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Results vs. Relationships

- Wednesday, March 06, 2013

As a child, riding a seesaw was fun, wasn’t it? Well, except when you did not have equal weight on both sides—then it was just out of balance and someone got stuck in mid-air. That bears the question—is your leadership as a parent or colleague out of balance?  Most likely it is because statistically, more than 85% of the population tilts toward being strong at either Results or Relationships and weak at the other.

What’s wrong with being out of balance?  The idea of balancing results and relationships is nothing new, but if we assume that character is the foundation of leadership, then there should be an inner motivation to accomplish the mission (get results) and take care of people (build relationships). Whether you’re running a household or being a leader in your work or community, you must have a healthy balance of results and relationships to be truly successful. Many times, we rely on other people around us to make up for this imbalance (such as our spouse or a co-worker) instead of learning that balance within ourselves. In the long run, though, living an inner balance by nurturing the people in your life along with accomplishing the mission is crucial to success. 

Identify your natural bent.  How can you know and what can you do about it?  Begin by examining the two columns below and deciding which list of behaviors best describes your “natural” talents. This indicates your natural leadership style and predicts the direction of your tilt as well as the area in which you need to work to improve your balance. If you can’t determine your natural bent, then ask a close friends or members of your family—they can be pretty honest!     

 Results Oriented                               Relationship Oriented

* Take charge, decisive                       * Encouraging, supportive

* Introverted, focused                         * Trusting

* High standards, task oriented            * Good listener

* Challenging, speaks directly             * Gives positive feedback

* Logical, organized                            * Concerned and caring

* Skeptical                                         * Develops others

How do you gain a better balance?  First, accept the fact that most of your strengths are natural—we are born with them and they are naturally out of balance. To get better, we have to change by learning some new personality talents (behaviors).  You don’t need to give up being who you are, and really you can’t reinvent yourself.  Rather, you augment your strengths by adapting new behaviors that will make you more effective.  The way you do this is to intentionally learn a few behaviors in your weaker area that bring you more in balance. The reason this is so hard is that it feels awkward and unnatural.  


Results-oriented people need to soften up.  If this is your style, just the idea of softening seems unnatural; but developing good interpersonal skills is what’s needed to make you a better parent or leader.  You know it—you just don’t want to go there. For example, learning to patiently listen, really understand, and then affirm the ideas of others can feel very scary.  For some, the needed skill might be learning to give specific, positive feedback. These “soft” skills would be as easy as breathing for many relationship-oriented leaders; but for the tough rational results group, it can be terrifying—they feel out of control and way out of their comfort zone.  It takes intentional courage for a thick-skinned, results-oriented person to do these “people” things that are so important.

Relationship-oriented people need to toughen up. If you’re someone whose style is naturally highly relational you will need to identify a couple of behaviors on the results-oriented chart to work on.  Quite often this is learning to be more decisive and more direct in giving guidance and setting standards. Having difficult conversations is essential to keeping your family or team moving forward. It may be intimidating, so plan out what you are going to say and then courageously deliver your message; it’s the only way for you to gain a better balance and be the leader you want to be. 

Small changes pay big returns.  No matter which side of the balance scales you’re on, adapting new behaviors on your weak side even at small levels will lead to significant improvements.  Over time they will become easier thus facilitating even further growth and change.

It takes courage to change. You cannot become a better leader by reading books and going to workshops. These are great ways to learn but when it comes down to actual growth, you have to change your behaviors; there’s no other way.  You have to give up some of your old habits like dominating or withdrawing and engage others with a more balanced leadership style, and you have to do it under the daily pressures of life and work.  That’s what it means to lead with honor and live a positive example for younger generations—having the courage to do what you know you should do. 

Take the first step.  Well now that you’ve read this, you likely already know what you need to do to gain better balance between results and relationships.  What are you going to do differently?  Who will you engage to encourage and support you in your growth?  As you make progress balancing on this seesaw, help others to gain a better balance, too.


Lee Ellis is a speaker and the author of “Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton,” in which he shares his experiences as a Vietnam POW and highlights leadership lessons learned in the camps.  As president of Leadership Freedom, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, executive development and succession planning.  For more information, please visit

Treasure Your Trials

- Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Are you going through tough times?  It may be time to reflect on some who have been down that road before you.

