Imagine you’ve just begun the implementation phase of your ERP project. You’ve assembled a cross-functional project team, developed your project and selected a new ERP solution to address your antiquated and broken system. Despite some resistance to invest in comprehensive change management, a few steps have been taken to develop a plan. Things seem to be running smoothly, but all of the hard work and planning is about to be undone. You get word that there is dissention brewing among the end-users. You immediately wish you had invested in a full organizational change management plan.
Any ERP project that does not take into account the people side of change will likely fail. Warning signs are manifested in a number of ways:
- Lack of senior leadership and manager buy-in
- Lack of communications
- Lack of end-user input
- Lack of a workforce transition plan
- Lack of accountability and ownership
- Lack of defined key performance indicators (KPI’s)
- Lack of end-user input to define and set the KPI’s for their area or tasks
- A culture of fear
- A culture built on top-down decision making
- Not tying the ERP project to the broader mission, vision and goals of the enterprise
It only takes one of these factors to indicate that your change management efforts are in deep trouble. Ignore the warning signs at your own risk.
There is the story of a leading manufacturer that was moving through an ERP implementation and had complete buy-in from the leadership team, project team, manager, supervisors and end-users. Excitement was building and small victories around milestone events were celebrated. Change agents and a communications team were assembled, and readiness assessments were conducted among all staff, vendors and suppliers. Everyone felt fully engaged and committed.
Then the wheels fell off. Seemingly out of nowhere, nearly twenty people were let go, including members of the project team, even though there had been assurances that layoffs were not part of the plan. This raised considerable red flags that change management plans were about to unravel. A single senior-level manager then took over the project, alienating the project team, cancelling communication and branding efforts and micromanaging the vendors. He was oblivious to the warning signs that were evident to everyone but him.
Teams started to disassociate themselves from the project, and rumors became the primary source of communication. Then, the project plan started to see delays, and the go-live date was pushed back. There was no sense of ownership or pride in the changes and the new ERP system, but it wasn’t until three months into the project leadership transition that the new project manager heard there might be a case of low morale. No kidding. The new project manager was not engaged in the project and never reached out to employees to see how they felt. It took one person to undermine an entire project affecting hundreds of people. The company may eventually get everyone back on board, but trust, valuable time and expense were lost. Trust is a valuable and hard-earned commodity, and regaining it can take years.
As illustrated above, proper planning and embracing the need for a strategic and fully integrated change management plan is essential to ERP success. Managing change is fragile and can’t be left to one person. It takes a team. Ignore the warning signs at your own peril.
Learn more by watching our on-demand webinar, Organizational Change Management: A Critical (and Often Overlooked) ERP Implementation Success Factor.
Written by Rick Platz, Manager of Organizational Change at Panorama Consulting Solutions.