4 Tips for Dealing with a Difficult ERP Project Manager

Experience is typically the best teacher, and when it comes to either dealing with a difficult ERP project manager or becoming a difficult project manager the same kinds of friction occurs time after time. Having been on both sides of the desk, here are 4 ways that I have found to reduce this friction and ensure your ERP project runs smoothly.

Details, Details, Details

Efficient project management is all about the details, or more importantly, details that appear when one least appreciates the ‘gift’ of new knowledge. That said, for team members that find themselves working under a potentially unreasonable ERP project manager, here are a couple of ways to deal with the challenge.

First, consider that all project managers operate under the gun, and these folks are always being pushed in different directions simultaneously. Sometimes, it’s a project manager’s senior management that wants ‘more-sooner’; while the manager’s senior financial people want ‘more-for-less.’

For an ERP project team member, then, it’s best to remember that managers always face unknown baggage and that weight typically trickles down sooner, rather than later. Consequently, if one finds that their project manager is being a bit cranky, offer to help with his/her load.

Remember that managers always face unknown baggage and that weight typically trickles down sooner, rather than later.

Perhaps its nothing more than doing an additional schedule analysis that can help a manager regain his/her balance, or perhaps nothing more than taking the manager to lunch will settle things. But either way, remember ERP project managers are people too, so it’s always better to look for ways to help rather than hinder.

The Scope Creeper

This particular ERP project manager trait drives me crazy, and I expect that you feel the same way. There is nothing more irritating than having a complex project schedule de-railed by a sudden middle-of-the-road scope requirement. As mentioned in the previous section, project managers are people too, and this means that pressure from the top tends to alter things in a manner that is not appreciated by those who are executing a set of scheduled tasks during the ERP project.

In this case, I typically go to the heart of the matter by offering increasing costs as a hedge by suggesting that there is always enough money to do a project over, but there’s never enough money to do the tasking right the first time. This usually illustrates the problem clearly, and ends up on the dead pile more times than not.

Change is Futile

Some ERP project managers are loath to change, so if you’re a young buck with your hair on fire, a failure to change one process or the other because a suggestion is ‘so obvious’, can become frustrating. That said, there are usually unseen up or downstream limitations at play that the buckster can’t understand.

It is always better to get the ‘whole story’ by asking ‘why’ things are the way they are, before one ends up in human resources signing your last check.

Sometimes its money, and sometimes it relates to more arcane issues like a lack of infrastructure provisioning that can cause a roadblock. Nevertheless it is always better to get the ‘whole story’ by asking ‘why’ things are the way they are, before one ends up in human resources signing your last check. Again, enterprise change management ain’t easy to do right, so it’s always better to ‘learn before one burns.’

Hot to the Touch – Cool on the Uptake

Now, this trait is one that can be both frustrating and damaging to team morale. It occurs when a project manager rips a couple of yards of skin off a team member for some minor infraction, but when the member offers a reasonable retort, the ERP project manager goes cold and ignores the suggestion completely. Although there may be an entirely reasonable response in this case, there is never a rationale for failing to respond to a team member’s honest question.

In this case, unless one fancies serving as an intellectual door mat on a regular basis, if one can’t get the PM to respond to additional queries, the next thing to do is to respectfully ask to speak to the PM’s immediate supervisor. Sometimes you are likely to get the run around, but more often than not, the upstream manager will see the problem and act accordingly. Either way, the enterprise will be well served, along with the team member.

So there you go. Some short takes on difficult ERP project managers. Not all of these articulated issues will apply specifically to your project, but just considering these elements may give one a fighting chance should one find their *ERP project on the ropes.

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Rick Carlton

About the author…

Rick Carlton dba PRRACEwire, has worked as a tech journalist, writer, researcher, editor and publisher for many years. In addition to his editorial work, Rick has also served as a C-Level executive/consultant for a wide-range of private and public sector U.S. and International companies.

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Rick Carlton