We’ve recently run into another wave of problems with implementing new organizational computer systems. In one case, the term “change management” became a derogatory euphemism for having inflexible and ineffective systems forced on divisions and departments. When frontline staff pointed out deficiencies with the system and how it caused problems for customers – and most everyone else – they were labeled as “not being team players” and seen as resisting change.

There are a number of reasons for the high failure rates of 50 – 75% for ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and other computerized systems. A major underlying factor is that implementation is driven by “change managers” comprised of technical staff and managers who are much more comfortable in the world of techno management – processes, data, systems, and analysis than leadership – customers, staff, perceptions, values, and culture. These so called “soft” issues are really hard. It’s much easier to slam dunk the system change on the organization and then complain about the users and their lack of adaptability to change.

If you’re not familiar with these underlying themes from my work CLICK HERE for a deeper look at The High-Performance Balance. CLICK HERE for a few 3 – 4 minute video clips on The Performance Balance or Managing Things and Leading People.

Five Common Traps

Jumping the Gun
Eager to begin enjoying the benefits of better systems, too many organizations are plunging ahead before they’re ready. A nurturing environment, supportive structure, all built on a solid skills foundation, must first be in place to ensure implementation success.

Under-Investing in Culture Change and Training
When the benefits and results achieved by well implemented systems are reported or sold, what’s often missed is the amount of investment that was made to get there. A direct and positive correlation exists between the results obtained and the amount of time spent upfront helping everyone understand the need for the change and training to help them deal with the changes. Too many people are allowed to wallow and not taught how to lead themselves and others through the change.

In Another World
Implementation teams often consist of outside technology and systems experts and inside support professionals. These function outside of the organization’s daily life and current systems. Like a crash diet, change management becomes a program to be imposed rather than a lifestyle change to be integrated into daily organizational life. Supervisors and frontline teams are often involved at the periphery rather than at the center leading the change effort.

Out of Focus
Process changes rarely involve getting frontline teams involvement in focusing on external customers’ expectations and tracing those back through the chain of service/quality to the process, functions, or activities that need improvement all along the way. The “best practices” often embedded in the new computer system force change from the top down and the inside out. This is exactly backwards.

Rickety Rewards and Recognition
A key performance criterion for all managers, but especially senior executives, must be the amount of recognizing, celebrating, and hoopla they lavish on frontline teams who are making progress and having success. Highly visible team measurements and scoreboards give managers the information and encouragement they need to “catch people doing things right.” To sustain the momentum for the long change journey, this reinforcement must stay at the top of management’s To Do lists. It’s a key source of team energy.

CLICK HERE for a further selection of resources on Process Management.