For the POWs in the Vietnam War, facing serious trials became a way of life.  In that bleak existence locked up and isolated in a communist prison camp for five, six, seven and even eight years, every day had its challenges.  The POWs had to depend on their enemy for the meager food that kept them alive. The same sinister enemy used isolation, beatings, and torture in their attempts to exploit them and make them into propaganda pawns for the communist party.  The diet was pitiful and medical care was virtually non-existent.  Yet the POWs emerged stronger, becoming successful military leaders, congressmen, teachers, lawyers, doctors, counselors, businessmen, and even a Senator and Presidential candidate.  They learned to treasure the trials of their hardship.

Not many will have to contend with the tribulations of POW life, but everyone faces hardships and disappointments. For some it’s a work or career crisis. Layoffs and home foreclosures of recent years have cut deep, leaving many in a severe financial crisis that may worsen, with some experts saying that home prices will go down further before we see a slow recovery. For others it’s a health crisis or perhaps a struggling teen, or a relationship that has gone sour. At some point, we all face the pain of trials.  When you’re in dark times or caught up in the chaos of a battle, it isn’t easy to see the treasure in your trials.  Here are some tips to help you refocus toward not only your goals but the true gold found in trials. 

Go Deep—Find Meaning and Make Changes

Adversity builds character by forcing us to face our deepest beliefs and values.  In the crucibles of life, when all the pretend stuff melts away it’s much easier to clarify what is really important and what is not. We have the opportunity to find meaning in our suffering and meaning is a treasure worth finding.

The transformation that we most need isn’t very inviting in good times, but in difficult times our pain can give us the energy and motivation to change our attitudes and behaviors.   As Victor Frankl put it, "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."  The painful struggles that we would never choose often afford the greatest opportunity for personal growth, and personal growth is the only path to genuine leadership development.   

Go Long—Gain Wisdom and Experience

Leadership research confirms that the experience of overcoming difficulties is not only transformational; making us stronger, but it also makes us wiser and better suited for the challenges of leadership.  Wisdom gained through the experience of hard times helps us better navigate future minefields.  Persevering through tough times also increases our confidence, preparing us for future challenges that will surely come.  On the other hand, leaders devoid of crucible experiences are likely to be overly confident about their ideas, and surprisingly more susceptible to fears. Courageously facing our fears in the difficult times gives us both humility and real confidence.  The wisdom garnered in hard times about ourselves and life becomes the wisdom that guides us into a better future.  Additionally, the difficult trials generate strong emotional memories that stay with us longer and are more easily accessed—gold that we don’t have to search so hard to find.

Don’t Go It Alone 

When you are in a battle, you don’t want to be alone—you need supporters in your corner—people who care about you and have your back.  They can provide encouragement when your spirit is down and your hope is sagging.  Encouragement can provide vital energy for bouncing back and continuing to persevere. Sometimes a shared idea or a new perspective on a problem can make all the difference.  Just knowing someone is near—that you are not standing alone—can provide the needed inspiration, courage, and energy to persevere, even when everything in you is saying it’s too tough to keep going. Every soldier, sailor, airman, and marine knows it’s not good to fight alone. The same is true for all of us.  We must stay connected to be resilient and bounce back from trials. The lingering treasure is that when you have gone through the fire with someone, usually a bond is formed that brings a special relationship for a lifetime.

More than likely, you have already passed through some tough times in your life.  It may be helpful to look back and see the treasure that you gained from those past challenges.  What was the meaning you gained through those trials?  What did you learn about yourself that may be helpful now?  What changes did you make then?  Who walked with you?

You have a choice. You can let your trials bury you or you can dig for the treasure in them.  If you want to discover the gold in your current pit, then answer these questions: How can you find meaning in your current trial?  What are you learning about yourself?  What changes do you need to make now—in your attitude, mindset or behaviors? What wisdom points are you learning in your current situation that will help you in the future?  Who is walking with you through this fire to provide support?   If you follow these tips, someday, looking back, you will see enormous value in your trials. 


Lee Ellis is a speaker and the author of Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, in which he shares his experiences as a Vietnam POW and highlights leadership lessons learned in the camps.  As president of Leadership Freedom, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, team building, executive development and succession planning.  For more information, please visit

You Know You’re Smart, But What About Your Emotional Intelligence?

