From Cog to Craftsman: The Paradigm Shift Essential to Maximizing Your Salesforce Org (and Enjoying Your Job)

photo of a steel worker sparks with metal grinder
Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

The single most important thing you can do for your Salesforce org and for yourself is…


Now reflect: How do you see your role? How do you view your Salesforce instance?

As an administrator of a Salesforce org, do you see your role as a lot of busy work that just about anyone could do? As a consultant, do you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels, ultimately just contributing to the profits of the behemoth that is Salesforce?

Does your org seem like a hopelessly complicated machine over which you have no control? Do you feel as though Salesforce is calling all the shots and you are just expected to play along as best you can?

Cog or Craftsman?

You’re not alone. In fact, these sentiments are in line with the experience of untold masses since the Industrial Revolution began. Many people over the last 300 years have expressed concern over the forces of mechanization and automation in labor, warning of the potential for dehumanization. As described by Eugene McCarraher, one particularly poignant critic was John Ruskin who warned in 1892 of the “degradation of the operative [worker] into a machine”.

Human beings were ingenious, intrepid, and imperfect; the precision of motion dictated by industrial machinery reduced people to machines themselves.

Eugene McCarraher – Plough Quarterly – Summer 2019

As we work with more advanced machines today, is it still possible to lose sight of what makes us human? Our imagination, our inherently relational nature, our soul? After all, Salesforce is HUGE. I am small. Fortunately, Salesforce is more aware of these dynamics than most major companies, but resisting the drive to put profits over people will always require vigilance from those in the Salesforce ecosystem.

An example of a step back from the precipice of dehumanization, because it’s actually bad for business in the long run, is the recent move to rely less on Average Handle Time (AHT) as a primary contact center metric. Turns out that judging call center employee’s efficiency by how fast they can get off the phone encourages shorter responses, less mutual understanding, and a failure to build relationship (i.e. loyalty).

If anyone should be concerned about the dynamics I’m describing here, it should be those of us who work in the “human services” non-profit use cases. Dare we ask how the ways in which we use Salesforce either prevent or encourage the fulfillment of our staff, our clients, and the communities we serve?

Make the Paradigm Shift

How can we humanize our Salesforce orgs and our roles—and in so doing re-humanize ourselves as well as the people we serve? Spoiler alert, I don’t have all the answers. I would really like to hear your ideas (comment below or email me), but I’ll offer my thoughts as well…

It starts with you

As an admin, developer, or consultant your understanding of and approach to your work is what you can control the most. If you can make the paradigm shift from seeing yourself (even unconsciously) as a cog in a machine as opposed to a craftsman who has mastery over her tools, then influence will follow. Then—and only then—will you be able to address these dynamics in your team and be aware of potentially dehumanizing forces in your organization and industry.

Change your language, shift your outlook

Our minds can’t help putting things into categories. That’s how they make sense of the world. But try not to place Salesforce in outdated categories. If you talk about Salesforce like you talked about Windows 95, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Salesforce isn’t a piece of software, it is a cloud computing platform. It’s not plug-and-play and it’s not going to live up to your expectations unless you make it do so. Salesforce is a tool that is at our service, not the other way around.

For the majority of day-to-day functionality, it’s better to ask “how do we set that up?” as opposed to “can Salesforce do that?” This small change in language can help restore your sense of agency.

Gain mastery over your tools

World class jazz musicians, artists, and architects all had to master the basics before they could improvise. With Salesforce there is a ton to learn but we have excellent resources at our disposal, here are just a few:

Mastering the fundamentals will put you in a better position to innovate and help you discover your true limitations on the platform, empowering you to lend constructive criticism and know when to code.

Learn better

Did you know there are better ways to learn and then there are much worse ways to learn? If you’re stuck on something, chances are you have a knowledge gap. The Feynman Technique is a proven way to hone your learning technique and identify gaps in your knowledge. This is something I’m always working on and it’s also an absolute prerequisite for mastering the fundamentals. Furthermore, once you make progress on these fronts, you’ll get more out of the various Salesforce communities.

Seek others

The community around Salesforce is a huge part of why it’s possible to live as a artisan or craftsman/craftswoman instead of a cog in a machine. Seek out others who have a sense of agency and who are doing creative things with the platform.

Foster your imagination

Interesting questions about A.I. aside, a huge part of what makes you human, and not a machine, is your imagination. When you find yourself frustrated with something in your Salesforce org, take the time to press pause and envision how it could be different.

If you don’t get very far, a knowledge gap might be revealing itself that begs for the steps mentioned above. It might sound simple, but most of us plow through those moments of frustration instead of taking the time to listen to what their teaching us.

Being involved in a community group and/or scrolling the forums listed above can also help develop your imagination for what’s possible.

  • Sign-up and use as many Developer Edition orgs as you need in order to give yourself the freedom to create.
  • Don’t be afraid to start from scratch, doing so gives you a chance to test your building blocks and clean-up your assumptions.
  • Don’t worry about how your idea will apply directly to your use case. Exercising your imagination is like exercising a muscle, it’s never wasted.

Comments Encouraged!

How do you keep your eyes on what’s important for your organization and yourself when it comes to leveraging Salesforce? Please share your comments below!

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