Monday, August 22, 2005

Return and uncertainty

So here we were, nearly 3 months since we'd looked at the hierarchy, trying to remember how we got here and why we'd put things where we had....

I felt quite uncomfortable looking at the hierarchy we'd ended up with. And even more uncomfortable when I thought back 3 months and remembered it feeling slightly more comfortable than it did now....

I decided to represent the hierarchy as a diagram, as I suspected something. My suspicions were confirmed. We had initially decided that the new Intranet would not reflect departmental structure. We had deliberately not included the department-specific content in the card sorting exercise or the hierarchy section. Unfortunately our hierarchy showed a very strong deparmental structure... Oh dear. The more I looked at it the less comfortable I felt.

Then I looked at the contents of the staff handbook. I remembered thinking before we left to work on the 'something else' that we would need to integrate the two sets of content. This was just impossible in the hierarchy we had at that point.

What to do?

Even though we had put more than 4 months work into this project already and a lot of research had produced this hierarchy it didn't feel right.

We knew that arranging things according to the departmental structure was a deeply ingrained habit throughout the company. We also knew that this was not helpful and needed to be changed. All the advice, columns, websites etc that we'd read also said exactly that.

The more I thought about it the more the Intranet seemed to be the best vehicle for the Staff Handbook. As the handbook contains, literally, everything, it's very difficult to maintain as a printed handbook in a folder. Updates to policy and procedure have to be circulated on paper.

If the Intranet was to, essentially, be the handbook we would need to make some radical changes.

So, we did. As we completely destroyed the departmental organisation of the handbook and the hierarchy it was very uncomfortable. Now, adding further content to the hierarchy is surprisingly easy.

To get back on top of the project we:
  • Re-assessed our plan, checking tasks and timescales
  • Met the HR manager to talk about changing the presentation of the staff handbook
The HR manager feels good about the proposed hierarchy and handbook delivery so we are now ready to test our new hierarchy.

But we now have to face the prospect of delivering something which may, initially, be uncomfortable.


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