It was time to buy more firewood. I went to the nursery, and somehow I fit a whole half-face cord of wood into my little Mazda 3 hatchback (they said it couldn’t be done. I did it!). I carefully drove my very heavy, very little car back home and then had to make several trips to bring all that wood to my backyard.

Because I’m me, and because I do what I do, the entire experience of actually getting that wood to my backyard made me think of Yammer, and how we must sometimes persevere to make the most of the technology platforms we use for communication and collaboration.

I have spoken on this blog before about the importance of moving away from the “Light Switch Mentality,” the idea that that if we just turn IT on (whatever IT is), IT will just work. That approach usually works just fine for starting a car or lighting your stove, but it usually will not work in terms of engaging and connecting with colleagues at work in your Yammer network, or your Slack channel, or your Teams channel, or whatever platform you use.

Yammer (or Slack or Teams, etc.) is easy enough to use. Make a post with a question about your work or provide an answer to a colleagues’ question, and productive, helpful conversation should just appear. Connections should be made. True work transparency should be achieved. Time should be saved. That is, if anyone responds.

Sometimes, nobody responds.

When I got home from the nursery after my long, heavy methodical drive home, I opened the back door of my car and now fully appreciated the magnitude of the task ahead. I brought my snazzy new little hand truck out of the garage and stood it up next to my car, and began to pile a few logs on the cart. Those logs were a little difficult to stack at first, but I soon got the hang of it.

I pushed the hand truck (with the first load of wood) to the backyard. It worked fine, but it felt a little precarious, and I was sure that the payload would tumble off at any moment in spectacular fashion. I lost only one log along the way.

For the next trip, I loaded the standing hand truck again, being ever so careful to stack the logs before my walk to the backyard began. This time, I pulled the hand truck. For some reason, pulling worked better than pushing, and yet still a couple of logs fell off on my way to the yard. I waited until I unloaded the wood from that trip in the back yard, then went back to retrieve those errant logs that has successfully escaped during the journey.

For a while it felt like we had a lot of first time visitors to our Yammer network. Initial curiosity and exploration soon led to questions and posts being made. “How do I request time off?” “What are you doing this weekend?” “How should I respond to this inquiry.” Unfortunately, not all of those posts got replies. When we first deployed Yammer, it was a new experience to many who had largely relied on communicating via email for many years. Yammer was new. Yammer was strange. The lack of any replies to a post on Yammer made it easy to step away, and return to the comfort and relative confidence of email.

Sadly, some of my colleagues did not try a different approach, like pulling the hand truck rather than pushing it. They made a post, got no replies, and quickly decided that the platform would not work for them. Along the way, we learned some important lessons.

  • We learned that posts that end with a question mark can increase engagement by as much as 75%. People want to be the expert, they want to know that their experience and information is being sought out. Questions encourage engagement in ways that statements don’t.
  • We learned that tagging people on posts help to make more people aware. When we tag people who we know are experts, people who have recently been active on the platform, people who are our friends and are sympathetic to our efforts to collect information, we will get the answers we need.
  • We learned that beautiful pictures, or even silly GIF animations, attract serious levels of attention to your post, and make it easier for people throughout your organization to connect with the information you are sharing, or the information you are looking for. Personally, I find GIF animations to be very annoying, you probably do, too. I don’t care. They work.

The first time you post in your Yammer network, you may not get many replies. You may not get replies the second time either. But with a little persistence, the replies will come. Consider how you could have made those posts differently, and post next time with earnestness and sincerity. Be transparent and generous with others. Your reach will broaden, trust will be generated, and as a result, more people will want to be in meaningful conversation with each other.

Finally, it occurred to me. If I lay the hand truck down rather than leave it standing up, it would be much easier to load. When upright, wood has to be carefully balanced vertically, pieces on top of pieces like a big game of Jenga, but when lying down the wood can piled on horizontally. Combining this with the lesson I learned earlier in the day to pull the hand truck rather than push it, the mystery of how best to get all this wood from my car to the back yard was finally solved.

Though I can’t truthfully imagine a scenario where, after just a few logs fell off the hand truck, I would have given up and just left all the wood in my car and went inside to watch TV and have some lunch, I realized there was a valuable lesson here.

I got the wood to the backyard, and I got it neatly stacked up on my patio ready for the cool autumn season ahead. I made some mistakes along the way. I patiently evaluated what happened. I made some minor changes, and then…finally…success was mine!

Whether when unloading wood or trying a new technology platform, it is all too easy to give up when things to work out as anticipated. Make those first few posts. What worked? What didn’t work? Make necessary adjustments. Get that wood to the back yard. Get replies to your posts. Make replies to your other posts. That Yammer network, I promise, will keep you warm long through the cold autumn months ahead.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s