September 22 2011
I, like many other people have been challenged this past week with the way Facebook has changed its layout and styling – yet again. It made me think about the way this change was managed and I started to think about the way this reflected upon my experience of change and managing it!
I’m not going to discuss the positives or negatives of the change itself. I certainly don’t feel the urge to challenge Facebook research and the need to take on styling to combat market challengers. However, how did the change happen?
1. Before the change took place was there any communications?
Not that I could see. Well some discussion on techie forums around the web, but no indication of the change, before it actually took place? So for the general user, and that’s probably 99% of the 750 million users, it has happened without prior warning!
2. How big is the change?
Well there are many arguments ensuing about the size of the change. The main thrust of the change is around newsfeed and friend associations moving into groups (Google+ anyone?). The loudest complaint I’ve heard has been around people not knowing where to find things in their news feed. The new style appears to highlight certain news items and demote others, based on some algorithm. This preselecting is a bit of a challenge for many looking for information on friends or even games feeds. I think on a scale of size of from 1 to 10 I’d put it around the 6 mark. Its significant but not wholesale. It just feels that way for many people.
3. Was the delivery managed well?
I guess this is a big argument for many, but consider the way it was delivered to 750million users in the course of a day or so - that is quite an achievement. Many people say it wasn’t delivered well because their view is clouded by their opinions of the change, but there appear no issues in delivery – just perhaps a few wrinkles on it suddenly arriving, which takes us back to the above statements.
4. What about the people?
Hard one to comment upon here, as people are the users. I honestly think that the size of user base and market dominance of Facebook means they didn’t consider the people too much. The view that if people don’t like the change they can rebel, resist etc. is fundamentally lost in this situation. They have nowhere else really to move over to. I’m not going to discuss the whole marketing concepts, but it’s the situation where size and dominance has precluded choice. I would however, compare this to the government and public bodies I’ve worked with on change, where they were the only legal entity for certain services – you can’t choose who you pay your taxes to! In answering the question, the stock response would probably just repeat the question with different intonation. What about the people? – indeed!
5. Post change event management
I’m not sure this has even been considered. I guess the view of the majority is to be lemmings and follow the pack mentality on Facebook. This means if you have someone in your network that has joined some “I hate the changes” group, page or is just posting the phrase, then it is likely you will have that across many others in your network. IF you don’t then you won’t likely have it. However, all credit to free speech, these are being allowed to freely circulate and in some way is a vehicle for venting feelings on the change.
So what is my conclusion on this change? I don’t think it was managed well, due to lack of communications. Anyone who knows me to any level, knows my push on communications and its involvement in change as a fundamental cornerstone to change management. However, sad to say, I don’t think they needed to manage the change. Facebook is big enough to weather any rebellions and it would need a worldwide fundamental sea change to turn people against it. However, constant change without apparent benefits will wear on people and may ultimately turn them off. At least they are not falling into the MySpace trap of not making any changes and, who uses that now?