24 February 2010

Change comes through people - Part 1

Today I attended a Webinar on applying “Emotional Intelligence” or “EI” in the implementation of ERP systems. The name of the organizer and presenters shall go undisclosed because it is not they who are the target of my disagreement. Rather, my disagreement is with the thrust of the application of EI.


In the presentation, the following definitions were given:
·         ERP Change Management (CM) – refers to identifying, assessing and managing the elements that are needed to move an organization from its current state to a future state when ERP software is the transaction engine.  The goal is to realize ROI of the project.  The areas addressed include change strategy, leadership, envisioning, project team building, change history and readiness, benefits realization, stakeholder management, communications, approach to handling reluctance and sustaining commitment, Knowledge transfer, organization and business impacts, new skills and ways of working, organization restructuring, roles and responsibilities, alignment with HR processes and the enterprise strategy. [sic]

·         Emotional Intelligence (EI) – refers to the ability to recognize and understand emotions and the skill to apply this awareness to manage ourselves and others through transitions.  Emotional Intelligence is made up of 4 unique skills that cover how one recognizes and understands emotions, manages his or her behavior, and manages relationships.  These skills are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. [sic]

Key points

Some pertinent points were brought in the course of the presentation, not the least of which were these:
·         Only 30% of “change initiatives” succeed, while 70% of “change initiatives” fail

·         “It takes about five years to see ROI from a [typical] ERP implementation”

·         “Change can foster significant confusion for middle managers, which can spur anxiety and stress that impede or even paralyze decision-making”

·         “Middle managers need to implement change while managing their employees’ emotions, including anxiety, resistance and eager but inappropriate behavior”

·         “These managers face the challenge of grasping a change they did not design and negotiating the details with others, equally removed from the strategic decision-making”

·         “Complexity rises for these managers of change as work demands are modified and multiply, which can create conflicts”

·         “Lack of clarity renders new demands uncertain and frequently misunderstood; without clear understanding, managers can be seen as not taking action or taking the wrong action”
These points all raised many, many questions in my mind, and I hope to speak of them in this article. However, here was the real kicker that came in response to a question at the end of the presentation:
"A lot of ERP decisions are made on the basis of executive ego.... [Therefore], there are a lot of cases where the ERP [software selected] is a mismatch [for the firm]."
Mind you: these statements – and, most notably, this final statement – is coming from two professionals serving companies of all sizes in industries including finance, health care, education, and manufacturing. And the presenter’s statement did not stop there. Examples were given in terms of “being the first in an industry,” or “having the biggest Peoplesoft implementation ever,” and more.
Notice also that the presenter did not say, “Sometimes” or “occasionally”; rather, the statement made was that “[a] lot of ERP decisions are made on the basis of executive ego.” And, frankly, my own experience confirms this – if not the original purchase decision, at least the decision to carry on with a project even when the evidence may be almost overwhelming against the net result being a positive one for the firm undertaking a traditional ERP – Everything Replacement Project.

It’s got to work

At an international trade show I attended some years ago, I became involved in a conversation with an executive from a fairly large firm. I asked him if they were considering a new ERP system, at all. His response was, “Oh, no! We are just wrapping up an SAP implementation now – after a little over two years.”
So, I said, “Well, you’re to be congratulated, then. There just aren’t a lot of companies that ever actually ‘wrap up’ a SAP project. It seems that they so frequently become ‘evergreen’ projects for SAP developers and DBAs.”
To this, he chuckled. Then, with renewed earnestness he said, “Well, there are still a few things that aren’t quite right, but we’ve spent so much money already that it’s got to work!”
This is telling, don’t you think? If ego did not initiate this ERP implementation, ego was certainly going to see it through. No executives in that company were going to admit that – after spending some millions of dollars – the ERP solution they selected was not going to work for them!

Dispelling an old myth

Who do you think started the myth that “people hate change” and “people resist change”? Do you think it was started by the people being accused of “resisting” and “hating,” or do you think it was started by those in power – monarchs, politicians, generals and executives – who wanted certain changes to occur, but were having some difficulty in getting “the people” to accept the changes set forth?
I think you will agree with me that it was, most likely, the latter group and not the former that leveled the charge and created the myth.
The following should dispel that myth once and for all – at least for my readers:
The Change
Scope of Change
Getting married
Most people embrace and look forward to this change. They do not resist it. In fact, they dream about it and even plan for it.
Having children
Here again, even though this is a huge change in their lives, most people look forward to having children and many even lay out plans in advance for childbearing.
Announcement that one’s salary will be doubled starting next month
This change will likely bring significant lifestyle changes, yet I doubt that many would be found resisting this change.
Announcement that one’s salary will be cut in half beginning next month
The magnitude of this change is equivalent to the magnitude of the change for doubling of one’s salary, yet this change is likely to bring screaming resistance.

The point is, people do not resist change. What people resist are changes about which they are not yet convinced the result for them will be positive. For example, in getting married – even though most candidates for marriage recognize that there may be some down-side to the marriage compact – they are convinced that the change will be a net positive for them in the long run.
With this in mind, in our subsequent posts in this series, we are going to revisit the Key Points raised in the Webinar on “Emotional Intelligence.”
Stay tuned.
©2010 Richard D. Cushing

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