25 February 2010

Change comes through people - Part 2

If, as we have shown, people do not willy-nilly resist change, let us take a look at just what might be happening in traditional ERP – Everything Replacement Projects – where management feels the need to bring in emotional management specialists to help smooth the way. We will step through the list provided in the Web presentation.

Only 30% of “change initiatives” succeed

Of course, in the context of the presentation, the presenters made it clear that a major contributor to the failure of “change initiatives” is the changing organization’s failure to properly apply emotional intelligence (EI) management to the reactions to change coming from “middle management” and below in the organization’s hierarchy.
One of the things that surprised me about the attitudes expressed in the whole presentation was the us-against-them sense, where it was executives and top managers pitted against the unruly emotions of the lower classes (e.g., middle management and below). With the help of EI, the ruling elite could, in fact, learn to foist things upon the “lower classes” and make them like it – or least squelch outright rebellion in the ranks.
Sadly, in my limited contact with folks from “Big ERP,” their attitudes frequently have reflected this same elitism. Their snobbery seems to be rooted in a sense that “the ruling class has chosen us, so you – the masses – must listen up and fall in line.” I am certain that they are not all this way, but I have no doubt that some are.
I soundly reject this kind of management. I am confident that no one knows more about running the machine than the one who runs the machine day-in and day-out. The people who know best what needs to change in each part of “the system” – the entire organization – are those in the trenches. Most people really want to do a good job and really want the company they work for to succeed. These people frequently fight an uphill battle against poorly thought-out policies, procedures and assumptions promulgated by executives and managers trying to make things “work.”
Apparently, EI dumps on these people, suggesting that what is needed is for the elite to learn how to “manage” the emotions of the working class rather than learn from the wealth of “tribal knowledge” carried about in the hearts and minds of those who “run the machine.”
Is it any wonder, then, that only 30 percent of change initiatives succeed? It is quite likely, if what we are seeing and hearing is, in fact, the attitude of executive management, that only 30 percent of what they promulgate as change is worthy of success. Perhaps only 30 percent of “change” handed down from on-high will really have any positive effect on the ability of the organization to achieve more of its goal, and “the masses” know it better than the executives do.

It takes about five years to see ROI from a typical ERP implementation

No wonder!
The organization we have just seen depicted in the us-versus-them, the executive elite versus the common man, cannot possible be working as an integrated “system.” Not only it is very likely that there are departmental and functional silos within such an organization, having high and nearly impenetrable walls between them; it seems apparent that there is an even higher and more impenetrable wall between “management” and “the workers.”
In such a situation, there cannot be “integration” and the organization cannot possibly be managed as “a system.” When a business enterprise is not managed as a system, the symptoms are consistent:
·         Lower than expected overall performance
·         Sometimes overwhelming challenges in securing or maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage in their markets
·         Financial difficulties
·         Nearly constant fire-fighting by management
·         Rarely meeting customer service expectations
·         Chronic internal conflicts
Not managing the organization as “a system” is a management and cultural issue that cannot be remedied by installing “integrated” software. Technical integration does neither mandates nor assures functional and interpersonal integration across organizational silos. And it certainly does not create integration vertically in the chart of accounts.
With only 30 percent of change initiatives succeeding and the organization continuing to experience all of the symptoms associated with the failure to manage the organization as “a system,” it remains no mystery that it takes five years or longer to see return-on-investment from a traditional ERP – Everything Replacement Project.

Change fosters significant confusion for middle managers, which can spur anxiety and stress, thus impeding or paralyzing decision-making

The change that “confuses” middle management (and below) is the change for which they are not yet convinced of the true benefit to the organization. Intuitively, most managers understand that “good” decisions in a for-profit organization are those leading to actions that will tend to help the organization make more money tomorrow than it is making today. Such actions, naturally, lead to stability and increasing job security.
If executives and managers have really thought through their traditional ERP – Everything Replacement Project – and are well aware of just how (in measurable terms) ripping the guts out of the organization’s infrastructure and replacing it with something that is promoted as being “newer,” “faster,” or “better” will really help the firm make more money tomorrow than it is making today, then let them come forward and explain those details to “middle management” (and below), and the confusion, anxiety and stress will largely be assuaged.
The fact that executives and managers are not forthright with middle management (and below) when a traditional ERP project is undertaken is, for the most part, the executives and managers do not, themselves, know (in measurable terms) just how ripping the guts out of their organization and replacing it with “newer,” “faster,” or “better” will – in reality – help the firm make more money in the future than they are making today. Instead, their decision is likely predicated largely on hope and generalizations supplied by promises from the vendor or reseller of the new technology.
It is, then, no wonder that middle management remains confused, anxious, and full of stress.
[To be continued]
Stay tuned.
©2010 Richard D. Cushing

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