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“Why do I have to work differently?” (podcast, part 2)

In episode 147 of The Content Strategy Experts Podcast, Alan Pringle and Christine Cuellar continue talking about how teams adjust when content processes change, and tools you can use to navigate the question, “Why do I have to work differently?”

This is part two of a two-part podcast.

“We had a client a few years ago refer to us as content therapists, and that’s not far off. […] We provide a sounding board. We’re a sympathetic ear. We help give you the opportunity to bounce off concerns, problems, issues, and offer feedback. It’s a relationship where we are going to listen and give guidance, because again, we’ve been through this before with other people. Let’s apply that knowledge and make your life as easy as possible during, frankly, what can be a very tumultuous time.”

— Alan Pringle

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Welcome to the Content Strategy Experts podcast, brought to you by Scriptorium. Since 1997, Scriptorium has helped companies manage, structure, organize, and distribute content in an efficient way. This is part two of a two-part podcast. Hi, I’m Christine Cuellar.

Alan Pringle: And I’m Alan Pringle.

CC: And in this episode, Alan and I are continuing our discussion about how teams adjust when content processes change and tips that you can have in your tool belt for navigating the transition successfully. Alan, how often do you see organizations that give thorough training after a new system has been implemented?

AP: You have to. I’ll put it to you this way, if we’re involved, we’re going to be a huge proponent for that. Because I think it is horribly unfair, horribly unproductive to just budget for the technology, not thinking about the people that have to use the technology. Again, we go back to people, which is what you started with at the very top of this podcast. People are the thing, don’t buy the tech and forget to show the people how to use it. Again, you’re going to fail if you go down that path.

CC: That’s a good point. And that goes back to another preemptive activity, which is to make sure that the budget includes room for training, because I’m sure that people get into a situation where they haven’t budgeted for that, but then a consultant is advocating for training. What do you do? Do you delay launching all this kind of stuff?

AP: It’s got to be a line item along with the technology and the migration and whatever else, absolutely.

CC: Which makes sense because then you’re making the most out of the system that you just heavily invested in because you’re bringing your team up to speed much faster, and I’m sure they’re going to be a lot more optimistic about the transition as a whole once they’ve been fully trained on it.

AP: Yes. And don’t forget, there may be employees you haven’t hired yet who will need training, so think about them too.

CC: True. That’s true. That could set up a training process.

AP: You might want to have people in your organization who can then turn around and offer that training. You may want to record sessions if you have a third party providing it and then sharing those later. So think about people you haven’t even hired yet when it comes to training because they’re going to need help too when they come on board.

CC: Absolutely. From the consultant perspective, I know in our podcast a few weeks ago, Bill had mentioned that a consultant paints the clear picture of why the change benefits everyone, and that’s one of the big advantages and we’ve touched on that already here. What else does a consultant do when we come in to help navigate this transition?

AP: We had a client a few years ago refer to us as content therapists, and that’s not far off.

CC: That’s a great example.

AP: We provide a sounding board. We’re a sympathetic ear. We help give you the opportunity to bounce off concerns, problems, issues, and offer feedback on those things. So it’s a relationship where we are going to listen and give guidance in a lot of cases, because again, we’ve been through this before with other people, let’s apply that knowledge and make your life as easy as possible during a frankly, what can be a very tumultuous time.

CC: Yeah, absolutely. I’m curious about the changes in the staff that happen during a transition. Do you see a significant portion of people that just get overwhelmed by the change and leave the company? Is that a common situation or is that more in extreme cases of where the transition’s maybe not being handled well or it’s just a tough case?

AP: I’m going to bust out that consultant answer, it depends, because it really does. We have seen that happen. I have seen that happen. There are some people who are just not going to be a good fit in the new process and it’s time for them to unfortunately move on. Is it usually what happens? No. There are a lot of people who are very interested in adapting and changing and making things better because they realize too, if this process is more efficient, it’s going to cut out some of the gross, for example, formatting scut work I have to do, it eliminates that, gives me time to really write content that’s going to help the person who’s reading it. I can spend more time on the quality of that content and less time on formatting and other things that really can be huge time sucks.

