9 min read

Abby Fox: Sinking in the gap between humanity and technology


Abby Fox from We Are For Good wrote this article about her real journey of a technology implementation gone bad. The article has so much to offer because it's NOT about technology. In fact, the platform isn't even named because it's not the point. Abby went above and beyond sharing her experience and talking about the effect, it had on her mental health. Because of that, we are awarding her our very first "Courageous Voice" award. Watch the video and read more below!

We've been trained to think that technology breaks because of functionality, features, requirements, data, or analytics. What's more likely is that the implementation of technology is so arduous that it creates its own failure. So much so that even if the Project is successful, the overall initiative fails. As Abby put it so well:

We need to face the reality that it is impossible for a project to succeed when it’s driving people into the ground.

The takeaways from Abby's article are the entire article. Take a minute and read about someone who moved from a dedicated staff person to leaving the organization because of the implementation. So, rather than repeat the article, we grabbed a few minutes to talk with Abby; the video and transcript are below. 

You're in for a treat because Abby is an incredible person and in just 12 minutes you'll see what we mean. Leave us a comment, and give Abby a follow!

Abby Fox & Tim Lockie: The Unofficial Interview

Tim Lockie: So first up, you're Abby Fox with We Are For Good. Tell us three things about yourself that people may not know from reading your LinkedIn bio or whatever.

Abby Fox: Oh my gosh. Let's see. I feel like I'm a recovering rule follower is how I describe myself sometimes. Like growing up all I wanted to do was be normal and fit in and not rock the boat.

Abby Fox: And now I'm realizing like, oh, maybe that's not a solid strategy for adulthood. Like maybe I have to step out and be different and that's okay. So that's something that somebody might not know about me. I'm not a dog person. If you asked me if I was a cat person or a dog person, cat person all the way, but I don't know a cat cuz I'm allergic.

Abby Fox: But I do have a dog and he made me a dog person. I am a, my kind of dog person. His name is Oliver and he's very precious. And then, I think everyone knows this about me, but what's most important to me are relationships. And so being able to feed the relationships that I have in my life, that's what gives me life.

Abby Fox: So I don't know if that's good or bad, but that's a little bit more.

Tim Lockie: And then just totally random question here that I ask all of the people I interview have you ever paid for a product that you didn't receive later on? For example, maybe a hot air balloon ride or ?

Abby Fox: Totally random based on if they have the names of my cousins,

Tim Lockie: exactly. Yes. I, gotta tell you, I have to limit how many times I use the phrase, the winds aloft are fierce because it has become like my favorite, phrase, So for those of you that,

Tim Lockie: don't know, when I first met Abby, I found out that Abby, a couple of years ago, right paid for...

Abby Fox: Five years ago!

Tim Lockie: Five years ago, Okay.

Abby Fox: Six. Now I think I'm 36. So

Tim Lockie: it's older than your children, right? Like this?

Abby Fox: Yeah. Older than hot kids. I've had two children since, yes. I paid for a hot air balloon ride that, Yeah. The weather just never cooperated or the guy doesn't have a hot air balloon. I'm not really sure which.

Tim Lockie: And, when you asked about it, his, final message on it was the winds aloft are fierce, which is why you couldn't take Yeah.

Abby Fox: And it was a beautiful day. The, it was very calm on the surface, but I don't know about,

Tim Lockie: but aloft.

Abby Fox: Granted, I don't know anything about winds.

Tim Lockie: I doubt this guy did either, but that's just my guess.

Question 1: What is success [2:21]

Tim Lockie: I want to start in on something that you said here that caught my attention, you said, We need to face the reality that is impossible for a project to succeed when it's driving people into the ground. Can you say more about what that looks like and how that felt for you?

Abby Fox: Such investment goes into what we do for a living, right? Like we're spending so much time, we're spending so much energy, we're pouring ourselves into that. And at the end of the day, to say that our investment is not as important as this temporary goal that we're gonna forget tomorrow because we're moving on to the next one.

Abby Fox: I feel like I was put in a position where I couldn't, play by these rules anymore. Like I cannot give of myself anymore. And so to feel like I'm now, I have to be on the outside and I don't get to contribute in the way that I wanna contribute to this cause that I care so deeply about is really hard.

Abby Fox: And so that's why I think. When we say it's a success, what kind of goals did we have at the beginning? Did we just wanna get to a new system, or did we wanna do it in a way that capitalizes on the strengths that we have as an organization and really feeds the people that are gonna bring that value?

Abby Fox: Because I feel like. In this new environment that I'm in, I feel alive in such new ways that I didn't have before, but it's because I had to just die to some of that because it wasn't the priority of the moment, and so I just wonder if there's a better way to come up with maybe it's just about how are we defining success?

Abby Fox: Maybe it's a better definition. So it's not just about raising that dollar goal or instituting that system. It's more about. Fully maximizing our potential. And when I say our, I mean our mission, our people, you know what we can be capable of.

Question 2: Is Disruption Good For Humans?

Tim Lockie: That says it brilliantly. Thank you so much.

Tim Lockie: I would lo I could spend an hour just digging into that, but I want to get to something that the tech industry talks about all the time, which is this idea of disruption. Uber disrupted the car. Airbnb disrupted, like software companies are out there intentionally looking for ways to disrupt and that totally makes sense for them.

Tim Lockie: What I had to discover after researching for several years on. Was the idea of change saturation. Change saturation is the ratio of an organization's capacity for change relative to the amount of disruption that organization is experiencing.

