ERP Project Team: Anatomy of an ERP Team Part 6 – Grumbling

One of the most challenging aspects of your implementation will be encouraging the flow of constant, open, and transparent communications between all ERP team members while keeping the amount of griping and negativism to a manageable level.

It is an absolute fact that members of your ERP team are going to need to vent occasionally. ERP is a stressful job, and occasionally decisions have to be made that not everyone agrees with. As a project manager or a steering team member, it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of the ERP team, and know what people are complaining about, and to what extent. However, you do not want to do that by being the primary person that people vent to, for a couple of reasons: (1) If you are a good listener, and appear empathetic, they will assume that you agree with them and (2) pretty soon listening to people’s frustration is your full time job. If possible, try to find a “people person” with a little bit of discretionary time (maybe from change management or the development team) and a whole lot of business savvy to be the person who routinely circulates through the team and solicits complaints and concerns. Let that person filter the wheat from the chaff, and advise you on the important issues.

Agents of Disruption

Some ERP team members will gripe constantly, no matter what decisions are made, and they are toxic to the implementation effort. Team mates do not enjoy working with constant complainers, and as they feel themselves being closed out of the informal work groups, they take their negative message to the outside world. These are “hall talkers”; people who are quiet in meetings or in their team area, but love to huddle with like-minded people in out-of-the-way places and talk each other into a frenzy about the latest perceived disaster. Once out-of-context information begins being communicated to the business unit in a manner that causes it to lose confidence in the project, the project manager will spend large amounts of time defending decisions that have already been made, instead of advancing the decisions that need to be made.

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Keeping this arena in balance is difficult. The fact is, many people have difficulty sacrificing for the greater good, and those sacrifices occur constantly on an ERP team. If ERP causes my job to increase by an hour a week, and as a result, six other peoples’ jobs are reduced by an hour a week, am I more likely to applaud the net five hours savings to the company, or lament my increasing work load?

In the end, all you can do is keep preaching a positive, “big picture” message, and invite internal disagreement. If you can’t sell your position successfully to your teammates, you probably won’t be able to sell it to the business unit, either.

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Richard Barker

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Richard Barker