Planning has put you in a position of knowing what to do to be successful. Your plan describes all the work required, and only the work required, to complete the project successfully. All you now need is "do what you know." Except that it doesn't work that way—not exactly.
Many of us, in a variety of life situations, "know what do to." We understand it intellectually, but then we don't do it. What happens in these cases is we don't "do what we know." We understand it, but we don't act on it. Examples of this can be found in everyday life. Anyone who has unsuccessfully tried to lose weight will understand. But it is equally true in ERP system implementation projects as well.
RIGOROUS PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Rigorous project management is about "doing what we know." It means being hard on the What and soft on the How. It means being hard on the project's objectives while at the same time keeping an open mind in case each step of the journey doesn't work out exactly as planned, which it very seldom does.
It is said that an airplane is on course on average only five percent of the time. Ninety-five percent of the time it is making adjustments. In that sense a flight is but a series of approximations. So is life. So is your ERP implementation project. However, in the process of making adjustments ongoing you don't want your destination to become an approximation. "At the end of the day" you want to be at the right airport. You could well fly south at great speed while conserving fuel, which would be efficient, but if your goal is north, it simply wouldn't be effective. Thus, "rigorous project management" is ultimately about being effective.
Being flexible during ERP implementation requires awareness of the fact that any tradeoff will impact the scope, time, cost, or quality of your
project. Never decide on a tradeoff without seeking to understand, explain, and assess the impact on project scope, cost, time, or quality. A tradeoff must be a conscious decision with clear understanding of the implications. Above all, do not lose sight of your "end in mind," your vision of the future state and your strategic business objectives.
Decision-making is value clarification. Because many tradeoff decisions must be made quickly and unplanned, it follows that you should not wait to clarify your values until the project execution phase. Value clarification—creating a decision-making framework for the duration of the project—should be done at the outset of a project.
Some projects, including ERP system implementation projects, suffer from "messy" decisions. We often find that the real problem is that the project decision-making process is poorly organized—which makes the resulting decisions "messy." Again, the "end in mind" and its associated objectives will keep the decision-making process focused on the true business needs. The process breaks down when decision criteria are allowed to become emotional and based on self-interests instead of clearly defined business objectives.
A wonderful little story—by an anonymous author?—has recently landed in our mailbox. It illustrates values clarification beautifully and we would like to share it.
"I attended a seminar once where the instructor was lecturing on tune. At one point, he said, 'Okay, it's time for a quiz.' He reached under the table and pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar. He sat it on the table next to the platter with some fist-sized rocks on it. 'How many of these rocks do you think we can get in the jar?' he asked. After we made our guess, he said, 'Okay. Let's find out.' He set one rock in the jar, then another, then another. I don't remember how many he got in it, but he got the jar full. Then he asked, 'Is that jar full?' Everybody looked at the rocks and said, 'Yes.'
"Then he said, 'Ahhh.' He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar and the gravel went in all the little spaces left by the big rocks. Then he grinned and said once more, 'Is the jar full?' By this time we were on to him. 'Probably not,' we said. 'Good,' he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went in all the little spaces left by the rocks and gravel. Once more he looked at us and said, 'Is the jar full?' 'No,' we all roared. He said, 'Good,' and he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in. He got something like a quart of water in that jar. Then he said, 'Well, what's the point?' Somebody said, 'Well, there are gaps, and if you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life.' 'No,' he said, 'that's not the point. The point is this: if you hadn't put these big rocks
in first, would you ever have gotten any of them in?' " (See figure 2.)
Companies have astonishingly varying degrees of success with ERP implementations. There are many factors that must be in place to ensure that your project will achieve the expected results. The major ones are as follows:
•"End in mind"—Be sure to have the big rocks, your key strategic objectives for the project, identified at the beginning and kept in focus throughout.
•Commit your best resources—Don't move forward unless it is a priority.
•"Know what to do"—Plan, plan, plan.
•Lead the change—ERP cannot be successful without the human side.
•"Do what you know"—Relentlessly follow the plan, keep your eyes open, stay on course.
This, along with a passion to achieve your objectives, will result in your ERP implementation meeting or exceeding stakeholder expectations. We wish you a great flight!
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