CC: That makes sense. So I like that term content therapist. You mentioned that the consultant sometimes has the unique ability to be able to say the exact same thing and it has a [different] impact. I’m sure that includes delivering bad news. So how are consultants able to share bad news in maybe a more effective way than current team members or management are able to do?

AP: Maybe because it’s more compartmentalized coming from a third party, sometimes people will react differently to it. I think the bad cop angle too comes into play when you have vendors involved or you’re making a selection process among vendors. The consultant often will know, from past experience, what tools are better fits in certain situations and with certain company cultures and we can say, “Yes, this is a good fit here. This is not a great fit here. You really need to ask them about this because they have not been really good about this particular feature set in the past and you need it. So push them on this when it comes time to evaluation time.” So that bad cop angle is not just about working with the client. It can also be to be sure that the vendor fit is as good as it possibly can be when it comes time for tool selection.

CC: Okay. So maybe there’s someone listening to this that is in the very, very early stages of considering a big tool shift or a big content process change in their company and they’re trying to understand what to expect. What can you share about how long to expect their team to really fully adjust and get comfortable in a new system? What should they expect there?

AP: There are going to be degrees. You’re going to have some of these people who are early proponents who help bring people on board. They’re going to be part of that shift very early, maybe even before you get the tools completely in place, they’re going to be helping with that. Then you’re going to have others who may be more stragglers, but that’s what you have training for. That’s how you can help them by showing them this is how, in your role, you should be using this tool, this is the best practice for this situation, that sort of thing, which training can really help with quite a bit.

CC: Okay. And then what are some tips or tricks you have for bringing a team member that may be particularly struggling with that transition on board? I know you mentioned that sometimes people just aren’t a good fit for the new system and that can be hard, but before you make that determination or before they come to that conclusion, what are some tips you have for winning someone over to the new system if all the stuff that’s worked for the other team members hasn’t worked for this person?

AP: Find out what their pain points are, what they don’t like about what they’re doing and show how the new system can address it, that’s one way that you can possibly convert them to your new process. Again, you have to be very careful here not to offer up a cookie cutter solution. People are all very different and people react to things very differently. Just because something worked with one person in your organization doesn’t mean it’s going to apply well to someone else. So don’t try to apply a one size fits all situation when you’re dealing with people who are struggling to adjust. That will probably backfire unfortunately.

CC: So there may be some people that would come around, they just need a different approach.

AP: And again, this is where the content therapist can help. A consultant can say, “We’ve seen this kind of situation before. This worked fairly well. Maybe try this to get these people on board.”

CC: Okay. And what do you think are some signs that it would just be better to part ways if the transition’s just not going to be a good fit?

AP: You really have to measure and try to be as objective as possible. Is what I’m seeing realistic, valuable feedback that something in this new process isn’t as good as it should be? Or is this just absolute hard line recalcitrant or someone’s just digging in for the sake of digging in and not changing? You’ve got to make that differentiation and it is not an easy thing to do sometimes. So again, you can tell I’m being a little bit hesitant here. We’re talking about people and emotions. Even though this is often driven by business, this still becomes a very emotional decision, an emotional situation for people, and you can’t let that slip by you when you are a manager or someone driving this kind of change.

CC: I think that’s a really good perspective and like you said earlier, that a lot of this, this competency ties into their career identity, their role, it’s a big deal. So to just brush past that would be incredibly invalidating and discouraging. So I think that that’s a really good perspective to help us remember. Again, it’s about people, people are the reason behind the technology, even the business, it’s all about people. So on the positive side of times that this has gone well, can you give any examples, even if they’re unnamed examples of team members that successfully navigated the transition and are thriving in the new system?

