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Convince colleagues to use Questions for Confluence / Ask questions

We're using Questions for Confluence for over 2 years now - and I find it pretty hard to convince people to use it.

Not that there are no questions - or that questions won't be answered.... Don't get me wrong here. We tried many different things. What I found out so far:

  • Some people are afraid to ask question in public -> we created an account to ask questions anonymous - not sure if this was the right thing cause it doesn't make much difference
  • Young colleagues are more used for social interaction and collaboration and just use it -> do you have any experiences or ideas how to make it valuable for older colleagues, too?
  • Answering is cool for everyone and they are totally into it but nearly no one wants to ask a question... -> how are your experiences here?

How are you doing with questions for confluence? I think it is a great addon... but as the usage is so bad we are really thinking about switching it off. We want the people to talk about questions in public so that a discussion can be started and we have more transparency. Especially cause you find the content in search and and we would like to adapt the content of the articles on the basis of the questions asked and the resulting discussions.

Would love to hear your opinion and what experiences you made and maybe ideas you have.

2 comments

We had some success getting people to ask a question and immediately reply to their own question when they found the answer to a scenario they expected to face again. This helped get the knowledge base growing.

We also prompted people during meetings with "have you created a Confluence question (and answer)?" when they mentioned they had a question for someone, were researching how to do something, or had learnt something new.

Habits can take a while to form and it can be tricky for something like this where the value is not obvious until the process/tool is embedded.

You could also gamify/reward people for adding (quality) questions.

Thanks @Kat Warner _TechTime_  for answering so fast

Gamify and Rewarding sounds like a good plan to me. We already in a big discussion about rewards for questions, answers but also for writing articles, support aso. Hearing from other people that this works really supports me in my opinion and my plans.

Promotion in meetings also is a good idea and will become part of my huge big plan.

Like Kat Warner _TechTime_ likes this

It's a rare kid that hits up Wikipedia without having a paper due first. Even fewer actually kick in answers: no reason to. Four tricks.

  • Well, if they can't bring themselves to ask, the answer isn't all that important to them.
  • Adjust processes so answers come from the KMS. Creates pull.
  • Pay attention to output-based results for things answers will help.
  • Any group answer-making session with some stats helps.

The big problem isn't answers, it's folklore. Folklore is incomplete, inconsistent, and hard to access. You take a hit getting things done when company knowledge is stored in folklore.

So, this one time at band camp...

I inherited a pretty knowledge-hording team of SW engineers. Bad context, and bad management made bad behavior pay off. Being the guy people had to go to to make their own progress put you in a power position. (Happens all the time.)

Some other departments really loved interrupting engineers in their offices demanding answers right now. Everything was an emergency. So...

  • One designated POC for questions, support contacts, and synch with pre- and post-sales "issues."
  • "But he doesn't know anything." "Exactly, "we" can't answer any of this stuff. That's why he'll get the answer and *write it down.* Then you get your answer, and we all know."
  • Made an answer wiki. (Couldn't roll in Confluence for org reasons, so we rolled out MoinMoin.)
  • Started sponsoring wiki-lunch on Fridays. "You guys just type answers at the hot questions, and we'll buy you lunch." It turns out they wanted pizza all the time.
  • Push weekly stats on pages, questions, questions answered and *wiki hits from people who needed answers.*
  • Asserted that engineering's job was "creating IP usable by other people without your help." Putting answers in the wiki counted. Reciting folklore the 12th time did not.
  • I was personally fairly narrow-minded about people stalling each other for any reason. You're professionals, engineers, and grown-ups. You know better.

It turns out that without that "pull" the "push" from people who knew things just didn't happen. People who give away their special knowledge for others to use are pretty rare. This predates wiki webs. Once, I built a team "book of local knowledge" on paper in a binder, for new engineers. People who used the thing daily, for moths, to get started flat out refused to even make notes on what more would be helpful.

At WikiCo, our "hit" metrics were interesting. Literally none of the droves who had been coming to engineer's desks with a dozen emergencies a day hit the wiki. No hits. (If fact, there was an interesting organizational game going on, but that's another whole digression.)

Adapt what fits for you from that story.

Like # people like this

Thanks for sharing - there are some great knowledge gems there and a few moments where I nodded along in "been there" fashion.

Like Fabienne Gerhard likes this

"Great knowledge gems"  -- thanks for that. Half that story is instances of the meta-hack: "Create circumstances where you can catch people doing something right, and tell them."

/Meta

I don't smoke jump into challenge orgs like that since I broke my brain; 5 years ago this week. I am figuring out other ways to share the observations behind the hacks I used to use hands-on, n maybe even get paid to do that, one day. Meanwhile, community conversations are a good exercise. (I couldn't walk to start, so it's been a long trip.)

Like # people like this

Thank you so much @James Bullock for your open and true words! Found myself in so many of them.... 

It's pretty hard to hear the truth but also gives me a good feeling about being not alone here. At the beginning of this never ending project I took everything extremely personally and was upset when noone understood (or would understand) all the advantages of sharing knowledge and asking questions.... but now I take it as a small victory when one or two colleagues could be convinced and change their behaviour. 

Maybe it's something between giving up and going on - gonna take the best from James story :)

You are most welcome, Fabienne.

You found something in your paragraph "It's pretty hard..." This is the perspective to have, that can work: what works vs. "this ought to work."

  • You are doing organizational development (OD), whether you know it or not.
  • OD isn't an information system design problem, and SPI isn't programming.
  • OD is hard in the "wicked problem" sense.

You are on the right track with: "something between giving up and going on." Try looking at what you are doing from the human systems POV: you are neither giving up nor going on. See yourself as doing what you can in the situation you are actually in.

Really appreciate your wise words @James Bullock

Maybe I should really start relaxing a little bit more and love the little things I get from the colleagues.

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