Facebook user guide and How to shape your organization’s culture

Fun - Facebook - Corporate CultureRecently the posting frequency on BizDharma hit the hornet’s nest. The reason was ‘me’ we as team are delivering software that will help my client automate things. This software is not a rocket science and probably less complicated (less features/screens) than Facebook. Why comparing a banking software with Facebook? Because this simple thought did trigger a chain of things in my mind.

Here is the crux

Let’s call the software ABC for namesake (as you know views expressed here are explicitly mine and doesn’t resemble my employers and clients). The delivery of the software has been done and as part of delivery we are now working on a doc called User Manual. The funny part is, this doc is supposed to teach the end user how to do different activities with a software which is the brain child of – the user. They asked us to build it. They knew what they want and yet we are supposed to teach them what they wanted.

Yes there are counter arguments to this that a User Manual or User guide teaches them how things ‘actually’ happen inside the software. However I think teaching something in this way adds very little value. Let’s keep those stupid arguments (and my IT Project manager hats) aside for a moment. These views are like those tedious to do processes that have been drilled down in our brains in the Business Environment.

How much complicated stuff can you understand

While the User guide we build will help the user learn the system. Try to ask yourself how many complicated things we do and how was it taught to us. Some things like decision making or breathing without even knowing that we do. Forget that as a child we used to struggle standing up, were confused what the heck the adults were trying to talk to us and yet in a few months we found ourselves running on the same two feet! Whatever we learn in schools is not what we apply in the real world. Still we just don’t adapt to reality.

Take the example of Facebook. A piece of software which is much different than any other thing you ever saw. It works differently. It has features you never asked for, never thought of. It has certain public policies you hate (ahem…privacy). It keeps changing in the way it functions. Yet you will adapt. How does that happen?

Was the Facebook User Manual or guide ever required?

You never read any user manual to do things on Facebook. You don’t read the guide that you get with your mobile or other electronic appliances. The same user for whom I am writing this User guide will read through the heaps of screens and try to figure out how the system works. The memory retention would still be low.

Compare this to the very same user, who leaves the office after the day. Reaches home. Logs on to the internet. Tries to work out how Facebook works without reading any user manual. Within days (at times hours) he starts using it, playing with it, and applying its benefits. The retention for this knowledge too (I really hope) will be higher than the software we made for him.

One software is to kill time; the other earns him a daily bread. Still the odds are against us.

How do we learn?

That’s not just a lame heading just try to think how to people really learn. A few cues can be  – We learn while

  • Playing
  • Trying
  • Fighting
  • Implementing
  • Teaching
  • Achieving
  • Losing
  • Challenging
  • Or just having fun

These ways of learning are fast, affordable, efficient. Probably comparing Facebook with a software developed for Banking staff was an overkill, but I hope you get the point. You need to get genuinely interested in what you do. Play with what stuff you work with. Fumble and still stand up to take the challenge.

That is a productive system in the making.

Then there are processes we want the employees to follow. To teach them Business ethics. Processes which are

  • Explained in dreadful language
  • Attached to pain of consequences, if not implemented
  • Attached to targets
  • Ordered to be processed and not have fun with
  • Sent a 1000 times in HR Mailers
  • A few cases of people getting fired who couldn’t implement it

These processes were supposed to create the culture of the organization and are now getting attached to a feeling of strong dislike, disrespect, and opposition. I think we can do much better here. We can teach/guide the most precious human capital in a better way.

And for the rest… Go download the Facebook User Manual ;). (Don’t even know whether such a thing exists. Don’t even care)

If you are still looking for the download link, forget it. The User Manual Example is just a metaphor. You don’t need a manual to create a company’s culture.

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