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Driving Culture Change, One Step at a Time


Hans Manzke

Date Published

Feb 11, 2022
6 minute read
Maryland County Culture Shift

Two information-sharing sites (or intranets). Neither being used effectively – or much at all.

Siloes reinforced and collaboration reduced. What to do?

That’s the challenge the CIO of a D.C.-area local government brought to us at The Clearing. This leader recognized a missed opportunity, and knew the power that a functional, well-designed, collaborative intranet could have on the organization’s geographically dispersed workforce.

However, “nuts and bolts” functionality advantages were just the tip of the iceberg. Our CIO had a longer-term vision in mind: using a well-designed and effectively implemented intranet as a way to shift the organization’s culture. In short, the intranet was one of many ways to achieve a longer-term culture shift – changing how colleagues interact with one another, how they adopt and use new technology, do their jobs more efficiently and with higher fidelity, and more. To paraphrase in inimitable Mary Poppins, “A spoonful of intranet helps the culture change go down.”


The Why

The Clearing’s goal was simple: partner with the CIO and other key stakeholders on two things. First, we needed to choose one instance of the Intranet or the other, and second, we needed to revamp and revitalize the winner into a nexus for collaboration and efficiency. To begin, we asked a series of open-ended questions during our discovery phase to a cross-section of county employees – things like “do you know the intranet sites exist?” and “do you know what their purpose and functions are?”

Their responses revealed the organization had some catching up to do in the realm of technology adoption. However, we also discovered a lot of energy around modernizing how the organization leveraged technology. Leadership knew it needed to create infrastructure that could accommodate its incoming, more tech-savvy workforce that is already filling the shoes of current staffers looking to retire over the next 5 to 10 years.

Finally, leadership recognized that the longer it took to modernize, the harder it would become to deliver quality services to its customers. One example of this was the organization’s rent relief program. From a process mapping perspective, it looked like any other conventional program; however, the organization wanted to implement a modern customer relationship management tool – Zendesk – to automate and streamline the application and interaction process, making it easier for residents to use and getting rent relief funds to those who need it faster. This is just one example of how driving culture change through technology adoption has real-world, big-ticket impact.

Heuristic Assessment

The Clearing created and implemented a heuristic assessment in the discovery process.


Our Approach

As touched upon earlier, The Clearing started with a broad discovery survey of county employees. One of the questions we needed to answer directly was who knew about the intranet(s) existed in the first place. Indirectly, we wanted to measure the workforce’s temperature with regard to technology adoption. From there, we shared findings with the leadership team, and facilitated a conversation at that level through the lens of their overall organizational goals. We encouraged the leadership team to take on the fewest, most important initiatives possible to move the needle on its new intranet instance and technology adoption in general. Focus is everything.

The leadership team decided to migrate to a single intranet instance, powered by SharePoint. Next, we partnered with The Clearing’s unparalleled visual consultants to develop visual frameworks and to better understand the workflows associated with the intranet’s core constituents. We used visual maps to build out wireframes for required and desired intranet pages, partnering with our client’s most important stakeholders to ensure critical needs were met.

Along with wireframes, we developed and delivered an implementation plan, including a critical but often overlooked component: steps to catalyze the desired culture shift. In essence, we used training engagement as a proxy to demonstrate how to adopt new technology effectively. In service of this critical but amorphous goal, our visuals team created job aids to help the workforce understand the purpose and importance of the intranet, how they could leverage it most powerfully, and how it would make their lives at work better. By creating a long adoption runway, we effectively used the intranet project as a test case on technology adoption at scale. Those learnings continue to serve the leadership team as they determine the roadmap for future technology programs.

Intranet Wireframes

The Clearing developed wireframes to better understand the workflows associated with the intranet’s core constituents.


The Impact

The biggest impact was the choice the leadership team made on its own: choosing to invest the time, energy, focus, and resources a project like this requires. With the insights developed by The Clearing, they were able to determine a clear path forward for this project and future modernization efforts as well.

While an intranet site can be many things to many people, it is, at its essence, a shared resource. For many, sharing resources is a part of our natural mental model – we want what we want when and how we want it. Through that lens, what’s best for our colleagues, or the good of the whole, isn’t always top of mind at the most basic level. My biggest takeaway from this project was that by making difficult tech choices and focusing real energy on adoption, engagement, and communication, an organizational culture can shift.

If you’re curious about technology implementation, culture change or how to use focused projects to drive big transformation, I’d love to hear from you. Reach out to me at to start a dialog. I look forward to hearing from you.