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Tom Devane is a consultant, author, and co-author of provocative bestselling books on achieving extraordinary results using methods that systematically engage people in organizations and communities.
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    The Change Handbook

    Over 60 methods that engage groups quickly and produce extraordinary results.

     

     

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    Integrating Lean Six Sigma and High Performance Organizations

    A leader's guide to blending technical and people aspects of performance improvement.

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    Archives (by topic and month)

    Sunday
    Jan152012

    How to Magnify the Impact of Your Visioning and Strategy Development Sessions with One Little Pre-step

    Before you get together with the top leaders in the corporation to craft a vision and subsequent strategy, let’s think for a moment about how you could magnify the impact of those sessions.  One powerful thing to do to is to call top leaders, and those with additional valuable perspectives, into a session where they explore assumptions and see if those assumptions are still valid as the organization moves into the future.  
     
    These assumptions could be explicit or tacit.  They could be about topics like the overall market, target niches, the competition, regulation, or internal capabilities.  Anything that could have a significant impact on the organization’s future could be fair game.
     
    A reasonable person might ask, “But how do you get a diverse group of people in a room and talk about high-leverage assumptions without heated disagreements breaking out, and the overall conversation deteriorating?”  The answer is that we set up the session so this doesn’t happen.  
     
    We use a method for groups getting together called “Dialogue” where we state up front that we’re not looking for decisions or mass agreement in key issues.  We’re simply looking to collect people’s thoughts and their potential implications, in a non-threatening environment, where even the most shy and timid people can express their view of the situation.  And by stating up front that we’re not looking for decisions or unanimous agreements, we take the pressure off people so they can express their true opinions and thoughts on an issue that impacts the organization.  We state that we’re just collecting pieces of data that can be use later in analyses, debates, and decisions for moving forward.
     
    By having such a pre-visioning/pre-strategy Dialogue session, we can often gather information that may not have been previously available, because a soft-spoken person wouldn’t speak up.  And we also find that in a group setting people collectively build on each other’s thoughts, and often come up with a new, better thought based on back and forth conversations and the subtle nuances of the individual thoughts presented.  In many organizations these have proven to be extremely valuable inputs for visioning and strategic planning sessions.
     
    Here are some other norms we state up front going into a Dialogue session.  We ask people to:
     
    • Suspend their judgments and their “certainties”
    • Respectfully explore others’ assumptions through questions
    • Disclose their key assumptions and how they arrived at them
    • Respect foreign-sounding points of view
    • Ask questions they don’t have answers for, and be prepared to be surprised and learn something they hadn’t known before.
     
    Dialogue is a versatile group method that can be used in many situations in addition to visioning and strategy development like we’ve covered here.  A short Dialogue blog provides some additional information on the method.
    Sunday
    Jan152012

    Don’t Forget the Power of “Not” in Visioning and Strategy Sessions

     

    As part of my consulting work I’m asked to review a lot of vision statements, strategic intent statements, and strategic plans.  Something struck me in my latest review this week, and I’ve found it to be so prevalent that I think sharing this could be very helpful to top leaders and strategic planners as they develop these key corporate direction documents.  So here it is.
     
    And that’s the power of Not.
     
    It’s only natural, from an economic standpoint, that companies would like to sell to as many people as possible.  So we see target niches that include consumers that at all income levels.  And geographic niches that include all regions on the planet.
     
    But targeting to sell to everyone, everywhere has two basic problems.  First is that people, in this day and age, like to think they’re being marketed to for their specific needs.  And second, no one company has the resources to chase all the opportunities on the planet.  There needs to be an allocation of scarce resources, but I often don’t see this in a company’s strategy.  Unfortunately, I typically do see this allocation occurring informally, on an ad hoc basis, at the division or department level at budgeting time, which is definitely too low a place in the organization for this to be happening.
     
    It’s extremely helpful to say Not in strategic documents, and many times also in a company’s vision statement.  A statement like “We’re in the telecommunications space, but we’re NOT going to play in the cable market” helps send a clear message to directors and managers where they should spend their time and efforts. 
     
    In addition to allocating scarce resources, this practice of saying Not also helps focus on key strengths.  I know of one pulp and paper mill company that once diversified by purchasing a cruise line to run as a separate division.  They ended up exiting quickly, as they really didn’t know how to run that business profitably.  And it showed.
     
