SharePoint: Flip the Switch to Effectively Promote Change



I recently completed reading ‘Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard‘ by the brothers Chip and Dan Heath. As I was reading this fantastic book on change management, I couldn’t help but relate each point to my own experience with SharePoint. Each implementation, regardless if the organization is starting fresh or performing an upgrade, involves in some manner a shift in policies, procedures and corporate culture. Getting stakeholders and the project team to buy into this change hurdle sound feasible, but getting the entire company to see, think and act differently can seem intolerable.

The Heath brothers provide a methodology borrowed from Jonathan Haidt in ‘The Happiness Hypothesis‘ that our mind is made up of an Elephant and a Rider – stay with me, it will make sense. The Elephant, or right side of the brain, houses our emotional responses – while the left side, the Rider, represents logic and rational responses. The Elephant will not move unless it’s motivated. The Rider will not move unless its seen a clear path.

Focusing on one aspect while neglecting the other can spell doom for your SharePoint launch. Build the hype, excitement and marketing campaign (Elephant) without presenting a clear purpose, direction and expected results (Rider) can ensure failure. “What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity”, quotes the book. To warrant a successful behavioral transformation it must touch both our Elephant and our Rider in order for us to collectively move (change) – starting to make sense now?

The book hits on nine parts to take into understanding when challenged with a change process. I will relate each point to SharePoint as I briefly describe the step.

Direct the Rider

  • Find the Bright Spots
    • Meaning: Find out what is working and how you can do more of it. What is the ratio of time spent solving problems versus scaling successes?
    • SharePoint: During an upgrade speak with departments and try not to focus as much on what issues they are having and more so on what is effectively working for them, best practices they are using, and how you can increase that already established adoption using the new tools and feature sets through the upgrade.
  • Script the Critical Moves
    • Meaning: Too many options paralyze us into continuing with how we do things already. If you want them to change, clearly identify what you want them to do.
    • SharePoint: Present users with all the new bells and whistles and capabilities of SharePoint and they won’t know where to begin – and possibly won’t begin at all. Direct the action. Don’t say we are going to reduce cost, number of intranet tools and increase productivity – say store your document in SharePoint and collaborate in real-time without email!
  • Point to the Destination
    • Meaning: To a Rider, the analyzing phase is often more satisfying than the doing phase. Send the Rider a destination postcard.
    • SharePoint: State your goal for using SharePoint. For BI, “Make decisions faster”. For Collaboration, “Connect. Communicate. Collaborate. Complete.” There is a clear purpose why you chose SharePoint, simplify the message and spread it.

Motivate the Elephant

  • Find the Feeling
    • Meaning: Elephants demand positive emotions, which tends to widen the focus and move the Elephant effortlessly
    • SharePoint: Rebrand and rename the new or upgraded SharePoint solution implementation. Use Birthday, Employee Spotlight, Anniversary, Reward Trackers, etc. to touch the user’s emotions. Regardless of what you think about that grumpy ‘ole IT guy, he still wants to feel a part of the organization and the culture just as much as you do! Research shows that in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE.
  • Shrink the Change
    • Meaning: Make the change small enough that they can’t help but score a victory. Look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get moving – the middle will always look different when you are there.
    • SharePoint: Show how to sync a SharePoint department calendar to Outlook. Upload an Excel file and view it in the browser…on an iPad. Leave a Happy Birthday message on colleagues My Site Note Board after viewing the reminder in your Newsfeed.
  • Grow Your People
    • Meaning: Fixed mindset people believe that they have a fixed amount of talent. Growth mindset people see themselves as able to adapt and develop – the brain is a muscle. Research shows you can teach growth mindset.
    • SharePoint: Launch then survey – hear the criticism and then quickly act on it! Don’t just setup a training site where they have to force themselves to visit. Showcase a new training video on the home page each week. Use a Tip of the Day web part to rotate SharePoint learning nuggets.

Shape the Path

  • Tweak the Environment
    • Meaning: Make the right behaviors a little easier and the wrong behaviors a little bit harder. Think Amazon 1-Click (easier) vs. Child Proof Caps (harder).
    • SharePoint: When moving from a File Share to SharePoint, don’t forget to set File Share folders to read-only as you migrate. Hold Power User/Site Owner training for individuals prior to granting access. Look into products such as that integrate with Outlook so users send links to SharePoint files and not attachments. Map old user share drives to point to their My Site.
  • Build Habits
    • Meaning: Habits help the Rider guide the Elephant without too much effort.
    • SharePoint: Keep home page content fresh, stale content tells the user that this site isn’t as important as you said it was.
  • Rally the Herd
    • Meaning: Peer pressure can be, like most things, both positive and negative. When Elephants travel down unfamiliar territory, they’re going to follow the herd.
    • SharePoint: Showcase internal testimonials on how the launch helped a team work more efficiently. Spread the news on how a department used SharePoint to automate an approval process. Create a CEO Blog (but monitor comments J).

I, of course, could not go into lengthy detail on each point so I highly recommend you pick up the book and give it a glance. Once I did, I could not put it down! I hope to do more book reviews going forward with a SharePoint mindset (growth mindset that is).


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2 Comments on “SharePoint: Flip the Switch to Effectively Promote Change”

  1. hisham Says:

    well done



  1. Speaking to the Department of Defense SharePoint User Group | SharePoint Adam - 06/08/2012

    […] read called “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” and an article I posted here as well as […]

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