Let’s face it. The thought of going through the selection and implementation of a new ERP software system for your organization is about as appealing as having your wisdom teeth pulled. It can be excruciatingly painful if leadership and team members don’t buy-in to the project.

In most cases making the commitment to upgrade software is extremely disruptive and time-consuming to everyone involved – from the C-suite to the people who make it happen in the warehouse, production and shipping departments. But it doesn’t have to be complete misery.  You can and should allow your teams to have a little fun along the way. Smiling and laughing are great ways to reduce stress and increase engagement.

Having some fun in the midst of your project is a great way to create a sense of ownership among employees while using the opportunity to reinforce the vision and goals of the project.  It is also a way to keep up interest and enthusiasm during the doldrums that are surely going to occur along the way. With most mid to large ERP implementations lasting anywhere from six months to two years or more, project fatigue is bound to happen.

The words ERP and “having fun” need not be an oxymoron – really. As projects take on a natural ebb and flow it’s up to the change management team to be proactive and strategic in planning relevant and engaging activities from inception through post go-live. At Panorama we take the importance of effective organizational change management very seriously. A key part of our practice methodology includes proven and effective activities and exercises that encourage the “fun factor.” Following are seven ways organizations can make their ERP implementations less grim:

1.   Project Branding – At the onset of the ERP implementation, leadership and the project team should sponsor a project naming contest. The goal is have a project name that captures the essence of the project and is consistent with the corporate culture. This is a great opportunity to communicate the purpose, goals and objectives of the project while generating employee engagement and awareness. It is important to include everyone, provide effective communications and celebrate the winners and others who entered. It doesn’t hurt to having a meaningful prize either.

2.   Team Building – Plan an activity either on-site or off-site for the project core team that is centered on building camaraderie and a shared vision and purpose. It also allows you to promote and educate the team about the cross-functional interdependencies that will be necessary throughout the project. The key is to build trust and encourage open communication. At Panorama we recently conducted a personality and interest assessment for a core team which revealed beneficial insights that the team used to work better together. We followed up the on-site review with an off-site trip to the local Whirly Ball facility (think bumper car basketball), where we assigned teams based on personalities and tasked them with creating a game plan and a post-game “lessons learned” that they applied to the next round of competition.

3.   Celebrate Small Victories – Given that most ERP implementations take a lot of time, it is important to celebrate small victories throughout the process. This can include team recognition for achieving key milestones of the project as you move forward. Recognition need not be expensive or time-consuming. Something as simple as public acknowledgement of individuals or teams through newsletters, status meetings and town halls can be very effective. Add an element of fun by giving them a project-branded memento.

4.   Recognize Individual Contributions – Take time to recognize individuals who are actively engaging in the project by contributing to process improvement, being a project evangelist, encouraging others and offering innovative ideas. Also recognize those who are generally keeping a positive attitude when it may be easier to complain or, worse, be an obstructionist. Invite them to stand up in front of their peers and tell their story.

5.   Hold Town Hall Meetings – This is an opportunity for leadership to be visible while providing updates on the status of the project including timelines and training. Leadership should also reiterate project goals, linking them to overall corporate vision. One fun idea for this setting is to play ERP Jeopardy with project-related categories. It is best played in front of an employee audience and should include fun prizes for all the participants. This is also an opportunity to serve some food and beverages and hand out project-branded swag that reinforces the importance of the having everyone on board with project goals.

6.   Train Project Teams – One great way to engage teams involved in the ERP implementation is to make sure they understand their roles. We have developed an activity around the age-old game we all know – Bingo. This can encourage participants to pay attention and to recognize keywords or phrases to help them succeed. Prizes can include gift cards or project-branded items.

7.   Team Recognition – ERP implementations are a huge undertaking for everyone, especially those who commit the majority of their time to ERP success over a long period of time – in some cases, this is on top of their regular jobs. There are many ways leadership can recognize these teams and individuals for all their efforts. Ideas include an off-site activity like dinner, a sporting event or a trip to the local bowling alley where the conversations are less formal, while providing an opportunity to continue to build the team and escape from the office.

These are just a few of the ways to keep your ERP implementation on track and to build employee engagement by adding a bit of fun along the way. At Panorama, we continually challenge ourselves to provide strategic organizational change management ideas to our clients. We firmly believe that the success of your ERP implementation will ultimately be determined by the people involved. Seldom is the issue software-related. Having some fun is a strategic part of the people management process.

ERP implementations can be daunting. But the more you know, the less challenging it can be.

Written by Rick Platz, Senior Manager of Organizational Change at Panorama Consulting Solutions.

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