    So don’t forget the power of Not in your vision and strategy – it can save you a lot of time, money, and workforce confusion about strategic choices.

     

    Monday
    Dec192011

    Just How Important is Change Management in ERP Implementations?

    An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system integrates all data and processes for an organization into one unified system for planning and managing it operations.  Because of its widespread impact on people and how they do their work, significant effort needs to be devoted to managing the change from the old operating environment to the new.  Numerous studies from firms like McKinsey & Co, Ernst & Young, and CSC have all reported that about 75% of organizations fail to achieve the business objectives they set out to get from most technology projects.  
     

    And most of these failures are attributed to not adequately addressing the people part of the overall technology implementation.  The change management part of an ERP project is unquestioningly important, but all too often overlooked.  Overlooking it frequently results in the system’s failure to meet the targeted business objectives, missed deadlines, cost overruns, and decreased employee morale.  These results stem from employees’ unwillingness to change to the new system, unfamiliarity with the new system and how to operate it, perceived leadership non-support of the new system, and sometimes downright overt resistance to using the new system. 

     

    But understanding it’s important to address change management issues isn’t enough.  What, exactly, does a person heading up the change management part of an ERP project need to be thinking about?  

     

    Here are 12 pragmatic tips, divided into two categories, for change managers in ERP projects.  Additional details for the tips in each category can be found by clicking on the link directly below the final tip in each category.

     

    Infrastructure-related (setting up conditions for success)

    1.  Help achieve the targeted business results.  
    2.  Ensure alignment of business objectives among all key project groups.  
    3.  Connect the change management project plan to the technical implementation plan.
    4.  Establish multi-faceted communications with feedback loops.
    5.  Ensure clear role definition for implementation and operations tasks.  
    6.  Help shape the training strategy and results.  
     

    For details of the infrastructure-related tips of ERP change management click here.

     

    Interaction-related (direct interactions key people and groups)

    1.  Engage stakeholders appropriately.  
    2.  Help employees manage workflow and mindset transitions.  
    3.  Connect people with the new work and each other.  
    4.  Develop, connect, and support a change agent network.  
    5.  Create organizational energy for implementation & operation.  
    6.  Build capabilities for future change.  
     

    For details of the people-related tips of ERP change management click here.

     

    Monday
    Dec192011

    6 Key Tips for Change Management for ERP – The Infrastructure Aspect

    Change management is extremely important in the implementation of an ERP system, as was discussed in an earlier blog.   In this blog we cover Six Key Tips for Change Management for ERP, and we focus on the infrastructure aspect of the project.   In another, related blog, we cover six more change management tips, and we focus on the people aspect of the project.  
     

    The infrastructure part of change management deals with what needs to get set up to make the changes easier on people in the organization.  Here are six pragmatic tips for setting up your change management infrastructure:

     

    1.  Help achieve the targeted business results.  This needs to be first and foremost in the mind of a change management practitioner.  The questions the practitioner asks, and support systems set up need to focus on achieving the desired business results.  Everything -- from meeting design to hallway conversations, to setting up the steering committee charter – needs to support the business goals articulated at the start of the project.

     

    2.  Ensure alignment of business objectives among all key project groups.  There needs to be a clear understanding of the targets, starting at the executive team and cascading down.  Sounds simple, but in one electronics company that implemented ERP I found the executive team didn't even agree on the targeted benefits -- each had been sold on the big picture benefits from the ERP vendor, and each had their own view of how they applied to their area.  And disconnects can also occur between senior managers and the technical implementation team.  These, and many other reasons can cause disconnects, so goal alignment needs to be actively and constantly supported.

     

    3.  Connect the change management project plan to the technical implementation plan. Certain activities need to occur for effective and efficient change, so developing a change management workplan is essential.   AND, I recommend this plan is incorporated into, or at least annotated on to, the main technical project plan.  In places where this hasn't been done, I've noticed change activities get short shrift when technical deadlines are threatened.

     

    4.  Establish multi-faceted communications with feedback loops. Many communications experts suggest that a key message needs to be repeated at least 8 times to be heard and understood. Yet all too often in ERP efforts leaders say something once, and expect everyone to hear, and completely understand it.  Best practice suggests multiple broadcasts of a key message, and through various channels (like town hall meetings, newsletters, quick videos, etc.).  It’s also important to set up feedback loops to make sure the messages are coming across as intended, and that indicate a additional communication is required if they’re not.

