This is the fourth blog in my series and I’ve had time to review some reader comments from the earlier articles. First, thank you to those of you with comments and advice. I am learning every day as I work to navigate through a company with a long tradition of “doing things the way they’ve been done.”

I’ll take a few lines to respond to some of the reader notes here. One reader commented about the need for C-level executive sponsorship in this effort.  That exists at my company; both CIO and CEO are in support of this effort. However, reality is that winning of hearts really has to be at the ground level where the day-to-day work gets done. That requires connecting the dots for people and showing them how things can become better using productivity technology. I’m just starting out with this effort, and I count (and appreciate) every small win, one day at a time.

Another reader noted that it’s impossible to change a culture in a direct manner. Only altering factors in the environment that contribute to culture can be modified, with intent to help “lead people to water” in the hopes that they drink. The author of the note suggested a five-year horizon to begin to see real results in the culture, and my experience and gut say that is a very reasonable estimate. Even in my former company where technology was king and nearly everyone at the company was a “geek,” it took us as a company about five years to really learn how to leverage and use the technologies (in the midst of improving and releasing new versions of them) to their best advantage.

A few of you are watching this hopeful experiment unfold (and that’s what is indeed occurring here), some seeking to learn lessons because you are facing similar issues, others with a dose of skepticism based on experience. I look forward to keeping you all informed as I learn, and drive to make work life better for my co-workers.

This past week and one-half, I circled back to the highest executive sponsor, our CEO, and updated him on progress made to date in gathering requirements across the business. He was very receptive to the plans I’ve outlined, and sees immediate value in deploying the SharePoint proof of concept. He noted that the culture does have difficulty accepting new ways of working, and realizes that changes must be rolled out in layers to avoid over-taxing the employees with too much at once.

Resulting from that discussion, I decided to spend some energy on preparing a training curriculum that will provide successive bites of knowledge to the employees over time.  I worked with HR to understand our generational profile (i.e. how many people are “GenX,” “GenY,” “Boomers,” or “Traditionalists”). My intent was to see how we might frame training about communication styles and preferences, sharing that with the employees as a way to help them embrace change, and accept differences. I was surprised, given the very conservative nature of the company, to find that there were a significant number of GenXers and “late Boomers” in the company. In fact the majority of the population is in those two groups. It has dawned on me that the original traditional culture has kept a tight hold on the way things get done, even though there are a large number of people anxious and ready to move forward.  Now I’ll spend time observing what the social mores are that keep (or have kept) things so tightly controlled up to this point to see if I can determine why or where the fear of change springs from.

A second thing I began work on was the overall strategy document for how various possible technologies and solutions can be deployed. My goal is to be prepared once the Proof of Concept is underway so that the next logical solution to be developed can be tee’d up and socialized. I anticipate that the strategy document will be a living one and will create a roadmap for how the company approaches communication technologies and systems over the next few years.

Finally, one area where we aren’t fully utilizing existing technology is our global address list or global catalog. Employee data is maintained in multiple systems with multiple forms for entry across the business, but the data isn’t carried through across all systems. Different regional offices of the company manage their own data, and do it differently. So, I also framed a project for outlining our Active Directory utilization plan and populating the AD catalog with data from the HR system and telephone system. I’ll be working with the operations team to validate the plan and hopefully implement it in time to surface the data as part of the SharePoint Proof of Concept.