ERP Selection and Implementations are a major focus of Manufacturing Practices. We prepare the clients for success by:
- Educating the client company before the selection process
- Structuring the teams for the selection and implementation process
- Helping them “LEAN” the business processes before the selection process
- Clearly identify the key business activities before the selection process
- Finding software that fits the business processes
- Training users in software functionality
- Testing the business processes
- Reviewing the business about a year after the “Go Live” event
The mechanics are very successful, and people have fun when we do our work. Helping people enjoy the activities is very important to us. A colleague, Bob Green taught me that.
Bob Green was VP of operations for number of manufacturing companies before becoming an ERP Consultant. Bob and I worked together at a company doing ERP Implementations. He did the Distribution Modules and I did the Manufacturing modules (most of the time). We talked about forming a company and striking out on our own but that never happened. Bob died of heart failure before we could get our ducks in a row. Bob and I always had fun doing our work and our clients enjoyed themselves; Bob taught me that fun was an important part of our jobs, and his influence was contagious.
In honor of Bob, here are some of the lessons he taught me:
Start Every Meeting with a Smile
Smiles become contagious with time. Smiles are disarming and most often met by returned smiles as well. You never know when a smile is just what someone else needs. Bob started every conversation and meeting with a smile regardless of the point of the conversation. Even when Bob was upset with a client, a colleague, or even me, he started the conversation with a smile. I think part of Bob’s success was due to his smile.
End Every Meeting with a Smile
Closing is a skill. Whether the closing is for a sale, an educational lesson, or a conversation, the most important closing activity is to have the participants feel good about the activity when it is over. Smiles go a long way to help ‘close’ the activity. Bob sometimes upset people and me for things he did, but seldom for what he said. That smile at the end of the conversation made you think that there might be some grain of truth in his comments.
Have People Tell People Two Things about Themselves
Manufacturing Practices holds an introductory meeting with the management and project team when we do implementation and selection projects. The meeting has three main functions.
- We use it to introduce the teams from our organization
- We use it to get to know the team from their organization
- We set the tone for the work that is to follow
The “I am such as such and I do whatever” speech is a standard activity when consultants work with companies. We get to know them and they get to know us. However, the other activities are not standard. The advantage is that it gives us the opportunity to set the tone for what is to follow.
We have all parties tell one of their most embarrassing moments and one of their greatest accomplishments. We do our introductions and stories first. This tells the client that we are all in the “same boat”, that we will never ask them to do something we would not do ourselves, and it lets everyone understand that we intend to have ‘fun’ while we perform this very important work for their company.
Appoint a Person at Each Meeting to Tell a Funny Story
At the client site, we start each meeting on a light note. At each meeting, someone is responsible for telling a funny story. It takes a few meetings for everyone to remember to do that, so I have a number of stories ready to tell in case someone forgets. Again, the point here is to have fun and not to take ourselves too seriously.
Have a Contest to Create a Funny Tag Line for the Project
This one requires the help of the management team. The company sponsors a prize for the best ‘slogan’ or "project tag line". The rules are simple, people in the company submit the slogans to my team or me; we review them and work with the management team to pick the “best” slogan. Management usually awards a “Dinner for two” certificate to the winner and we throw in a gag gift like a “Pimp my Cube” kit.
At one company, the head of engineering won the contest with a picture from a Gary Larson calendar. The picture was of some fish standing outside of the fish bowl that was on fire. The caption read, “Of course, you now realize, we are equally screwed!” The Head of Engineering was the only person in the organization who wanted to keep the previous software. So, he had a little fun with the team with his tag line.
Appoint a Person to be Responsible for Taking Weekly Pictures of the Project Team as They Work, Post it in the Lunchroom and Allow People to Post Funny Comments
Everyone has fun with this one. Of course, there are rules, like no profanity, or suggestive tones. Some very funny comments appear and even management contributes to this one. One of those I remember was of a picture of me as I walked away from a meeting. The president of the company commented, “Here’s Mike Roman, presenting his best side to the camera”.
At each weekly Status Meeting Pass a “Can Do Award” to the employee with the best attitude
One of the companies I worked with warned me about working with “Coni”. Everyone said she was difficult, short tempered, and the reason she worked in Accounts Receivable was that she “liked” being mean to people.
Coni won the attitude award every week for the 15 weeks I worked with that company. She and I are still friends and she sends me jokes at least once a month. (I think the people in the company were having “fun” with me. Coni was a real delight!) At the last meeting, whoever won the award gets to keep it. Manufacturing Practices usually sponsors this award, and we present a flashlight with the words, “Follow me” on it.
Find the humor in everything
Now, back to Bob. Bob did not want the traditional funeral or remembrance ceremony after his death. Instead, we gathered outside of his favorite park in the hills just outside of Las Vegas and scattered his ashes. It was a somber affair, no wind and a little warm. Just as we began to spread his ashes, a breeze blew those ashes over every one present. Christine, Bob’s widow commented that Bob wanted everyone to take part of him home. We did, in our eyes, in our hair, on our clothes, and most importantly in our hearts. Christine’s laugh and comments made everyone else laugh as well - a nice send off for a dear friend.