Effectively Adding Motivation to Your Change Management Strategy

In Daniel Pink’s Drive, he notes how money or similar rewards are only successful at motivating us to do the most basic of tasks (think stacking boxes). To motivate individuals around activities that require more cognition, he suggests, supported by scientific research, that we are primarily driven by three factors: autonomy,  mastery, and purpose. Here’s a summary from Wikipedia:

“Based on studies done at MIT and other universities, higher pay and bonuses resulted in better performance ONLY if the task consisted of basic, mechanical skills. It worked for problems with a defined set of steps and a single answer. If the task involved cognitive skills, decision-making, creativity, or higher-order thinking, higher pay resulted in lower performance. As a supervisor, you should pay employees enough that they are not focused on meeting basic needs and feel that they are being paid fairly. If you don’t pay people enough, they won’t be motivated. Pink suggests that you should pay enough “to take the issue of money off the table.”
To motivate employees who work beyond basic tasks, give them these three factors to increase performance and satisfaction:
Autonomy — Our desire to be self-directed. It increases engagement over compliance.
Mastery — The urge to get better skills.
Purpose — The desire to do something that has meaning and is important. Businesses that only focus on profits without valuing purpose will end up with poor customer service and unhappy employees.”

One of the major points of consensus that the industry has come to lately in order to drive adoption, is that we should not create a Records Management system that lives outside of peoples jobs, but rather create business-outcome solutions that provide value to the organization. In these types of solutions Records Management activities (classification and declaration) can be automated allowing end users simply to focus on their job. These types of solutions tend to drive more adoption, provide real business value, and help us meet our needs around compliance all at the same time. While this is a large step forward in thinking and will certainly be a contributing factor of success, it by no way means that we can take the gas off our change management activities.

Anyone who has partaken in an ECM project, even when following the above-mentioned approach, knows that people are still the biggest hurdle. End users’ reluctance to adopt a new system is typically the biggest reason that our projects fail to achieve the results we were hoping to obtain. So while training and communication are certainly necessary for effective Change Management to occur and business outcome focussed solutions will aid in adoption, our all up Change Management approach needs to be supported by an all up strategy for motivation in order to animate end users in the specific behavioural changes that we are looking to achieve.

In the rest of this blog, I’ll review how Gravity Union applies these ideas of autonomy, mastery, and purpose to our engagements to effectively motivate end users in the adoption of our ECM solutions.


While Daniel Pink references research on the topic, I think it goes without saying that we enjoy things that we’re good at. When we find things difficult or challenging, we tend to enjoy them less and will, to some degree, avoid said activities. Whether it’s Golf, cooking, playing the guitar or using SharePoint the better we are at them the more likely we are to perform the activity.

When we think of the most common ECM project, we are taking end users from a straight forward set up of network file storage, email, and desktops to a sophisticated ECM platform like SharePoint. Considering the intimate nature of ECM solutions, in order for us to be successful in our initiative, we need end users to be just as comfortable with SharePoint as they are with their existing toolset. In other words, we need them to master SharePoint.

Our typical journey to having end users master SharePoint is as follows:

·       Training, Lots of Training

This means more than just an hour or two of one time SharePoint training. Typically, we like to conduct anywhere from 8-16 hours of training, spread over several weeks leading up to the go-live date. People tend to forget 70% of what they learn within 24 hours and 90% of what they learn within a week so constant, ongoing training is critical to having them reach the level of proficiency. You would be surprised how many organizations we come across that offer little or no training as cost savings measure only to have the platform lie dormant, underutilized or improperly used.

·       Manual Migration

Having end users manually migrate their current working documents into the newly created solution is a great way to reinforce their training.  We have found that groups who are being brought into SharePoint that perform some degree of manual migration activities have a significantly higher adoption rate than those groups who do not go through a manual migration process. Typically, this looks like a couple of days of “Migration Parties” where end users work side by side with the project team to migrate in a years’ worth of documents. It may sound scary, but with Quick Edit capabilities, in fact, isn’t that bad and at the end of the migration sessions all users are more comfortable with SharePoint, know where their content is and have a higher adoption of the platform moving forward.

We also leverage our migration parties and an opportunity to make some refinements on the system. Typically, end users don’t know exactly what they’ll want for a set of documents until they’ve uploaded a couple of hundred of them. As end users come to realize points of friction that they want to be removed or have suggestions on how to make the solution more useful, we’ll make the change during the migration parties. Typically, these are low impact items like removing a column from a content type or creating a view.

·       Active and Passive Support

End user doesn't always come to you with the problems they’re having. So while passive support (Think IT help desk) is critical, it’s just as important to employ active support. This typically looks like following up with end users via email or better yet, swinging by in person, to make sure they’re happy with the system. You’ll be able to see if they need any specific training or would benefit from further solution refinements as well as uncover points of friction that may be causing frustration and driving down adoption. We typically uncover more issues with active support then we do with passive support which goes a good distance on driving end user adoption in those critical weeks after go-live. If end users don’t get the support they need, they likely won’t adopt the solution.

·       User Guides

Since we tend to forget 50% of what we learn after a couple of days and up to 70% of what we learn after a week, it’s important to offer some quick reference guides that people can reference when they run into problems. We will typically create a site right within SharePoint with easy-to-consume web-based content on the typical activities of core SharePoint functionality.

·       Offering Ongoing Training

To keep up the competency of SharePoint within the organization we will suggest having our clients run a monthly or quarterly SharePoint training session that new employees or anyone who is interested in learning more about SharePoint can attend. Over time these training sessions can get more advanced and cover advanced topics like Search, publishing and web page editing.

