Currently, we are working with a client that is experiencing a common but unexpected challenge as they implement a new ERP software solution. The ERP implementation is organized with a senior team functioning as a steering committee. Reporting to them are the project manager, our consultants, a core team and ultimately the ERP users.

The ERP implementation was preceded by a ERP selection project that focused on the business requirements and the business case for the ERP implementation. Most of the members of the implementation team were a part of the ERP selection process in one capacity or another.

Now that the ERP implementation is underway and “the heavy lifting has begun,” we are experiencing some resistance within the ranks that needs to be addressed. The interesting element of this resistance is the source – the core project team.

The expectation is that the core project team would be the most intimate and committed members of the whole ERP implementation effort. Most of them were closely involved in the ERP software selection process. However, now their initial enthusiasm for the project has evolved into several forms of resistance.

Sources of ERP Resistance

  • The reality of their required commitment for completing the project
  • The amount of their resources that need to be deployed on the project
  • The difficult functionality decisions that have to be made, with the accompanying compromises
  • Their own competing personal agendas

Panorama’s ERP implementation and organizational change management projects focus on a list of critical success factors that help achieve change management and reduce resistance.

Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for Change Management

  • Truth
  • Accountability
  • Leadership
  • Engagement
  • Alignment

These CSF’s also apply to change leadership. The subtle but significant difference is that in change management we focus on what must be done to make the users of the ERP software successful with the new tools. Change leadership focuses on supporting all of the participants in the change management process. The project manager and project lead need to deal with this and still deliver an on-time and on-budget ERP implementation. The steering committee wants to provide support and wonders what to do.

Here is what we have suggested:

  • Lead by example. In addition to communicating the priority of the ERP implementation, show it. A decision was made to suspend one of the quarterly tasks that required a lot of time from the core team. The reason communicated was that right now the ERP project is the priority and the steering committee recognizes the core team’s resource challenges.
  • Support the champions. Vocal, public acknowledgment of the work being done on the project by the core team is tangible reinforcement of the priorities.
  • Challenge the undecided. Calling out the core team members constructively in the meetings (not public) will reinforce their accountability to the steering committee and each other.
  • Promote accountability. Be crystal clear with every member of the core team regarding choices and consequences. If there is responsible dissent about a deliverable or deadline, get it out on the table for debate in the meetings. Work the discussion to hammer out the best answer. Once a decision has been made, make sure everyone understands the shared commitment to it. The debate is over. Now, clearly explain the expectations.

Get everyone possible on board the train – it’s leaving the station with or without everyone on board. Following the prior point, the consequences of not delivering should be clear. Managing dissent constructively is a great way to create a much higher performing team. This approach might be new, and it might be uncomfortable, but it is this client’s reality and should be seen as an opportunity.

Ignoring resistance and doing nothing is also a choice. But it is a disastrous one.

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