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The Joke's on Me

Michael Roman - Wednesday, July 03, 2013

This has been a rather strange month. Two surgeries, two funerals, and many jokes from my veteran friends and well-wishers for a speedy recovery both before and after the surgeries.  One of those jokes struck home, and it goes something like this: A retired Command Sergeant Major, who was having difficulties finding employment in the civilian job market, was being interviewed by the Vice President of Human Resources for a C-Level position. When he was asked to name his greatest weakness, the former military man immediately answered, “My honesty.”  The HR VP asked what in the world was wrong with being honest, adding that he thought honesty to be a great virtue.  The Command Sergeant Major said, “Why would I care what you think?”  End of interview.

I wonder if too often I am like that Command Sergeant Major – honest to a fault. As an example, just prior to my first surgery, I discussed an ERP Project Management role with a mid-sized manufacturing company.  With facilities in several countries and no current ERP system in any of their manufacturing sites, the scope of the project was right in my sweet spot. We had several phone interviews before the company invited me to meet the senior executives, who as it turned out were coming to Atlanta to meet at their business club not far from my office.

At the meeting, the CIO explained that he was the corporate sponsor for the project and that I would be working with his IT manager.  I explained to him that I was not interested in working with an IT manager on the project. We had already discussed the working relationship, and I had clearly expressed concern about defining the ERP implementation as an IT project and not as a corporate operations directive.

My comments surprised him.  I explained: “Different research efforts for these types of projects produce the same result.  Research suggests that companies that see ERP implementations as an IT project are not successful, and such projects do not create an ROI. To be successful, the operations (supply chain) teams, the customer service teams, the accounting teams, and the quality teams all need to have skin in the game.”  I further explained that research has proven that when the organization sees ERP implementation as an operational project rather than an IT project, success more often follows.

I also explained that the C-Level team would be shirking its management duties by moving project responsibility from their shoulders to a manager.  He responded that he was still the project sponsor and failure would not reflect well on him.  I told him I agreed with that analysis but added, “Project success rests with those committed to the project and not those who were simply involved in the project.  With the current situation, the C-Level team was clearly involved rather than committed to the project’s success.”

I could have ended the discussion there, but in typical Mike Roman fashion, I pressed forward with my honest evaluation by asking how many ERP projects the C-Level team had successfully completed. He said he did not have an answer to that question. I explained to him that I understood his response and suggested that the group do their homework before moving forward.

We were about to end the meeting when the Command Sergeant Major joke can to mind. I ended the discussions with the joke and explained that I was sorry we could not come to terms.  With that, I headed back to my office.  I slept well that night, sorry for not being able to reach terms with that organization but knowing full well that I was not involved in a situation that stood little to no chance for success.

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