Creating a revolution in SharePoint User Adoption. Which model works: Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin?

March 1, 2009 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: SharePoint, User Adoption 

Over the last 6 months when we have been visiting many schools I have had a lot of time to talk about learning environments. We discuss so many interesting aspects of this work but by far one topic is asked by people we meet so much more than any other. How do you get get people to use the stupid thing?!! As a result I thought I would run a blog post purely to discuss user adoption as it is a genuine ‘hot topic’  In our visits to different schools we see so much exceptional practice and at the same time on dozens of occasions I have talked to frustrated leaders of e-learning who have put a platform in place which is not being used.

My own view is that working out how to gain high user adoption amongst students and staff (as well as parents and the community) is the single biggest hurdle you will face in creating a successful online learning environment. The rewards of cracking this issue come in the form of happier and more efficient staff and the potential for students to make greater progress which can lead to higher exam results. So to my title- as a Historian I have gone for three models for revolutions, in this case based on Communism but hopefully the analogy is perfect for this topic.

The Lenin approach to gaining users.

Those of you who have ever studied the Bolshevik Revolution will know that Lenin followed the writings of Marx in believing the proletariat would rise up, aware of their oppression and gain power. In the same way one approach to setting up your learning environment is to appeal to the masses- the students! They represent the most powerful and vocal (as well as numerical) group in your institution and getting them on board can drive your user adoption. At the same time Lenin was aware that the masses could not effectively lead the revolution in the first phase and required a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. As a result you will need a strong but pragmatic leader to lead the vision and bring about an environment where the state ‘withers away’. Lets call this your Utopia where users are freely engaged in the betterment of society- or as we call it in our time web 2.0! In this model all users become active participants through empowerment, engagement and structure.


The Trotsky approach to gaining users

In the Trotsky model a Charismatic leader rallies the troops as in the Civil War in Russia from 1918-1921. They lead from the front and are seen as a brilliant tactician. In this model to gaining user adoption your learning environment is sold to the staff as a vehicle to deal with most of their frustrations. It will radically alter the teaching environment and make the students more successful (and may cure global disease!). In the same way Trotsky believed in the idea of ‘Permanent Revolution’ your advocate of the learning environment will be constantly looking for new opportunities to move the work on feeling that it most grow or it will die. Reflection on where you are may not happen or be infrequent and most energies are centred around the next big thing which will make the learning environment a killer app.


 The Stalin approach to gaining users

In the final model your learning environment will arrive in the school in the same way as Stalin’s ascent to power. Stalin was known as an administrator and ‘that dull grey blur’. In the same way your learning environment will appear without any knowledge or prior expectation. It will quickly assume a significant position above that of any other. From here Stalin, set on ultimate and unquestionable power, administering a ruthless dictatorship based on totally loyalty and brutal killing. No wish to overdo the analogy here but in this model the learning environment is forced upon the people (in this case the staff) by the Leadership Team and must be used. The reasons and merits of the new technology are not explained or rationalized but failure to support the new regime is brutally dealt with! This third model demonstrates the ‘Revolution from Above’ which is typical of many learning environment roll outs.

 So which model do I think is the best for rolling out a learning environment that gains high user adoption? The Stalin model can have some success but it is rarely deep rooted and lacks dynamism. Resources will be uploaded because they have to be and students will use it when they are told to but the learning environment rarely becomes organic in these circumstances. The Trotsky model is perhaps the best intentioned but most prone to failure. Rarely is it possible to achieve anything significant in schools through one person. Whilst the advocate will work very hard to win hearts and minds teachers are busy people and they need time over inspiration! At times some successful roll outs develop from a hybrid of these two models. A charismatic champion inspires the staff and with the support of the Leadership Team in terms of time and priority a successful learning environment emerges.

From the experience of Twynham School I would however recommend following a Lenin based model to your learning environment roll out. If you can create a structured environment which engages students you will quickly win the majority of the battle. Allow them (and indeed encourage them) to lead the development through student voice but recognise that they will often need to be lead themselves in the early stages. Of course at times a little Trotsky (to engage staff who are early adopters) and even a smattering of Stalin (to encourage staff who are reluctant!) may be necessary but for us it is Lenin all the way. More of how we did this tomorrow when I will outline 5 steps for successful user adoption.


6 Responses to “Creating a revolution in SharePoint User Adoption. Which model works: Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin?”
  1. Robert Bogue says:

    You may be interested in a whitepaper I wrote “Increasing Office SharePoint Server Engagement” (×409) I’d say that the approach is similar to what you’re recommending here.

  2. Lee Provoost says:

    My experience is that organisations (in general) start with the Stalin approach (or are actually doing this for years already). Then it’s power to the people and they go completely opposite direction the Lenin way, just to realize that they do need a good Trotsky to make the community fly.

    It’s what we call at Headshift/Dachis the “intentional creation” of communities: let your users discover and understand the value, but you need good guidance to steer it here and there.

    The most successful online communities are for instance the SAP Developer Network that thrives under the leadership of Craig Cmehil and the SAP Mentors team.

    With a strong community manager I don’t mean someone that continuously walks around with a stick to hit people. It’s rather thinking about good structures (so that you don’t get a gazillion communities with each two members), ways to encourage participation, highlight interesting people and information, welcome new users, etc.


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. It has been a while. . . Lenin and SharePoint…

    I haven’t updated my blog in a long time since we’ve been heads down meeting with customers, partners…

  2. [...] out SharePoint set up. If you havent read my post from yesterday you might want to read this first here so that this post makes more [...]

  3. [...] The one I enjoyed writing the most was the blog I did on the first day of this month entitled Creating a revolution in SharePoint User Adoption. Which model works: Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin? This blog came to me over a few days and sparked a lot of discussion, even bringing Tom Rizzo the [...]

  4. [...] my first year blogging this post today is the most excited I have been as I start writing since the ‘Creating a revolution in SharePoint User Adoption’ (this blog post is still read twice as much as any other). The SharePoint Team at Twynham School [...]

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!