Tim Lockie: And so what the tech industry is very excited about in terms of disruption. I think the opposite end of that for humans is often just ignored and not well understood. So I would I, feel like you chart out three weeks and then six months, and then one year. Could you just talk a little bit about the disruption that you experienced, the expectations you had at the beginning, and then where that led for you?

Abby Fox: Yeah, there definitely, I didn't have a realistic view in the beginning, but I don't think, I don't feel like our folks had a realistic view on the whole and when I say our folks, the organization, employees, we were working with partners that maybe the partners knew better. Maybe they didn't know exactly what it would require from everyone.

Abby Fox: But I do feel like as it got bigger it's hard too, because you're excited about, what you're doing. And so some of this, I think the argument could be I didn't ask you not to enroll your son in T-ball. Like, why were you working until six o'clock at night? And the answer was like, I wanted to produce a product that was great for our donors.

Abby Fox: I wanted to put something out there in the world that I could be proud of. And I felt like at the time, it wasn't at a space where I felt good about that. And I don't know. I feel like there's personal responsibility in all of this too, and I don't wanna ignore that. Cuz maybe we could have done it in three hours in, in a shorter amount of time.

Abby Fox: But, we couldn't have done it at the same level, with the same quality. And I still don't think, even if we would've done three weeks was never like that's what was presented in the beginning. That was never the scope. That should have never been presented as the scope. Because clearly after sitting through this now, there was no way that, it could be accomplished in that amount of time.

Abby Fox: So that was a gross misestimating of time.

What Does Disruption Look Like? [6:45]

Tim Lockie: Yeah. Yes, I completely agree. 100%. I want to just, show you something that I worked out to explain something that I think is a hard concept to capture and you capture the outcome of it. What I wanna do is just share this with you and find out if this fits your experience.

Tim Lockie: So you should be seeing implementing today. Okay. Great. All right. So this is this little I right here is for implementation. The dotted line is quantity of implementation over time, right? And what happens is that executives, like if I'm the consultant, an executive talks to me and says, Hey, we're going too slow, right?

Tim Lockie: We are not like getting enough percent of implementation done relative to the timeline that we expected. , but what's not said and is really hard to capture is this disruption line right here. That staff experience that is invisible and staff are saying, We're going too fast. Yeah. So you've got two alternate stories happening at the same time because you know of this disruption line and the whole idea here is.

Tim Lockie: Disruption goes up and then you save so much time and efficiency after the system's in place that is worth it, right? Because the implementation line goes down. This is the hope. What often happens is that the, that line does not go down and instead it goes up and stays really high. And my point on this and the human stack is to say, when that disruption line goes high, it creates, Human human casualties, like it creates a, bunch of unintended consequences that I think are really hard to capture.

Tim Lockie: Does that capture a little bit of what happened to you and your team in that implementation, do you think?

Abby Fox: I think so. And what was hard is that we're putting in a lot of time to develop it and then knowing that, so donor portal was one of the things that I was taxed with and that's probably why I've had the experience that I've had.

Abby Fox: Cuz there was just a lot more complexity when it came to that. That was a lot to be doing while you're switching CRMs like there, there was a lot that we tackled, but I think what killed me wasn't necessarily obviously the way we got to launch, I didn't love because I felt like it was unreasonable the timeframe, but everyone was just so ready to launch and, we did.

Abby Fox: We launched in the month that we had targeted from the start and then after that, it wasn't over for me because that's when the disruption for the donors was just beginning. And so it was explaining to them how to interact with the system, why this didn't happen, like trying to communicate as well as I could.

Abby Fox: With short timelines that were really too short to be able to train you on how to consume these reports and all of this because you need the information today and you can no longer access it in the old way. So you just have to dive in and do it. I think that's another thing that has made it hard.

Abby Fox: I think my expectations of the service I wanna provide is extremely high. I think people were very understanding when they would call and they'd be frustrated and they'd upset and they'd finally get to a person and they'd say their thing that they're heated about and I would have a response and they accepted that pretty well and they thanked me for being kind and all of that.

Abby Fox: But in my mind it was like, oh, I foresaw this conversation coming and I couldn't do anything to stop it. Like I just wanted to create. less disruption not only for myself but then also for our end users that were experiencing that. And that wasn't over within the first month of the implementation.

Abby Fox: We got months and months out and we were still facing some of those things. And so I don't know how to do it well because I don't wanna compress the implementation timeline anymore. But at the same time, like you said, that disruption timeline, like it just seems to keep going and going.

Award Time! [10:34]

Abby Fox - Courageous Voice-png

Tim Lockie: that's, really well said. I know that you need to go. I just want you for one more minute because you are the first recipient of our Courageous Voices Award. .

Abby Fox: You did not. Yeah, did not.

Tim Lockie: I am so proud of you for just being willing to share and saying, "This affected my mental health, my parenting, my leadership." It takes a lot of courage to do that. And we just wanna say thank you for being one of those courageous voices.

Abby Fox: So you are so kind. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. A gift to be able to share. I wanna be a positive person. I want to exude positivity. That's part of the reason why I came to the team for We are for good. I think your comments of saying like complaining is really a sign of hope because I don't think it stops with the complaint. It's, keeping this conversation going and it's figuring out a way that we can tap into human brilliance to figure this out.

Abby Fox: Cuz I think we can figure out a way to do it better and if my story helps us get there, then I feel good about it.

Tim Lockie: Absolutely. Thank you so much for your time, Abby, and thanks for your words.