So I was sitting in the lobby at a client’s head office when two of their employees walked in and looked across the hall to a glass-enclosed conference room filling up with a large group. One of the employees asked the other “What’s the event?” and they responded, “Oh, it’s that Intellera meeting.”

“I don’t need to be there, do I?”, she asked, a bit panicked.

“No”, came the response.

“Thank goodness”, she sighed, “I really didn’t want to have to deal with that Intellera stuff!”

She obviously didn’t recognize me or realize that I was waiting to present the new collaboration solution, along with an executive VP and two key project managers. This was the official kick off of that “Intellera stuff”!

Needless to say I was a bit irked, but mostly I was intrigued as to the reasons for her disdain. Following a well received presentation with some positive end-user comments, I got my Sherlock Holmes hat on and investigated…


I spoke to a couple of people up the chain of command and it turns out that “the usual suspects” have been complaining like this…but why?

Well, it happens that one of the new VPs had been trying to address the bubbling inquires that were rising up regarding the new collaboration solution in the best way he knew how. When some of his staff asked if they were going to be involved with the “new system” that was being talked about in the rumor mill – his answer was “No, it’s not a priority right now.” And so began the game of broken telephone – you know that childhood game where you sit in a circle and the first person whispers something to their neighbor (for example, “You hear the ringing bells”) and as the message passes from person to person it transforms, so that the last person reveals the message as “Your fat sister smells”.

This is a classic change management problem that I suspect arose from an imprecise message to the staff as the collaboration system was being implemented. The larger an organization grows, the more difficult it becomes to align everyone in the face of change, especially those change-challenged people (“the usual suspects”).

The collaboration solution is quite revolutionary in the way people communicate around how they deliver their customer orders. To manage risk, we therefore made great efforts to incrementally build it up and to involve only a handful of key people at first. Initially, it was a single beta user and this grew to a full corporate division over a six-month period. As expected, we hit some bumps and redesigned some components as we better understood the needs, so it made sense to limit the involvement at the client to just a few people.

The intention of the VP’s statement that “No, it’s not a priority right now,” was really meant as “Yes, it is important, we are testing it, and as soon as possible – probably within three to six months – you will be introduced to it and it will become a useful and integral part of your daily routine, and we’ll provide documention on it soon.” A mouthful indeed!

What was understood instead to someone who is not very interested in changing their routine, was “It has nothing to do with you, now or ever, so don’t worry about it.”

What this means to us at Intellera, is that we have a bit of an uphill battle to make those people understand the importance of the collaboration solution to the business and to their role within it. I am not too worried, as the message is being delivered clearly now by high-ranking management as the rollout begins, and the feedback from even change-resistant diehards shows they have started to enjoy and value the change.

A lesson learned again about the importance of change management: All parties involved in an implementation must strive to communicate clearly about new developments at the appropriate times. It is just a bit ironic that a solution put in place to dramatically improve collaboration and communication suffered from a case of broken telephone!