by Tom Quinn,

Recently I read an article that stated almost 50% of kids in middle and high school reported being bullied by other students at least once in the previous month. I do not have any kids but I can say that I have suspicions that my Stella and Simba may be struggling with this at doggie day care.

I have had the privilege of visiting hundreds of small-to-medium sized manufacturing companies in WNY in the last 15+ years and have seen a different form of bullying that happens at about the same frequency. During the selection, implementation, and enhancement of ERP systems, I often see IT staff and ERP savvy individuals intimidate and overwhelm fellow employees (including presidents and senior managers) as critical decisions are being made about how the company should best take advantage of their expensive investment.

It is my strong opinion that companies with this type of culture are putting the proverbial “horse before the cart” and are going about ERP all wrong. There are a lot of dynamics associated with implementing enterprise-wide changes. The most fundamental element that I feel is getting lost (and is empowering these bullies) is that these leaders are not establishing a clear enough vision of the future. This vision should describe customer relationships, critical measures, and high level expectations of their products and services. This vision should never reference specific technology or functionality. This vision should inspire innovation and drive your strongest ERP resources to derive solutions to best meet these needs. Without this top-down oversight and clarity the (potential) bullies take over, tell you what the software can do and ultimately how you should best use it. Once the bullying has been tolerated, it is hard to stop. This is probably no different than what is going on at schools today.

Although I do not formally introduce these concepts during my project work, you may get a chuckle at how much these simply stated anti-bullying prevention steps (I found on a government website) could apply to your company:

Take an anti-bullying pledge – print out and share the pledge to stand up against bullying.
The ERP system and company-wide process workflow expectations should be clearly defined by senior leaders in the beginning of the project.
All the research, training and development should be focused on fulfilling these plans, not empowering the bullies to dictate how others should perform their jobs.
The people who have the clearest sense for how the future business will operate should have equal or greater authority in these discussions (not the bullies).
Stand up for people who are bullied – support the people fighting hard to do the right thing.
The “right thing” is the implementation of desired future state workflows.
The premise should always be “how do we get the software to do this” versus “this is what the software does so let me tell you how we will do it”.
Take action – see if you can start an anti-bullying club or prevention program at your school.
Future state workflows and visionary statements intentionally are written at a high level.
As contentious situations arise while attempting to define details portions of your processes, establish an environment which enables the strongest advocates of this vision to easily and effectively work with individuals most familiar with the ERP system.
Talk to other kids – try to learn more about where bullying happens at your school.
Break these multiple month projects into smaller segments with clear milestones.
As you approach these milestones, talk to everyone involved about the challenges they faced and how they were able to overcome them (without fighting).
Highlight and promote the individuals who appropriately and professionally advance these projects.
I would like to think that I am most often brought in to help organizations with ERP projects because the organization is looking for an unbiased outsider to help them manage the complex maze of questions associated with ERP systems. The reality is that I am most often brought in because of ineffective or dysfunctional relationships between the bullies (internal or external ERP experts) and the managers in charge of implementing these changes.

Please let me know if you are being bullied and are looking help!

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Tom Quinn, Insyte Consultant, specializes in information technology, including systems integration, system requirements definition, vendor selection and implementation. He has led multi-million dollar, organization-wide technology and systems based projects for over 20 years. Tom is also an experienced practitioner of process improvement and organizational change management. Before Insyte, Tom managed a team of project managers at M&T Bank responsible for delivering client-focused solutions in office environments throughout the bank. He also worked as the technical operations manager for Integron Inc. Tom holds an MBA and BS in Electrical Engineering from the University at Buffalo. Tom is a certified ISO provisional auditor and possesses numerous lean instructor certifications.

Insyte Consulting