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Disappointing implementations and rebuilding trust

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —March 17, 2005
Filed in Anecdotes

Yesterday I presented at the 11th Annual Electronic Documents & Records Management conference (on change management) and heard a remarkable presentation by Chris Scullin from Department of Education, Science and Training. Chris recounted the initially unsuccessful implementation of their electronic records management system (it appeared to be implemented as a technology solution) and how the users were bitterly disappointed with what they received.

It seems that Chris and his team have reversed the fortunes of the project. It is now heading in the right direction. This turn around, however, required rebuilding trust, which, from Chris account, was almost zero 18 months after beginning the project. I imagine there must be many projects like this that have failed to delivery. Therefore the issue of how to rebuild trust must be an important one.

One place to look for answers is the South African reconciliation process. At the end of apartheid trust in South Africa was, at best, paltry. Now I’m recalling this from memory but the process that was used to rebuilt trust had three steps: 1) admit to the aggrieved that what was done was wrong; 2) offer to recompense for the wrong doing; and 3) follow through on promises. I will dig out the description and set this right if I have made a gross error. But my point here is simply that I think we can learn much from what happened during the South African reconciliation process and turn these lessons into guidelines for system implementers who find themselves bitterly disappointing their users.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

One Response to “Disappointing implementations and rebuilding trust”

  1. Michael Jones Says:

    The South African example is an excellent one. There’s another important point though – #4) the aggrieved have to be willing to forgive and forget and look forward towards better days. The general amnesty offered to those who voluntarily and truthfully testified to the Truth and Reconcilliation committee was as impressive as those apologizing and coming clean for past evils.
    Without such willingness to forget past transgressions in favor of a better future, it’s easy for any organization to get bogged down in recycled animosities. It takes a lot of fortitude to forgive.

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