Guillermo de la Puente

Adoption of New Tools and Processes

Management

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Mountain lake in camera lens. Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash
Mountain lake in camera lens. Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

Have you ever felt frustrated that a process or tool you rolled out didn’t get adopted? I surely have. I’d ask myself why the heck the team wasn’t doing that thing I asked them to do and made so much work for.

I’m fortunate to have had many examples to learn from, like trying to increase adherence to defect SLOs, usage of APM tools, delegation in on-call rotations, and meeting participation. As a first-line manager, I’ve rolled out numerous tools and policies. Some of them were badly received and poorly adopted. Later, as manager of managers and part of Product Engineering Leadership at Splash, I’ve needed to understand the Engineering organization as a whole, observing, measuring, and iterating continuously. Similarly, some of the changes I led didn’t land well. What was I doing wrong?

Some times it was lack of understanding the root cause. Other times it was not looping the right stakeholders from the beginning. Regardless of the reason, what helped me learn and do better next time was my mindset.


The mindset

The attitude of blaming others for lack of adoption is unproductive. It’s like communication: one has to feel responsible for 100% of it in order to be successful. That mindset makes us think more critically. What could I do differently to achieve better results? What am I not aware of that’s causing friction to adopt this change?

For example, it’s ineffective to just write down instructions and send an email, assuming people will comply. That’s just a great way to become a leader that asks for seemingly random things. The team will get used to receiving those orders, complying with them for a bit, if at all, and dropping them later. They’ll think, probably they weren’t that important in the first place.


My tips

With the mindset of being fully responsible for the (lack of) adoption of a change, these are the tips that help me:

My advice to fellow managers is, when adoption isn’t as good as expected, to avoid blaming others for being irresponsible or bad listeners. Take ownership of the lack of adoption! What’s not working out? Was the Why not clear? Are people in your organization not used to reading written communications? Was this just the wrong time due to other factors? Has your change not hooked up to their pre-existing routines?


Culture

Iterating is easier when it’s part of the company culture. Rolling out new processes and tools easier when it’s frequent and adhering to them is the norm. The more individuals expect adherence from each other, the stronger it will be. A culture that embraces asynchronous collaboration, via RFCs or change rollout documents, has a huge advantage to make iterations coming from management feel less chaotic.

To foster this culture, I’m very transparent with my team about how I roll out changes, and encourage them to be with their team. I continually ask them for feedback. And after having experiences some pitfalls with adoption, I try to listen more than act, so the things I roll out are helpful to the organization from the point of view of others, not just mine.


Conclusion

Own the adoption results fully. Make others accountable, but you’re responsible for the results.


Shout outs

During this year, I’ve seen great adoption to so. Some of them I list here

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