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As my business partner Elissa likes to say, “New ERP systems bring out the real dysfunctions of an organization.” In our experience, an organization that is stuck in tradition is typically one that is in danger of losing its competitive edge, its market share or even its shirt!

Clearly, we all have comfort zones in our personal and professional lives. The longer we stay there, the more entrenched and guarded we become of an outside world trying to change us. Success. Rewards. Titles. Addictions (conscious or otherwise). They’re all soothing, pleasurable “warm baths” as Stutz & Michels call them in their book, The Tools. ERP implementations, on the other hand, are the opposite. These “cold showers of reality” jolt us into seeing our unproductive traditions for what they are: behaviors we’re attached to that keep us (and the organizations we work for) from reaching our real potential.

So if you find yourself soaking wet and shivering cold, perfect! That’s just where you need to be to transform your business and your team. It’s at this soggy crossroads of the as-is and to-be state that real breakthroughs can happen – if people are aware of the opportunities that await and are willing to have the frank conversations necessary to empower new processes, attitudes, technologies and, ultimately, growth.

Easier said than done? Maybe. But in our eight years as ERP communication experts, we’ve seen many amazing transformations occur when leaders work to create an emotional connection between the all the changes occurring and the people who will be living the new business processes day to day.

Here are some communications lessons we’ve learned while taking on traditions in the heat of an ERP implementation:

1.   You’re right where you need to be! Wherever you are on your change journey, it’s the right place for your organization. Many of our clients come to us saying they’re really behind and feeling really screwed up. Our response is, “Good. You’re right on path.” Chaos. Confusion. Pain. Fear. They’re all natural emotions we feel in the face of change. Once we acknowledge them and begin to leverage them as ways to connect with one another, we can begin the process of moving forward together.

2.   Set realistic expectations. Rebuilding employee trust after the company does a 180 on what senior executives promised months ago is tough, expensive and risky. If a process is going to take longer, explain why and how it will benefit the business. Everyone keeps score on leadership’s say/do gap. How you manage that through open, honest, regular communications can increase integrity and credibility. Transparency is a killer communications strategy!

3.   Respect the change curve. The process of human change is predictable and well-documented. However, the time it takes for individuals to move through that process while slaying their personal demons of self-sabotage along the way is not! Read our recent post to learn how to map your communications campaign against John Fisher’s Transition Curve.

4.   Communicate personal growth opportunities. A common platform and standardized processes across many units or sites gives organizations the freedom to explore new options, opportunities and areas – both internally and externally. Those who learn the system in one part of the business can leverage their expertise in other new areas. Those who have time freed up through automated processes can use their extra bandwidth to determine new service offerings or launch new lines of business. Ka ching! People at all levels in the company need to know the opportunities that ERP systems can enable both for themselves and the bottom line.

5.   Identify hidden influencers and your informal, internal social network. These are the folks (often the ones who do not show up on the formal organizational chart) who are your employee bellwethers. Once you know who they are, you can choose to involve them in your communications campaign or work with them in other ways. These natural pockets of energy can have significant impact on your change journey – positively or negatively – so choose wisely! (If you’re in Minneapolis on Sept. 12, join us at frankfest to hear Vikas Narula from Keyhubs demo his sophisticated software that can help with this strategy.)

6.   Measure conversations, attitudes and alignment along the way. frank has been busy  exploring all the new software measurement solutions on the market that give added visibility to individual, functional or divisional slices of communication, awareness and alignment across the implementation lifecycle. When measured against baselines, you can track if key messages are taking root and if people are making corresponding behavior changes. Given these data-driven insights, you can make necessary communications adjustments along the way to maintain one version of the truth – just like an ERP system promises to do!

7.   You can’t over-communicate wins (and honest mistakes). Always provide a clear line of sight to how things are improving – or the challenges you’re facing. Again, doing this early, often and candidly is the way to survive turbulent times while building connections with people in the trenches living the real experiences. Of course all of this communications frankness will also pay big dividends with others in future releases!

While no two ERP implementations are the same, the cast of characters with their respective traditions, resistances (and enthusiasm!) are. A common vision, theme, language and consistent communications across the full implementation lifecycle are what will drive adoption, engagement and long-term commitment to your common platform.

Our ERPfrank5SM change-communications methodology takes all of this into account. For a free ERP Comms User Guide based on our methodology, click here. It’s a great roadmap for all that’s ahead – and a handy rear-view mirror for detecting traditions that can stymie your transformation!

Note: The inclusion of guest posts on the Panorama website does not imply endorsement of any specific product or service. Panorama is, and always will remain, completely independent and vendor-neutral. If you are interested in guest blogging opportunities, click to read more about our submission guidelines.

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