Team Chat Comic by XKCD
http://xkcd.com/1782/

You just found out how to save 3x more time on projects with an app! Great! But you also found out that your team just doesn’t really care. How do you persuade them to start using the app with you? Here’s a handy 7-step program you can try – today!

Convert one person.

Trello vs Slack search term graph
Slack vs Trello on Google Trends

Few apps are as contagious as Slack. Just take a look at their explosive growth. But the key how it got used by a bunch of people isn’t in their marketing campaigns – they had none – but in word of mouth. Heck, they didn’t even bother to hide their secret. Instead, they used it as one of their earliest slogans: “So yeah, we tried slack…”

Keyword: tried.

That’s exactly what you have to do. Find a colleague. Show them real value – in a demo! Do a quick demo with them when they’re not expecting it. Whisper sweet things into their ear, as you show them how your app can save you guys 3x time. Sometimes, people will get on board just because it’ll save them 0.1x of their nerves and patience. This is what you have to bank on, and you have to do it well. You’re gunning for the moment when your colleague says “yeah maybe we could try that.”

That’s what happened when I wanted everyone in the marketing team at Exit festival to switch from email to Slack. Or, rather, to switch from the lunacy that is 100+ daily emails to something more sensible.

I also pitched Trello as a great app to help us all focus on who’s doing what in a project (up until then, all tasks were almost exclusively kept in one person’s head). So it made it difficult and slow to find out who’s who, what’s what, and who can help you out with what. Trello solved all this perfectly with cards, a calendar, and the ability to connect people with cards.

Once you get one person on board, it gets a bit easier, since it’s now two of you. Rinse and repeat until you have enough people so you feel confident enough to…

Flip the switch

Keep talking about the pain points in the current way you manage projects. There’s always one person in a team who hates getting emails all the time and would love to try it out if it helps them. There’s another who likes to try new things. The third kind doesn’t really care and has a project to work on. The fourth hates the idea, and hates change in general.

In your case, you just have to win over 51% of your team. The rest will, in true democratic fashion, have to follow. After awhile, people will calm down and embrace the new tool. But only if it proves it let’s them do what they do in a faster way.

It only took 4 people to get everyone to try Slack at Exit festival. Well, everyone in my marketing team at least. The Slack virus quickly spread though. Soon enough the PR folks were using it to communicate with us, and liked it so much, they started using it in their own team.

Embrace the fact that not everyone will like it at first

Trying out new chat and project apps at work seemed like a godsend for people who hate email. And, of course, it seemed like hell to people who really love their Outlook 2016, or just don’t want to leave Skype.

The same will happen to you. Not everyone will be on-board because old habits die hard. Heck, nobody really wants to invest the time to learn new software if they feel safe (but frustrated) with what they have right now.

This is the part where you calmly give them time and space. Don’t force everyone to abandon Outlook the very same second. Don’t get angry when they vocally complain about your new app. Too many complaining voices is bad, but if it’s just a few, then just give them time and offer help if they need it.

Ignore complains like “I don’t like how it looks.” or “This is dumb.” When the gmail team first redesigned gmail almost a decade ago, people were violently furious. Negative comments – about the design we know and love today – flooded every orifice of the internet. Because folks just didn’t want to lose this hot mess:

Gmail user interface in 2008
Gmail User Interface in 2008

After the dust settled, we all realised time is a construct, nothing matters, there are more important things in life… and moved on.

Help everyone build habits – and break old ones

A colleague of mine back at Exit festival still sent out emails regularly even though we all agreed to try Slack and Trello. So, with each email I gently reminded him that we all switched, and that I had replied with the info he needs in our channel. There were a lot of groans and moans, but in the end he stopped sending the emails, and started making new cards in Trello then telling me about them in Slack.

When I explained about how the Trello bot can automatically notify me whenever he adds a new task for me, you can see his eyes glimmer with delight and feel his mind expand. It was nothing short of beautiful.

The trick with folks who really love their safe habits is to just nudge them at the right time. An email reply. An attachment. A Google Docs link. They’re all potential nudges you can use to get someone onto Slack. Find out what your app is really good at (maybe time management, project management, allocations, invoices, whatever) and use those features to nudge your colleagues over.

For example, when they ask in an email what they’re supposed to do, just reply “Hey, your tasks are over here. Let me know if I can help.” Always offer to help ease their transition over to a new app. Just make sure you don’t sound patronising in the process.

Seriously – always offer help

Because you’re the one who suggested the change, you’re the leader of the transition as well. This means you have to be on call to help people figure out stuff. The second you don’t have answers is the second everyone gives up on the app entirely.

Because googling the answers isn’t fast, simple, or easy. It’s time consuming, frustrating, you feel like you failed (even though it’s probably the app’s UI/UX fault), and besides – you have a lot of work and figuring out how this damn app works isn’t on your to-do list.

That’s where you jump in. The first couple of days you kind of have to role-play the app’s support guy. Hopefully, if the app is any good, you won’t have to bother too much. If all else fails, direct your colleagues to the app’s support chat. (There’s almost always a support chat.)

You’re building a house of cards

You have to know that someone else might come along with another app they’d like everyone to try. Just like you came with yours. This is the part where you stop jealously defending your app. Instead, accept to try their app. If the entire team likes it, and if it works better for the majority, then hey: you win. Everybody wins when work gets done faster with less pain.

Turns out that my colleagues at Exit ditched Slack and started using Viber groups, because the CEO really liked Viber. Democracy is great while it lasts, right? But they stuck with Trello nonetheless. And as I hear it, they’re still using it today.

Good habits die hard.

Read “The Prince” by Machiavelli

The Prince

Here’s a tip: read The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. It has great points on how to conquer a country and/or maybe a person. In the meantime, did you try and get your team to use Slack? Or Trello? Some other app? Feel free to get in touch and share your experience with me at Twitter or here.