- Monday, February 25, 2013

The commercials on television today talk endlessly about treatments for low this and low that, but unfortunately, we don’t hear much about low Emotional Intelligence (EQ).  Here are some symptoms: You know you’re brilliant, yet you find yourself reacting with impatience and anger with others who just don’t get it.  You’ve noticed that others don’t seem to get your humor or your jokes or don’t seem so interested in your great stories. Maybe your feedback to a teammate failed to come across the way you had intended.  If as a leader at work, at home or in your community you have any of these symptoms, you’re possibly suffering from low Emotional Intelligence.

For most people, EQ limits a person’s career and influence more than IQ.  So what are we talking about here? What indicates good emotional intelligence?  It’s really about being aware of and responding effectively to emotions—our own and those of others. 

In many ways, good EQ is similar to the common courtesies that were emphasized more in previous generations.  After all, the old saw about  “counting to ten” when we felt anger was about as scientific as you can get.  We now know that the emotional part of the brain (the Amygdala - ˈmigdələ/) reacts four times faster than our cognitive quarterback in the pre-frontal cortex.  In simpler terms, learning to slow down our response to emotional situations can keep us out of trouble.   

The Amygdala is part of the limbic system and is the source of our natural protective response for flight or fight.  For many who train regularly for combat – military, law enforcement, athletes—tapping into this source of high energy for a crisis response helps performance.  But away from the job, that same response can get you in trouble—hence the term “Amygdala Hijack.”  But to some degree, all of us use and misuse this natural instinct to fight or flee—to dominate or withdraw. 

So, the key to good emotional intelligence is awareness.  Until we become aware of our emotions and predict where they will take us, we’re clueless as to how to manage them; and that’s what we really want to do.  Likewise, an awareness of the emotions of others helps us manage our response to facilitate the most effective interaction. Let’s walk through the four steps of emotional intelligence and you will get it quickly. 

Recognize your own emotions. Awareness usually requires practice.  You’re in a meeting and Bob says something that you know is absolutely wrong— “how could anyone be that stupid,” you think.  Your first instinct is to call him out and show him how wrong he is.  But you’ve been down that road before and know that will only embarrass Bob and ultimately make you look small. Besides, you may not even know all the facts that are behind his opinion.  Fortunately, you recognize that you’re angry and you’ve learned to coach yourself to hold back on your response.  You slow it down and engage your cognitive quarterback to come up with a plan B. 

Manage your emotions.  You’re a quick thinker and now your mind is running through options for an effective way of responding.  Your goal is to respond with honor and respect because that’s one of your personal values.  You remind yourself that Bob is a bright guy, too. Also, you’ve heard from your leadership coach that listening is a really good tool. One option you remember that might work is to say something like, “Gee Bob, I had not thought of it like that before. Can you explain the logic of how that would work?”  Of course, tone of voice and body language are very important to pulling this off because they are two of your strongest communicators of emotions.  Once Bob gives his explanation, more than likely you will see that he’s not stupid at all—just operating with a different perspective.  But in any case, you’ve managed your emotions and maintained your decorum—signs of a good EQ.

Recognize the emotions of others.  On the way back from the conference room, you run into Jane, one of your peers, who seems a bit down and overwhelmed.  You’re depending on her to deliver the data that you need for the next step of your project and the deadline is tomorrow. Your immediate fear is that it’s not going to happen. Now that you’ve been working to raise your EQ, you mentally push back on your fear and consider what your teammate is up against and how her confidence and energy are sagging.  It doesn’t take an EQ genius to realize that putting a guilt trip on her is probably not a good idea, but what can you do?    

Respond appropriately/effectively to the emotions of others.  Because you’re not fear-motivated, you focus on encouraging Jane.  After all, she does good work and what she needs right now is an emotional boost.  So you choose to show her some empathy and encouragement, telling her that you understand things are difficult right now and asking if there are ways that you and your team can help.  You also offer to listen to her challenges and brainstorm with her on solutions. (By the way, this is one of the most helpful things you can do for an extrovert; they unusually need to talk to think effectively.) You close out by reminding her that she is a great teammate and that you have confidence in her judgment.

Having good EQ may sound somewhat soft, but it’s actually very powerful because it’s about being the most effective we can be.  It begins with awareness—we can’t manage what we don’t recognize—and then it’s about managing our own emotions and our response to others.  In the simplest terms, it’s about reading the situation and then acting in the most effective manner. It does get easier with practice, and it makes you the kind of leader that others want to follow. Try it and see for yourself.  


