We have been using the same ERP system since 2009 — back when we were only four employees — and we’ve become fairly proficient in developing in its environment. Because of this, over the past year or so, we’ve been asked to implement the same ERP system for several of our sister companies (other BayWa r.e. solar distribution companies) around the world.
During these ERP implementations, our team of Jodi White, Amanda Hamilton, and Krysta Riggle developed a set of “6 Golden Rules” to guide future implementations. These Rules, it turns out, are valuable for more than just working with software — they can be widely applied to transition management in general. For example, we are currently using these rules to support a structure change in our leadership team — transitioning from one team to three. (More on this in a future article!)
The Six Rules of Transition Management
Rule #1: Bring the right team
Transition management requires a variety of skills, but these skills are not often found in a single “transition leader.” In fact, when we at BayWa r.e. manage transition, there is rarely a single person in charge, but rather a team of people who each bring different skills and talents to the process.
Instead of creating a hierarchical structure within the team, for us “the work is the boss.” Simply put, we let the objectives and milestones for a successful transition dictate the work that will be done by the team.
For example, a senior team member with no assigned tasks might work on a very basic task because she is, at that moment, a “free resource.” The team organizes the work to play to each member’s availability and strengths. This is an “all hands on deck” approach, which requires everyone to be a team player. There is no task too menial for any available person. For more on this, view our recent “Get Intentional” article that goes into more detail about defining company culture using attributes.
A note on project management: Especially in small companies, project management skills are often overlooked, and teams are expected to manage projects without formal tools. Companies often default to department heads or people-managers to lead, implement, and project-manage transitions. But in many cases, project management specialists could be more successful and could be a great investment.
Recap: When you’re putting together your transition team, first evaluate the complexity of the change, identify the types of work that will be needed to support it, then empower people with different skills to drive it.
Rule #2: Use the 3 P’s (Policy, Process, and Procedure)
Frequently, a team will jump immediately into building the processes but overlook two other important “P’s”—policy and procedure.
- Policy represents the business “rules” or project goals that need to be upheld.
- Process gives an overview of how the policy will be implemented.
- Procedure refers to the detailed instruction for how to execute the process.
For example, if we are changing our webstore payment center, the policy might consist of three elements:
- All customers can use ACH or credit card in the webstore.
- Freight costs and tax are included in check out.
- Customers can access records of their applied payments.
Once we have our policy, the process can then be illustrated in a flow chart. This chart might detail all the elements of the payment order journey, including freight quotes, taxes, ACH and credit options, applied payment records—everything that needs to happen along the way to make a payment.
Finally, getting even more granular, the procedure breaks the process down into each element, such as individual clicks, screens, and pop-ups, that the customer and internal back-end support might encounter. Defining your procedure is especially important as complexities that aren’t apparent during your process development are often revealed.
Recap: An explicit policy ensures the process and procedure are always in service of a clear goal. If it doesn’t support the policy—cut it. A thorough procedure illuminates how well the process actually works.
Rule #3: SKODA is critical
A SKODA is a budget car. As opposed to a BMW, a SKODA is simply adequate to get the job done. Like an MVP (minimum viable product,) the term SKODA signifies a project scope that has been simplified and minimized — reduced to its bare essentials — to ensure its success.
Because it is often tempting to expand project scope to solve problems or take advantage of opportunities, SKODA (our minimized project scope) keeps us from succumbing to that temptation.
Expanding project scope invariably leads to increased complexity, exponentially increasing project resource needs, and the likelihood of failure.
For example, automation is often included in an initial project scope. However, it’s possible that a manual process would be a better first step. This would allow for testing and tuning of the process before costly automation resources are invested. Indeed, by implementing a manual solution first, we might discover the automations we had in mind won’t even solve our most important challenges! SKODA-thinking therefore reduces project risk.
After launching multiple projects, what we’ve come to realize is that many of the non-critical features of a project — features that we thought would be useful and help solve certain challenges — aren’t needed, or even wanted by the final user.
Recap: Using SKODA helps limit “scope creep” and helps clarify whether additional features will work as expected in a future state — or if they even need to exist at all.
Rule #4: Find champions
Effecting a change from the “outside” is fraught with difficulties.
Often, those responsible for designing and implementing a change are not part of the teams impacted by it.
But it’s essential for the users to understand the vision and purpose of the change, the process by which the change will take place, and the details of how their work will change as a result. Engaging users in each of these aspects of change is challenging.
Because of this, success often depends on finding the people who buy into the change and help lead it. We call these people “champions.” These champions contribute to the change’s success by informal or formal leadership, by being early adopters and testers, and by helping the team adhere to the other Golden Rules.
Recap: Identify your “champions” and empower them to lead!
Rule #5: Utilize situational training
Training is one of the most important steps in any transition. This ensures the solution is used the way it was intended.
Our team has found that it’s especially important to emphasize training that exposes the user to less-than-ideal outcomes such as a need to go outside the prescribed process or procedure or a need for escalation. We call this, “training on the unhappy path,” as opposed to the “happy path.”
To achieve this, our team moved its emphasis from training videos, webinars, and lectures to sitting side-by-side with key users while they worked in the new process or system for the first time. This is called situational training.
The value of using situational training as part of a change management regimen, and focusing on the “unhappy path,” is that the user can feel supported while navigating difficult situations, sees the limitations of the change, and learns not only the new process, but also when they will need to work outside of it.
In addition, the transition team gets to learn about the pitfalls of the change in real-time. PPP can be perfected, SKODA evaluated, and project tasks re-assigned on the fly.
Recap: Situational training on the “unhappy path” helps achieve buy-in by the end-user, and helps the transition team test and evaluate the change in real time.
Rule #6: Be present
The final key to success is being present.
Rather than releasing the change from “on-high” — maybe with a bunch of video trainings and support processes — working in person with the people being impacted builds trust, increases awareness of rework needed, and increases the chances of success.
Tobias Lutke, CEO of Shopify, coined the term trust battery, (at least in a business context — I’d be shocked if therapists haven’t been using it for a while longer), and I think we picked it up from his appearance on The Knowledge Project podcast.
A trust battery is a measure of the trust between two people. It starts at 50% and is charged or discharged based on every interaction.
One element critical to increasing the level of charge in a trust battery is keeping agreements. Being present during times when support is needed is important as well.
More than anything, being present helps the people impacted by the change you are causing see you as a real person and feel your ally-ship while they take your change and turn it into a new reality.
Recap: Work directly with the people who are subjected to your change, and proactively help them navigate it.
Big or small, every change is more likely to succeed if it is managed thoughtfully. For small changes, you may not need all 6 Golden Rules. But keeping these in mind, and applying the right ones at the right times, can help your team navigate and absorb more change, and this resilience itself becomes an asset as well. Good luck on managing your next change and let us know if we can help!
Here’s a cheat sheet to follow for your next transition.
- A “systems thinker”
- A “process person”
- A project manager
Having a team member familiar with accounting is a big help as well, especially for transitions that go deeper into the business.
Instead look at the goals of the project, and how it will be implemented, along with the procedure steps for getting it done.
Trying to expand the scope mid-project can lead to:
- Increased complexity
- Exponentially increased project resource needs
- Increased likelihood of failure
Champions contribute to the change’s success by
- Providing informal or formal leadership
- Being early adopters and testers
- Helping the team adhere to the other Golden Rules
- Include less-than-ideal outcomes to empower users and ensure buy-in
- Supervise key users the first time they work in the new process
- Builds trust
- Increases awareness of rework needed
- Increases the chances of success