Innovation can be a scary word for organizations that are holding onto the 20th century mindset of tight control and rigid structure. The technology and connectivity of the 21st century calls for flexibility and openness to change but many organizations are so attached to old traditions that they have difficulty moving forward. Consequently, implementing a new ERP system while expecting employees to automatically embrace the changes it brings is a big mistake.
In an interview on MeetTheBoss TV, Karen Morris, CIO of Chartis Insurance, explains how fostering a culture of innovation is about listening and observation. Morris recognizes the challenge of trying to promote buy-in for an idea that is in its infancy. In cases like this, she says numbers and data can be powerful. As Panorama has seen in its own client work, executives need a strong business case in order to entertain (and fully support) the idea of an expensive IT investment.
Not only is executive buy-in important for ERP success but buy-in from end-users also is essential. If your organization has a culture where employees do not feel valued, then implementing an ERP system as fast as possible without seeking employee input will only amplify these cultural obstacles. An ERP implementation will not succeed without a solid and complementary organizational change management component.
Following are three techniques Karen Morris suggests for developing an organizational culture of innovation. These techniques can be directly applied to implementing ERP systems in change-adverse organizations:
1. Develop a common language. Organizations should discover what “innovation” means to employees and collectively define what it means in the context of an ERP implementation. Once the ERP project team finds a definition that resonates with employees, the team should strive to communicate this vision through formal and informal communication. The most important information employees need to know during an implementation is the reasoning behind the changes and how the changes will affect their jobs.
2. Listen and observe. Morris recognizes that asking for input from a vast number of employees can result in a large amount of information that organizations might struggle to process. Therefore, she recommends posing very specific questions and using the ideas – generated from collaboration and discussion – to drive innovation. In an ERP implementation, this might mean fostering a collaborative environment between managers and end-users. For example, an organization can encourage collaboration by using a team-based strategy for defining future state and current state business processes.
3. Uncover insights. Miller suggests a number of techniques for helping groups of people uncover insights. She emphasizes that it’s not so much about looking for ideas as it is looking for new perspectives and reevaluating old assumptions. It’s not about teaching; it’s about “co-discovering.” This can be applied to organizational change management, which should focus on more than just training. Organizations should hold regular workshops with end-users and management to promote involvement and demonstrate that their insights are valued.
Although organizational culture can take a long time to change, communicating with and listening to employees can have an immediate and lasting impact and is one small step in the right direction.