Do This Not That for End User Adoption

Robert Bogue


We look at the things you should and shouldn’t do to successfully drive end-user adoption. The tips in this book apply not only to SharePoint, Office 365 and technology adoption but to adoption in general and also includes links to recommended books to learn more about the subject.

This book isn’t about preaching about what you don’t have time to do. What it’s about is what can you do with the time you’re already spending trying to figure out how to get people to ‘do’ SharePoint and Office 365 and Teams and all these wonderful tools that we don’t always get users excited about.

There are five points to successful adoption:

Relative Advantage – you have to show people that there is a relative advantage to the changes that you want them to make.

Compatibility – the changes you want them to make have to be compatible with what

they’re currently doing.

Apparent Simplicity – there should be a reduction of complexity in the way changes are communicated and explained.

Trialability – someone should be able to trial the changes you’re trying to make and be

able to go back to their existing processes if the changes don’t work.

Observability – other people should be able to see the success of the changes you make.

The above points come from years of study of adoption in general, not just in Microsoft, Office 365 or technology adoption. One of the things you will get out of this book and the corresponding webinar are lots of references to books that you can read and get more details on some of the ideas we discuss.

The first two books are Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers and Motivational Interviewing by William R. Miller.

Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition eBook: Rogers, Everett M.: Kindle Store

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Motivational Interviewing, Third Edition: Helping People Change  (Applications of Motivational Interviewing): William, Miller  R., Rollnick, Stephen: 8601400374443: Books

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Diffusion of Innovations looks at how successful ideas spread and is where we get the five points of successful adoption mentioned above.

Motivational Interviewing looks at how you can ask questions and interact with people who may be resistant to change. The approach of motivational interviewing can be very powerful as you’re trying to get people who are not on your side to at least be willing to be on your side.

Do This – Solve Problems, Not That – Create Tools

If you are building a solution to a problem, you immediately have an endpoint. You

have a place you’re trying to go and something tangible that you’re trying to achieve. It is clear, crisp, and has value.

If you’re building a toolbox, it’s not so clear. Creating tools means you have no clear, compelling business need. It’s also very difficult to measure the impact of these tools and whether they are adding any value. There’s also no endpoint when you’re just creating tools, and you have no way of knowing when you’re done.

When solving problems, there is a clear, compelling need for what you’re doing as you have something that needs to be achieved. This also means that there is a tangible outcome that everyone is working towards, and this in turn means you know when you’re done.

Recommended Reading

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Do This – Talk to the Elephant, Not That – Argue with the rider

The above, slightly bizarre, the suggestion comes from the work of Jonathan Haidt and was also picked up by brothers Dan and Chip Heath in their book called Switch. The idea here is that we need to think about ourselves and the people we’re interacting with using the following model of an elephant being controlled by a rider walking down a path:

  • Elephant – emotional powerhouse
  • Rider – rational control
  • Path – environment and habits

When thinking about ourselves, we like to think that our rational rider is in control and that we make rational decisions. However, take the example of making a New Year’s resolution. At around three weeks into our new healthy lifestyle, we might have an extra beer or a piece of chocolate cake because we had a bad day. It definitely wasn’t our rational rider deciding to eat that cake or drink that beer. It was our emotional elephant.

The thing is the rational rider may seem like he’s in control when he’s thinking about what he’s doing, and the elephant isn’t involved. However, when the elephant decides it really cares about something, then the rider has no power to stop it.

This is at the heart of how we think about motivating people. We think that if we speak to their rational rider and give them rational answers, they will do what we want. They might, but only as long as the elephant isn’t involved. When we’re thinking about adoption, we need to be thinking more about the elephant and less about the rational rider.

The last part of this model is the path, which is the environment and habits. These are the things that will be followed and done if neither the rider nor the elephant is

concentrating much.

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Do This – Drive Productivity, Not That – Create Adoption

The above may not make sense when you think that this book is all about trying to create adoption, which is what we want to achieve. However, we are going to look at how you need to change your perspective as the methods that you’re currently using to get adoption don’t actually help you.

For instance, say I create a new group policy that means that everyone in the company has to hit our new intranet site when they open their web browser. Great, right? But your bounce rate is nearly 100%, which means that people hit your intranet and then go somewhere else, and you have no idea where they went.

Using the above technique may have seemed like a good idea, but now people treat the new intranet site as an annoyance they have to get past instead of a useful resource that they can use to get their job done.

Business productivity matters. The ability of staff to do their job matters, and as we’re trying to build adoption in our organisation, we have to think about how we’re helping them to get their job done and maintain and improve the productivity of the business. If we can figure that out, then the adoption problem will solve itself.

Recommended Reading

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Do This – Motivation 3.0, Not That – Carrots & Sticks

The three levels of motivation are shown below:

1.0: Biology – mentioned in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which we will mention more of in a second

2.0: Rewards and punishments – these are the carrots and sticks that have been around

for years, but which don’t work to motivate people in today’s society

Intrinsic – based on autonomy, mastery, and purpose and is the kind of motivation most of us will need to work with when trying to work with the people in our organisation. Most people fall into what is known as the ‘creative class’ who need to be motivated in this way.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The problem with Maslow’s hierarchy is that it doesn’t account for starving artists. Artists should be in the self-actualization section but they’re starving, which means they have no food, which is in the physiological section. Now, I know the term starving

artists aren’t literal, but the point remains that this mechanism of motivating people leaves people feeling empty and hollow, and it doesn’t help very much when it comes to keeping people on board.

A more interesting look at motivating people is an article published in the Harvard Business Review by Fredrick Herzberg in 1968 and is titled “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?”. This paper is the most requested reprint that Harvard Business Review has ever had.

