ERP Project Team: Anatomy of an ERP Team Part 2 – Diversity

The role of diversity on an ERP project team is sort of like the role of enriched uranium in a nuclear reactor- it's necessary for the desired outcome, but it's a pain to handle, and a careful balance must be maintained, because too much or too little creates a disaster. Without diversity, an ERP implementation team will simply rubber-stamp all recommendations, since everyone thinks alike.

For the ERP project manager, believing in diversity is a matter of faith. There is no question that diversity slows down the consensus-building process, but there is also no question that diversity tremendously increases the quality of the solution. Diverse teams that reach consensus do so because everyone recognizes the most compelling logic or reasoning, and buys in to that solution. Teams that depend on decisions of a benevolent dictator will never be any stronger than the benevolent dictator; diverse teams that can build effective consensus will create a synergy in which the whole is significantly greater than the sum of its parts.

Embracing the Diversity of Diversity

Diversity can be of almost any variation. Certainly functional diversity is a big one; an ERP blueprint design will be very different if it is created by three supply chain managers than if it is created by a supply chain manager, a finance manager, and a sales manager. Gender diversity adds subtle, but important points of view to a discussion. Ethnic diversity often results in challenging the fundamental belief structure on which tactical decisions are based. Age diversity helps dampen extremes in idealism and cynicism. ERP implementation consultants introduces internal/external diversity.

So how do you determine the right amount of diversity for your ERP project team?Basically, take your best guess and adjust over time. Here are some signs that your diversity mix is not what it should be:

1.If you do not hear concerns expressed that never would have occurred to you, you may not have enough diversity.

2. If difficult subjects- like security access, or base unit of measure decisions do not generate passionate, heated disagreement in their initial phases, you may not have enough diversity.

3.If every subject like when to schedule a meeting, or reviewing a decision that has already been agreed to generates passionate, heated discussion, you may have too much diversity.

4.If some team members are reluctant to contribute their viewpoint in a public forum like a meeting, you may have the right mix of diversity, but an environment in which diverse viewpoints do not feel welcome.

And finally, remember that assembling diversity is not just about accumulating differences; it's about accumulating differences all dedicated to achieving a common goal. By engaging diverse opinions into discussion and decision-making, you do a sort of real-time risk assessment and analysis on every topic. But for that to be effective, everyone on the team must understand that there is a larger ultimate purpose, much bigger than anyone's personal agenda.

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Phil Marshall

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Phil Marshall

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