collaboration value here I devoted a whole chapter to this in my book The Collaborative Organization).

Uncertainty About Overall Value and How It Will Meet Business Objectives

This type of response typically means that an organization is considering deploying a tool first and then will find a problem for the tool to solve. I have found that when organizations use the approach of mapping a business problem to a desired result, it becomes quite clear what the overall value is and how it will meet business objectives. Always start with a business problem; don’t worry about technology yet. That’s like having the dessert before the appetizer (which I do quite a lot). I guarantee that virtually every organization in the world can benefit from effective enterprise collaboration.

The Company Culture Is Not Supportive

We keep hearing about the culture of a company and the impact that it can have on collaboration, but what exactly does that mean? Culture is one of those things that is a bit hard to define, but a good way to look at it is like the personality of the organization, the behaviors of the employees, and the shared understandings and assumptions of how people work, behave, and communicate. Therefore, if an organization is very competitive, fragmented, and non-communicative, it will be much harder to adopt a set of collaboration tools and strategies. Many companies have run into this obstacle because they assume that tools alone can help change the culture of a company; this is false. If the company culture does not support collaboration, then you already know what needs to be done before reading the next sentence: you have to change the company culture. An entire book can be written on that topic alone, but culture is typically instilled by leaders of an organization and so they have the power to change it. This can involve things such as incorporating a new set of public values that encourage collaboration, rewarding employees for collaborating with each other and helping each other, leading by example, and removing cubicles that segment employees. Non supportive collaborative cultures at organizations can destroy efforts to build a collaborative organization; therefore, they must be addressed.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jacob Morgan
I'm a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores what the future of work is going to look like and how to create great experiences so that employees actually want to show up to work. I've written three best-selling books which are: The Employee Experience Advantage (2017), The Future of Work (2014), and The Collaborative Organization (2012).


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