The paper looks at the things that keep people engaged and keep them working for us. He broke things down into two categories:

  • Hygiene – these are the things that you need enough of, but once you have enough of them, they no longer motivate people.
  • Motivators – these are things that the more you give them to people, the more people want them. Things like achievements and recognition are at the top of this list.

If we want people to use our new systems, then we need to think about things like achievements – how do we help people achieve something and allow them to be recognised for what they’re doing.

Intrinsic Motivation

If we shift a little bit to intrinsic motivation, we start taking on the work of Edward Deci. Deci said that we need to be intrinsically motivated, we need to be able to do things because we like doing them or want to do them.

Sometimes external motivation can break this intrinsic motivation, and in our change efforts, we need to make sure we don’t break the intrinsic motivation. If intrinsic motivation is broken, people will not continue the change when we are gone.

One of Deci’s studies involved examining children going into a room full of toys and they could pick whichever toy they wanted to play with. The toy they picked was noted and the next time they came back, Deci paid the children to play with the toy they picked the first time. However, when the reward was taken away, the children no longer wanted to play with the toy even though this was originally their favourite toy to play with.

Now we’ll look at the three different types of intrinsic motivation:


This is the ability of people to be self-directed. You can tell them the end result you’re looking for or the destination you want to get to, but then they will use their own initiative to get there.


It is important to recognise that true mastery is an impossible goal but what people really want here is the ability to work towards being really good at something. Our egos are so fragile that we need to be able to think of ourselves as masters of things, even we aren’t actually.


Purpose doesn’t need to be as grand as something like “is what I’m doing going to save the world.” It can be something like “does what I’m doing matter to my development, my career, or my family.” The key is what the purpose is to me.

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Do This – Listen to WIII-FM, Not That – Spew Corporate Speak

Everyone listens to one radio station – WIII-FM (What Is In It For Me). This idea is all

about thinking about what is relevant to the people you’re trying to motivate. The more you target your communications and the more you think about who it is you’re speaking with and what’s important to them, the more people will listen to what you’re saying.

On the subject of corporate-speak, most corporate mission statements are platitudes, i.e. they are flat and dull when they are meant to be profound and inspirational.

If we want to make things understandable and want to get people to do what we want them to do, then we need to make our message easy to understand. The following are steps we can take to make things easy to understand:

  • Eliminate barriers
  • Provide training
  • Provide resources

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Do This – Create Productivity Aids, Not That – Inflict Instructor Led Training

Instructor-led training does have its uses, and there is definitely a place for it, but we tend to lean on it too much. Marcia Bates did a study about where we get our learning and said that there are two dimensions of how we learn – active and passive, along with directed and undirected:

UNDIRECTEDBrowsingBeing Aware

Take instructor-led training as an example, that is active and directed. You can also think about situations where you’re passively looking for something, which would be monitoring. There are also times where you’re looking for something, but you don’t really know what you’re looking for, and that would be considered browsing.

The last category, which is both passive and undirected, is just being aware. It is being present with eyes and ears to take in your surroundings and everything going on around you. In the study, Bates found that around 80% of everything we know was learned using this method of learning.

This shows that you don’t have to force things down people’s throats if you want them to remember what you’re telling them. If you can make these things ‘ambient’ you can

get people to learn the things you want them to learn, and do the behaviours you want them to do, without forcing them.

How do adults learn?

In terms of learning, most of us are used to pedagogy or how children are taught to learn new skills and ideas. However, andragogy is the term used for how we teach adults.

Adults are different when learning in that they need to know why they are learning and why they need to know something. They also need to have prior experience of learning and readiness and motivation to learn.

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Do This – Support the Zealots, Not That – Fight the Resistance

This is all about managing your energy level. If you’re fighting people resistant to your changes day in day out, then you’ll eventually run out of energy. Instead, you need to get people on your side, people who want to make a success of what you’re trying to achieve.

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Do This – Define Measurable Outcomes, Not That –

Hope for Improvement

Good metrics are SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Nothing is immeasurable. The question is whether it’s worth the cost to measure it. It’s also worth remembering that not all things that can be measured should be measured for economic, usefulness, or ethical reasons.

Fermi Estimate

Enrico Fermi was a professor at the University of Chicago who wanted his students to figure out how many piano tuners there were in the city of Chicago. He told them the best way to do this was to break the problem down into a set of known or knowable quantities.

Famously, they got very close to the actual number by considering things such as how many people there were in the city, what percentage of them would own a piano, how often pianos need to be tuned and how many one tuner could tune in a year.

You can use this method of breaking large, complex problems into smaller, more manageable ones to create knowable metrics to measure your success or otherwise. The metrics don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be useful.

One note of caution though can be expressed using the Drake equation, which looks at the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilisations in the Milky Way. The problem with working this out is that none of the answers to each part of the problem is knowable, and we only have one data point. Depending on what you put in, there are either millions of intelligent lifeforms in the universe, or there are none.

Therefore, when designing metrics, you need to make sure that each part of them are knowable in order to make them useful.

Leading vs Lagging

Lagging Indicators

Lagging indicators should represent business value and examples include:

  • Increased number of sales wins
  • Reduced service desk costs
  • Improved project profitability

Leading Indicators

Leading indicators should reasonably predict the result and must be changeable. Examples include:

  • Response time for RFPs
  • Reduced service desk call times
  • Reduced project issue closure time

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Do This – Ask Questions, Not That – Stick Your Head in the Sand

Please feel free to reach out to me and ask questions rather than stick your head in the sand and hope that someone else will: Blog, white papers, e-mail series etc. End-User Resources Change Management Course

Burnout Prevention and Recovery Resources / @RobBogue / (317) 844-5310 E-mail/Twitter/Phone

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