Lee Ellis is a speaker and the author of Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, in which he shares his experiences as a Vietnam POW and highlights leadership lessons learned in the camps.  As president of Leadership Freedom, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, executive development and succession planning.  For more information, please visit

What Could Go Wrong?

Michael Roman - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Guest blog by Becca Hallock, CPIM

Having done some 17 years of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system implementations in the SAP R/3 space, it is safe to say I have seen some pretty big mistakes made by both my implementation partners and by my clients.  Here are just a few of them:

  1. Not performing proper software selection.  Many clients have bought into ERP without understanding there are multiple packages available besides the big three – Oracle, Peoplesoft and SAP.  These clients have bought into the cache’ of wanting to have the biggest and the best.  They buy the buzzword.  Unfortunately, many companies don’t need the Cadillac of ERPs when they can do very well with a lesser version.  There are also software packages that will conform more readily to a specific industry.  The software selection committee, which should include much more than just upper level management, should review more than only the Big Three.  Many implementation partners are less familiar with these packages or are less willing to recommend them.  The selection team must ferret out the best package for their business.
  2. Not understanding the cost of implementing.  Implementing an ERP system is not something to be done on the cheap.  Often, a client will choose an implementation partner based on cost, rather than on experience and professional resources.  I have seen entirely too many projects where the implementation partner was chosen solely on the basis of cost, only to have over-runs and poorly implemented systems because the funding was insufficient.  For instance, if an implementation partner promises you off-shore resources for programming and development, my experience has shown 100% of the time that, while the initial cost is small, the amount of re-work and failure will double and even triple that cost, as well as delay the roll-out of the new system to the end-users.
  3. Not understanding how the business runs.  Implementing ERP demands that the business not only understand how it is running today, but also understand what isn’t working and where the business must improve to be competitive in the future.  The CEO of one of my first clients insisted that we not ‘slam-dunk’ our legacy system into SAP R/3.  He was correct.  What is the point of developing a new system so that it looks and feels exactly like what is already in place?  If the existing system were that good, there would be no reason to spend the money to implement a new system.  The idea of ERP is to improve the business so that employees can stop performing routine tasks and focus on the exceptions.
  4. Not staffing the project with your best internal resources.  Some projects have staffed their resources from a pool of employees that are retiring soon.  These resources often take the position of ‘I’m retiring soon, so I don’t care if it works’.  This is incredibly dangerous for the business, as these resources may not be invested in the future of the company.  More than one client project manager has told me we can’t have a particular resource because ‘the business will shut down without them’.  These are precisely the resources we need to properly implement because these employees truly understand the pain points.  But this brings us to the next problem….
  5. Protecting the ‘fiefdoms’.   On more than one implementation, client resources have been uncooperative in facilitating the new design, thinking that to cooperate might cost them their jobs.  The concept must come from the CEO throughout the organization that this will not be tolerated.  Resources must understand that their job is not in jeopardy, but that its focus will change and improve how they do their work.  Ultimately, their skillsets will grow and these employees will become more productive, but in different ways, out of their comfort zones.  These resources must also be confident that their jobs will be there at the end of the implementation.
  6. Insisting on massive customization.  If the selected software package requires numerous customizations to conform to business requirements, then the wrong package was selected.  Enhancements to a software package create enormous risk for the business, which many software firms cannot support since the enhancements are not part of the standard package.  There is also a big risk during a software upgrade that some of the enhancements may not easily translate in the upgrade.  I have seen one or two situations where the data used in a certain form in an enhancement was no longer available after an upgrade.  ‘Keep it simple’ must be the watchword by which the project team lives.
  7. Training?  We don’t need structured training.  Outside of the system design, the next most important phase of the implementation is end-user training.  Why design a business system that no one knows how to use?  Transaction-based training is insufficient for the end-user.  This is similar to sitting a student driver in a car, showing them where the brake is and how to press it, but never telling them why they need to know this.  Training must be presented in the form of ‘A Day in the Life’ of each business role.  I tend to present my training as, what do I do when I come in in the morning, hang up my coat, get my coffee and turn on my computer?  What do I do next and why?  Training must be presented in the context of the user’s work day.  Without this context, confusion and frustration will be the result and the implementation will be at risk.
  8. Project Management not in touch with the business and the implementation.  I have seen some projects hire their client project manager from outside the business.   Do so at your peril.  They have no ownership, no understanding, and will compromise the progress of the project as the learning curve is much slower.  Hiring the CEO’s golfing buddy as project manager is also not a great idea, as the project manager must be unbiased and must operate solely in the interest of the business.  Project management must be the conduit of communication between the business and the project team.  The project cannot take place in a vacuum.  The client project manager, in particular, must be intimately familiar with how the business runs, its goals, and its flaws.  The client project manager must understand the dynamics of the integration of all facets of the business.  The consulting project manager must understand the dynamics of the project team and insist that it operate from day one as an integrated force, not in silos.  Communication is an absolute must.   There must be regular standing meetings, particularly among the consultants, to openly discuss design issues in an integrated fashion.  Project management must have an open door policy and respond to concerns as quickly as possible.

