You don't transform a company with Excel and PowerPoint 1/2 - Shared Reference & Success Criteria

Vincent Pavero,

When we attended the AI World Summit North America a couple of weeks ago, people rushed to our booth to congratulate us on our Excel, PowerPoint, and headline. Many people can relate to the infamous 200-slide presentation explaining everything you need to know about frameworks, processes, and the so-called work culture at their organization.

The truth is that no one has ever read this document seriously. No one was involved, so no one cared. The document gathers dust in Sharepoint and Google Drive. The person who wrote it may have left, and no one even remembers where to find it. Consider the typical presentation, a jumble of 1,000 bullet points and overcrowded slides. It's a recipe for forgetfulness, ensuring that nothing sticks. And let's remember the lack of involvement from the people and teams expected to change their working methods. Is it any wonder that this uncontextualized content is met with resistance?

Step into the graveyard of Agile transformations, product model adoptions, centers of excellence, chapters, communities of practices, and other continuous improvement initiatives. Here, documentation lies dormant, a testament to its ineffectiveness in driving change. But here's the real truth: It's not the documents that transform organizations; it's the people. Armed with expertise, active engagement, and the correct bites of documentation to assimilate, leaders, coaches, consultants, and experts have the power to drive change, not the tools themselves.

How can documentation, tools, and technology in general finally enable successful transformations and thriving communities of practice and centers of excellence instead of dragging your continuous improvement efforts down?

Fixing: No Engagement

Whether you're using tools like Confluence, Notion, or PowerPoint, they are not designed to maximize engagement and content consumption. It's just not what they are meant to do. These tools are before all databases and information repositories, aiming at the editor's satisfaction, not the reader.

As a result, they are terrible tools in the context of coaching and training people. They encourage the creation of tedious, generic, and extensive documents, quickly obsolete and hard to maintain, that will fail to engage and convince people to adopt new behaviours and practices.

In intense company operations, when people and teams don't even get enough time to work on their improvement initiatives, the consequence is immediate: they will ignore, push back and intensely criticize the transformation initiative.

What are the keys to valuable and impactful documentation that can change how people and teams operate in your company?

  • Atomic

    Content must be sliced into small, actionable, digestible, memorable and personalized (contextualized) nibbles to be accepted and generate engagement and learning.

  • Measurable
    Many frameworks and operating model presentations have been doomed to fail since day 1. Suppose you can't explain what the new practice or behaviours will look like. How can you expect your entire organization to adopt it? Why would someone change if no one checks if it's done?

  • Interactive & Personalized

    A transformation or improvement initiative should be tackled from the receiver's perspective, not the change agent's. Documentation should not be fun to create. It must be fun to consume.

You won't be surprised that these principles are at the core of the Hoemric platform and explain why we focus on creating playbooks: Each play is a new practice of behaviour that must be adopted and documented in an atomic, measurable, interactive, and personalized way.

The leader, coach, and consultant editing the playbook uses the power of Homeric's technology and AI not to create more documentation faster but to create an engaging experience for the readers, who will ask more!

Fixing No Distribution

With tools whose mission is to be the best possible databases and information repositories, it's fascinating to see how they take for granted that you need to go to them. Isn't this arrogant? It's as if, as a coach, I'd stay in my office all day and say, "I only coach from my desk; you have to walk to me, not the opposite." How successful would I be?!

This is another collective failure of all these documentation tools. While designed to store content, they are not intended to distribute it. This is the difference between success and failure in the context of a transformation or improvement initiative. Employees and teams are busy. There is no task or event in calendars to "change working habits", so they do not go to the documentation systems to read poor content proactively. They don't, and it's not related to the quality of the documentation. It's related to how efforts to learn and change fit within a working day.

Some organizations invest a lot of time and money to move information across various systems, thinking the documentation is not consumed because it was in the wrong place. So, they create integrations between Notion, Confluence, Asana, JIRA, Sharepoint, and more tools to flow information. Still, it has a negligible impact only. Whatever the tool is, if the employees and teams don't have some capacity to focus on the documentation, they will never go on the documentation system.

What should we be doing to spread best practices and behaviours successfully?

  • Proactive

    Yes, we must stop going to the documentation system. The future belongs to proactive systems that come to us. Anything that helps you become a better professional should reach out when it's relevant and valuable.

  • Nudges

    Improving best practices is not an operational task, so there is no allocated time for it. This is why coaching and training should be delivered through nudges - small touchpoints that will not distract you from your daily activities.

  • Consistency

    The messaging must be consistent anytime, anywhere in the organization. It's especially hard when working at scale with potentially tens of different coaches or consultants delivering their own message variant. This can be incredibly disengaging for the teams and discrediting for the change agents.

These observations are also at the core of Homeric's product principles. This is why we created the first "vocal documentation system". Users don't need to come and allocate time to browse and learn the playbooks: The playbooks will go to them. Our AI generates observations, insights, recommendations, highlights, and other small nudges automatically distributed through typical communication channels like Slack, Teams, or email. And because Homeric is a piece of technology, influencing and nudging five users or 5,000 represents precisely the same effort.

Fixing: No Harmonization

When working in larger organizations and on a larger scale, improvement and transformation initiatives involve multiple experts, consultants, or coaches, depending on the nature of the initiative. Just think of the Agile transformation at Capital One, one of the biggest US banks. They had more than 1,200 agile coaches and scrum masters with the mission to deploy Agile methodologies across the organization.

How can you ensure these people promote and spread the same message and practices? Even in smaller organizations, once you have a few coaches, how can you ensure everybody contributes to the emergence of a company culture precisely defined by sharing the same behaviours? You can't, and this is why you need some reference documentation.

Some companies may have a PowerPoint document or a Confluence page used as shared material between the coaches and experts. However, they often miss the point as they describe processes or frameworks instead of the actual practices and behaviours to be adopted. Then, as it's open for interpretation, each coach and expert can advocate for their version of the transformation, creating a massive amount of frustration around them while setting the transformation for failure.

What are the key elements between harmonized coach and transformation at scale?

  • A reference that cannot be copied

    It's always unbelievable how often people make their own variants of different documents. Obviously, people need to look at the same sources to promote the same message and practices.

  • Clear success criteria

    Describing practices and behaviours is one thing; aligning on how to confirm they are applied is another. Most organizations have stakeholders and players with differing views on what change looks like and how to assess whether the expected change is achieved.

  • Open dialogue

    It's impossible to "decide alignment". It's created through continuous discussions, feedback and adaptation. Without this constant dialogue, each coach, expert and team will stay in their lance, doing their own version of anything. Beyond the induced failure of any improvement or transformation initiative, companies are doomed to live in an environment with endless friction, arguments and the complete absence of a work culture fostering innovation and performance.

These principles are certainly at the core of Homeric design. The collaborative workspace allows coaches and experts to work on the same reference material and forces them to describe and use the same criteria while enabling communities of practices and centers of excellence to foster communication between the transformation agents and the teams and individuals who need to adopt new work methodologies.

In conclusion, I can't stress enough how crucial it is for organizations to move away from presentations and spreadsheets when managing change, improvements, and transformations. It simply does not work. While the objectives, techniques, and behaviours to adopt may remain the same as the organization scales, the context requires companies to equip appropriately. Engagement, distribution, and harmonization become the driving forces of impactful documentation. Do not stay stuck with tedious documents gathering dust on Confluence, Sharepoint, or Google Drive!

We certainly want Homeric to be the right solution for all of this. Feel free to reach out if you want to know more. We'll be happy to help you find better ways to make your improvement or transformation initiative the success it deserves to be!