     

    5. Ensure clear role definition for implementation and operations tasks.  Let’s first look at the implementation gameplan.  Key implementation tasks need to be covered.  There also need to be key project organizational entities, like a steering committee to provide continual strategic direction, and help resolve cross-disciplinary disputes.  A formal charting of people to specific responsibilities is very helpful in determining coverage, and eliminating redundancies.  I see is as the change manager’s charter to do this if it hasn’t been done already by the overall ERP project manager, or technical team leaders.  And regarding roles for the post-implementation world, the same rules apply.  It’s helpful to get and “audit” to make sure the key tasks are covered, key organizational structures exist, and roles are clearly associated with people.

     

    6.  Help shape the training strategy and results.  This will vary from one ERP implementation to another. Sometimes companies rely heavily on the software provider for training, others do not.  It’s up to the change manager – if not done by the overall project manager – to provide early input to the overall training approach and execution.  Good guidelines are: keep it relevant, keep it minimal, and keep it well-timed (just before needed).  It’s also good to keep in mind that users training users tend to work better than outsiders training users. In a “super-user” strategy the company develops one highly qualified person in an area, who then helps trains and supports others as needed.

     

    These are six high leverage tips for ERP change managers that relate to setting up an infrastructure that helps create conditions for effectively and efficiently performing change management activities.  For six additional tips related to the work a change manager does with people see a the people aspect blog.

     

    Monday
    Dec192011

    6 Key Tips for Change Management for ERP – The Interaction Aspect

    Change management is extremely important in the implementation of an ERP system, as was discussed in an earlier blog.  In this blog we cover Six Key Tips for Change Management for ERP, and we focus on the people aspect of the project.   In another, related blog, we cover six more change management tips, and we focus on the infrastructure aspect of the project.
     
    The people part of change management deals with direct interactions that the change manager has with people in the organization.  Here are six pragmatic tips for this important aspect of change management for ERP implementations:
     

    1.  Engage stakeholders appropriately. In my mind, change managers need to go far beyond just managing expectations, as much of the contemporary change management literature suggests.  We need to actively engage stakeholders so they feel they’re part of developing the new solution.  And we need to do this as cost-effectively as possible, which means a bit of triage up front to determine the one who will be most affected by a proposed solution, and of those, those that are the most powerful influencers of that crowd.  It’s best if they’re kept both informed, AND excited.

     

    2.  Help employees manage workflow and mindset transitions.  A company's business processes quite often need to be changed/improved to capitalize on the benefits of the new ERP technology.  Employees need to understand the workflow changes (and, where possible, it helps to give them voice in saying what needs to change).  Mindsets -- such as moving data entry and error correction closer to front-line operations people -- also need to change. These mindset changes are often more challenging than the workflow changes, and need to be specifically addressed, or post-implementation problems like backsliding and workarounds to the new system may result.

     

    3.  Connect people with the new work and each other.  Solicit input and opinions. Set up time and space for people to connect.  Great things can happen when people who don't know each other from different disciplines interact.  Help people find the overlap between their personal goals and the business goals.

     

    4.  Develop, connect, and support a change agent network.  An internal group of people, trained and charged with supporting the user community AND charged with sharing key learnings about change as the project progresses is critical.  Often this network is a combination of HR and operations people.

     

    5.  Create organizational energy for implementation & operation.  Energy helps make the implementation go easier, and the business benefits be realized sooner.   Have group decisions making events where possible.  Conduct celebrations after key milestones. Provide people with information and choices they normally don't have.  These actions will go a long way in creating organizational energy.

     

    6.  Build capabilities for future change.  Throughout the implementation be thinking about ways to build change capabilities in the organization for future changes.  Maybe the change manager teaches people a new group method that people can use to facilitate a group in the future.  Maybe the change manager gets people so proficient at feedback that people continually improve.  Or maybe the change manager teaches a way to turn nasty conflict into productive conflict that provides a more robust solution for the group.  The key is to think, “Don’t just solve this problem once.”  Be more like a consultant that teaches people how to fish, rather than fishing for them.  In a typical organization there are plenty of opportunities for improvement and training others, so there’s no need to hoard.  The change manager who constantly teaches will often find it more rewarding than the one who consistently does the work.

     

    These are six high leverage tips for ERP change managers that relate to directly interfacing with people related to ERP project. For six additional tips related to the work a change manager does to set up an appropriate change management infrastructure see the blog on change management infrastructure aspects.