ERP implementation is one of the most key undertakings a business will ever execute.  The process should be taken as seriously as a new product introduction, an acquisition or an IPO.  It requires planning, understanding, and stellar execution to be successful.  Avoiding these mistakes during the life of the project will lead the business forward toward growth and competitiveness.

Working with Dysfunctional Dominant Personalities: The Destructive Pattern of Deny, Defend, Demonize, and Destroy

Michael Roman - Thursday, February 14, 2013

Few men serve as my hero.  This is one of those few. - Mike

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

One-third of the population have a “Dominant” personality.  I happen to be one of them, and many of my friends and clients are also.  We have high confidence in our opinions, which like most strengths can be good or bad, as strengths taken too far usually become struggles.  A deviant and devious version of this group is the Dysfunctional Dominant who always has to be right regardless.   Have you worked with a dysfunctional dominant personality?  Or, does it hit closer to home and you recognize those dominant tendencies in your own life? In essence, it’s the inability to be wrong. I call it “A Progression in D Major” because there are several “D” steps to this destructive leadership behavior.


The Symptoms

One of the best talents of dominant personalities is their ability to quickly “get it right.” They typically build a track record of successes; and these further stroke their ego, which in turn adds to their already high confidence. But no one can be right all the time; and when they’re confronted with being out of step, they have great difficulty accepting it.

Perhaps you have heard it said about a powerful leader, “There’s a graveyard just outside his or her office for those who dared to confront them with the truth.” Of course if you continually shoot the messenger, pretty soon you create a stack of dead messengers and no more messages. A good tipoff on dysfunctional dominants is that they attract weak “yes” people and get rid of those who stand up to them. 


The Pattern

As I observed this a few years ago, it occurred to me that what I was seeing was a Progression in D Major. How far the progression goes depends on the level of dysfunction of the individual. You can probably think of bosses, famous politicians, high profile coaches, and religious leaders who went down this scale.


Note the progression below when they are caught in a mistake:

Step 1 - Deny

Example - “That’s not true.” “It never happened.” “You’re wrong.”

Step 2 - Defend

Example - “You don’t understand; there is a good explanation.”

Step 3 – Demonize

Example - “They are out to get me. They are jealous, etc.”

Step 4 - Destroy

Example - In this step ruthless tactics are employed to undermine or eliminate the opposition.

After watching many leaders over the last thirty years, I’ve observed that the outwardly confident but inwardly insecure Dominant person is the most likely one to be caught in this progression.


The Next Step

Admitting that you recognize these tendencies in your own life is a significant step towards a renewed personal leadership outlook; there’s time to correct past mistakes and re-commit to honorable leadership. And if you’re being led by a Dysfunctional Dominant personality, know that their behavior will eventually catch up with them; the best thing that you can do is to commit daily to leading with character, trust, and courage in all of your relationships.

So, how have you related to a Dysfunctional Dominant personality in the past? When has your honorable leadership made a difference? Please share your comments and thoughts in this forum. 



Lee Ellis is a speaker and the author of Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, in which he shares stories from his experiences as a Vietnam POW and highlights leadership lessons learned in the camps.  As president of Leadership Freedom, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee has consulted in the areas of hiring, team-building, executive development, and succession planning for more than 15 years.  For more information, please visit

On Death and Dying - Part 3

Michael Roman - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Are conflict management initiatives in an ERP implementation a waste of time? Or is there a better way to resolve performance issues?

In the midst of developing this series of blogs (see “Death and Dying – A Typical ERP Implementation” and “Death and Dying Part 2”) based on the Kubler-Ross model, I received a letter from a very dear friend, Dr. James Smith, making reference to a research project about managing conflict within an ERP Implementation.  I found the research paper (Conflict, Conflict Management, and Performance in ERP TEAMS, SOCIAL BEHAVIOR and PERSONALITY, 2007, 35, (8) P1035 -1048 ©Society for Personality Research Inc.) and read what turned out to be a typical Psychology research paper, similar to papers I wrote in college.