AP: I can think of one in particular. We are working with some folks and have been for about a year and a half now, on learning content. And early on there was someone in the group who got it, who understood it and was part really, even though I don’t think he’s management, he really got the big picture and was able to help bring other people on board. He was very involved in one type of content, someone else who was involved in a parallel line of content, not quite the same, was clearly not as on board. But watching the two of them interact and then interact with some of our consultants, it was great to see the enthusiasm of this one person who got it start to get into the other people on that call, especially the one who was working on that parallel track who didn’t at first seem quite as on board. Watching her come on board with help and input from us and her coworker, that was a great thing to actually watch happen and it was very rewarding.

Again, it wasn’t just us, it was someone else in the organization who understood the big picture and was able to help communicate that and get someone else that he worked with to understand that, that was a great situation.

CC: Yeah, that’s a great example. I know as consultants, we’re brought in for this unique transition and then once the transition, the training is complete, that’s kind of the end of the project. But are you ever able to see, down the line in recurring projects, team members that you worked with initially during the transition that are now years established in either their new role or just the new tools that they’re using, I mean, you’re able to see how they’ve adapted?

AP: Oh yes, because just because we’ve wrapped up the primary implementation and the training, there’s often things that need to change down the road. Just like you change systems because of business requirements, those newer business requirements may require tweaks to the new system and optimizing it to handle new business requirements. So we’ll often come in later and help them make some changes and we will work with people who are now living, breathing the system as if it’s something they’ve been doing their whole lives. That’s not uncommon.

CC: Yeah. And it’s encouraging to hear that people do adapt, the transition can and very often is very successful. It is, though, a big change.

AP: And it’s a long-time process. You are not going to snap your fingers and have this happen in two months, you’re not. Just realize it can take months to get something like this done and you can’t rush it just to get tech implemented and forget about the people angle. That happens. You’ve got to be very careful not to just think everything is about implementing the tech and the people are secondary. I would advise not to fall into that trap. It is a very easy trap to fall into, don’t do it.

CC: Yeah, I like that. And I think you brought up a good point too, that knowing that it’s a very long process and it’s not just wrapped up in a couple of months is a good perspective to keep in mind, because even just the length of a transition can sometimes be wearing on a person or on a team.

AP: It can be, but on the flip side, I would say sometimes it can be a gift when you have the time, because it gives you the time to communicate why you’re doing what you’re doing and then build it and then train people on it.

CC: Yeah.

AP: There’s this very fine balance you have to strike. You can’t let things drag on forever with analysis paralysis, that can happen, and I have seen it happen. On the flip side, you can’t rush things and basically get six months of work done in six weeks, it doesn’t work that way either. You’ve got to find that sweet spot and let reality, especially reality based on things that consultants have already experienced, can give you a more realistic view of when things are really going to get implemented and people are going to buy into your new system.

CC: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Alan, are there any other things that are coming to mind that you want either the content creators going through a transition, managers or anyone else involved in the process, is there anything else you can think of that we haven’t covered yet that would be good to keep in mind for successfully navigating a transition to a new system?

AP: Making this kind of transition can be a pain point itself. Figure out how to communicate and explain why you’re having that pain and maybe the system or the support for the system will be better because you were able to articulate that.

CC: And I love that. Really, as we’ve talked all about this, it’s sounding to me the biggest tools that are going to set you up for success are communication and holding space to hear about and accept feedback for what people are going through. So really, it’s all about people and the approach to helping navigate the transition, is just being a really kind human to get people through this, that’s what I’m hearing from you.

AP: And unfortunately, sometimes kind humans have to make difficult decisions.

CC: Yeah. And that’s hard.

AP: And that’s hard.

CC: Yeah. Yeah. So I think these are really good tips for how you can navigate that transition even if it’s really difficult.

AP: Right.

CC: Well, thank you so much, Alan. I really appreciate you taking the time today. Anything else that you can think of before we wrap up?

AP: I think people probably have had their fill of me for this episode.

CC: Not at all, this was great. Well, thank you so much for being here and thank you for listening to the Content Strategy Experts Podcast, brought to you by Scriptorium. For more information, visit or check the show notes for relevant links.

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