Stakeholders, Content Management and Paint

My wife loves to paint.

No, our house isn’t filled with paintings of fresh bowls of fruit or peaceful landscapes. She doesn’t paint canvas.

My wife paints walls.painting swatches

She likes to surround herself with color. Colors that make her feel warm and happy. Colors that compliment our furniture, our wall hangings and our lives.

Several years ago we had a wall in our house covered in an awful wallpaper. It wasn’t a large or particularly prominent wall, but it was ruining my wife’s sense of togetherness, and it had to go. The wallpaper came off, and what replaced it, temporarily, were 5 splotches of paint. I came home one day, and she asked me my opinion about the splotches, and in my complete stupidity, I answered.

One of these splotches had particular importance to my wife. She loved it. I didn’t. Every day I would come home and she would tell me of another person – her best friend, my friends, the mailman – who loved the color she loved. My answer (again, borne out of complete stupidity) was that those other people were great, but she asked ME, and I still didn’t like it.

Then, I had an epiphany and called my wife from work. I said “Babe, here’s the deal. You asked my opinion and I gave it to you. The truth is, however, that the day I notice the paint is the day you point to the wall and say, ‘Look, I painted the wall.’ You, however, will stare at that wall every day, and if it’s painted a color that you hate, it’ll drive you crazy. Paint the wall whatever color you’d like…I’ll be fine.” Stupidity averted.

Stakeholders and Content Management

Why does this matter? Because the business world, and specifically the IT world, is governed by decisions…decisions often made by dispassionate people with no stake in the process, only the outcome.  This not only leads to wide trust gaps in the employee/management relationship, but also to a lack of product adoption that makes business less efficient and ultimately less profitable. If you are in management, before you spend time, money and relational equity walking your team through the change process that is inevitable in a content management implementation, take the time to do the following:

  • Create a cross-functional team, including users, that can speak into your implementation
  • Help THEM own the goal.
  • Make it THEIR idea.
  • Help THEM advocate for the solution to others.
  • Ensure the solution solves THEIR problem, not just yours.
  • Have a communication plan for the change process that speaks user-ese, not corp-speak.

As I found out with my paint-happy wife, paint colors are like clothing styles – they change. While I gained a certain amount of equity with my wife by agreeing to her appointment as our paint czar, I would have lost all credibility if I had said, “but we already painted that room!” So lastly, and perhaps most importantly, plan for a user feedback process that gives users the power to “change the paint color.” Keeping the process iterative will keep your users engaged, happy, and more productive.



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