·       Work SharePoint Training into Your Onboarding Process

If your organization has decided to adopt SharePoint as the single source of truth for document and records then it’s important to ensure that all new employees get trained up on one of the more critical operational systems in your organization. Ideally, this can be part of their onboarding process.

·       Set Up a Community of Power Users

There will usually be one or two people in each group that has SharePoint rolled out that tend to really enjoy and are good at SharePoint. It’s a common practice in large-scale SharePoint ECM projects to take these people and create a community of power users. This community of Power Users will act as the first line of support for their given group, get a little extra training and perhaps some additional permissions to ensure that end users don’t get stuck on any minor issues. Going forward this community can meet regularly to discuss what’s working and what’s not working to help solidify the SharePoint program at your organization.


As Daniel Pink points out having autonomy over how we perform our jobs is one of the key motivators f or employees. This is why it’s super annoying and one of the biggest frustrations that employees have when they get micro-managed by an overbearing manager. Total and complete autonomy over tasks properly balanced with coaching and mentoring can be empowering and extremely motivating for individuals.

So how does this tie into our ECM project? When we really think about the paradigm shift that end users go through when adopting a new ECM platform, one of the biggest changes they undergo is a loss of control over the management of their documents.

With network file storage and email, end users are typically free to do whatever they like. They have near complete autonomy over the organization and management of their documents. Now, this is, of course, part of the problem as we might see a deep nested confusing labyrinth of folders and seventeen different versions of a given document (contract v2.pdf, contract v3.pdf. Contract_final.pdf, contract_mikes_copy.pdf etc.).  However, Total control over these documents, despite the complications that come with it, is likely a contributing factor of why we never have a hard time getting people to adopt network file storage (and of course that it’s easy to master)

A system like SharePoint, especially when being leveraged in Enterprise-wide ECM solutions, will necessarily take away some of the control that end users have. They can’t and won’t likely have the ability to change content types (and we probably don’t want them creating list and library scoped columns.) They likely can’t necessarily spin up a new project site or provide access to other team members or grant permissions to other users. This may be extremely frustrating for end users and may lead them to store documents outside the system if the governance and support model adopted by your organization does not allow for timely responses to requests from end users.

Striking the right balance between ends user control and governance of our solution will be critical for driving adoption, ROI while meeting our needs around compliance.

When it comes to adding autonomy to your solution you’ll want

  1. Give end users a say and control what’s being developed; and
  2. Ensure that your governance and support model allow for timely responses to end user requests.

Here’s how we approach adding a sense autonomy to our projects:

·       Project Intent

We create a consensus amongst the project team members that end users should have a say and a good degree of control over how the solution gets developed. It’s important that the project team has a shared understanding and agreement around this fundamental aspect of the project.

·       End-User Involvement

Autonomy is only possible if they are involved in the process. Therefore, involvement is necessary for success. We’ll want to involve as much of the current group (department, function, activity) as possible in as much of the process as possible.

·       Plan for Change

We know that we won’t get things 100% right the first time. There will always be minor changes that we need to create in order to make the most usable system possible and remove points of friction from end users. The project plan needs to incorporate some active support and plan to respond to end user requests (provided their reasonable) as soon as possible. That it to say it can’t take weeks for a new site to be created or a new column to be added to a content type, it should be happening as near immediately as is possible, especially in the first couple of weeks after go-live.

·       Invest in change

Not everything in SharePoint is easily done through the UI. However, nearly anything is possible to do via PowerShell. It’ll be worthwhile to create some PowerShell scripts to take care of lengthy tasks that can be easily automated. Whether it’s setting default values, changing content types, restricting SharePoint en masse, it’ll be worthwhile to create a handful of PowerShell scripts that automate these activities in order to remove any barriers of agility.

·       Communication

Most critically it’s important to communicate this intent of autonomy to end users and the commitment that the project team has to make sure that the end result is a solution that provides value to end users and that we’re willing to make changes if they’re not happy.



Organizations when embarking on a large-scale ECM project will typically have created a vision around ECM that includes things like a single source of truth, standardizing on one platform, managing compliance etc. Typically, these overarching goals, while important, don’t necessarily resonate and animate end users into the service that we require.

The next evolution of communicating purpose is to attempt to answer the question of “What’s in it for me?” where the project team notes various benefits of SharePoint like collaboration, findability, search, version control, security, workflows etc. While a step in the right direction, there’s still typically a layer of abstraction between these benefits the real-world impact that this type of solution can have in a group.

It’s important though to create a vision of how the solution can provide a tangible benefit to the organization. Is it faster processing of invoices? Is it better service for customers? Is it helping create happier employees?

One of my favourite stories around purpose and ECM is from one of my earlier large-scale SharePoint and Collabware projects. Out of our initial meeting with the Human Resources department, it was noted how frustrating their current hiring process was around hiring. After posting a job in the local paper, all resumes received were printed off in hard copy, assembled in a binder. Said binder would make Its way to all of their offices collecting comments and feedback from managers before making its way back to the HR office. Sometimes this binder was forgotten under a pile of papers, left on top of a fridge, or just lost altogether. The process of collecting feedback might also take several weeks if not months meaning that their best candidates would have usually found other work in the meantime.

Seeing an important opportunity, we developed a relatively simple solution in SharePoint to allowed HR to share resumes digitally and collect feedback almost instantly on resumes. The net result was a turnaround time that went from months to days, allowed the organization to hire top talent and was less effort overall. Of, course there was the added benefit that all documents were stored in SharePoint and managed by Collabware CLM for compliance!

Adding purpose to the engagement is the easiest one of all – it typically involves having a visioning session with the given department, documenting some possible outcomes and then taking the purpose into account when developing the solution. Perhaps it’s something that the team revisits half way through the project to keep the level of excitement up within the current group.