The paper discusses five approaches to conflict management, concluding that none of them showed significant differences in success rates.  The study further concluded that “team dynamics that displayed cohesiveness, compromise, and problem-solving conflict management strategies have significantly direct and positive associations with team performance (p 1044). “ Like most research studies, this one has a lot of analyses of statistical results, which of course the author uses to support conclusions.  However, there is no discussion of how groups create the proper teamwork environment.

If conflict management is not the most effective solution for creating an environment where everyone works toward the stated company goals for an ERP implementation; what is? The Manufacturing Practices, Inc. teams know the answer and we share that answer on a regular basis. When we perform an ERP implementation or re-implementation, we strongly recommend education as the first and most important step toward “removing” conflict before it starts.

Typically, when the MPI team first arrives to conduct our analysis, we find silos of information and little in the way of information-sharing between departments. Departments often work in isolation and “throw data over the wall” to the other department(s). The psychology behind silos of information is a mixed bag, and includes fear of change (We’ve always done it this way!), mistrust (If I give him that information, he’ll take the credit!), or everyday personality clashes (I’ll just make her wait!). The solution to these problems run deep, but ERP education will bypass those issues by providing clear, concrete knowledge that everyone in the organization can comprehend and respond to without involving their emotions or personalities. Education provides the understanding and “big picture” perspectives necessary to break down those walls of isolation. Fingers are no longer pointed at other departments; instead, departments point to the “processes” necessary to support the ERP System.

Education is key, but it is not simply a short-term solution.  Understanding that each department in an organization has a goal different from other departments is a beginning to a successful ERP Implementation, but understanding what each department will become after implementation (in terms of a process) is also a critical consideration.  Using Value Stream Mapping (see articles (Posted on 10 Feb, Posted on 11 Feb, Posted on Feb 12 in the NEWS section of the Manufacturing Practices, Inc website) to communicate what those processes require in information exchanges is another important piece of the puzzle.  All of those requirements are understood best when the fundamentals of ERP education occurs prior to beginning an ERP selection or implementation process.

Education is not the end-all, but it goes a long way toward helping people in the organization gain a broader perspective and better understanding of the issues and concerns facing people in other departments. Dr. Smith once gave me a quote from a philosopher named Plato. Unfortunately, I don’t always remember to use it, but it is no less true: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Death and Dying Part 2

Michael Roman - Tuesday, February 05, 2013

In my last blog, I noted that the “Kübler-Ross” effect often comes into play when a company undertakes an ERP Implementation. All five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – can be present and offer a significant challenge to the success of the implementation. And when people in the organization manifest those emotions, it might seem impossible to get everybody back on track.

Years ago, a former employer of mine brought in a professional named George Plossl to help with their ERP implementation. Prior to his arrival, people passed information on to their customer by dropping off a folder on someone’s desk. Engineering and production had declared war on each and worked at arm’s length, if they worked together at all. The accounting team clung to the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of respect for their requirements, and the IT had no rung of respect to cling to at all.

The company management had first directed the IT team to develop a list of IT Change Management requirements.  Everyone was required to use the ERP System; everyone was required to communicate through the email system; and everyone had to conform to using software that the company authorized. All departments documented and maintained manuals that explained how they used the company software. This system failed because no inter-departmental interactions took place and no one really understood the ERP system, except the IT team, which no one respected. The IT team’s efforts to have everyone on the same page elicited all the behaviors suggested by the “Kübler-Ross” effect.

Management next sent the groups through a number of team building experiences, which were very popular years ago and meant to help each group learn to depend on one another. That exercise did not work, either, because they were acting out roles that did not come close to the roles they actually played in the company.  And the behaviors outside the organization did not mirror those within the organization. What our group needed was team building exercises within the confines of the organization, where everyone can learn together through education the behaviors necessary to execute a particular role.

That’s when George came in, and his definition of change management (education, education, education) succeeded.  Education is the key, and George was a master at it. I have long stressed the importance of education with clients, and The Manufacturing Practices, Inc. team has written many times that education is the real solution to building the foundation for ERP Implementation success (“Curing the Underlying Disease” ; “What will ERP Do ‘For’ and ‘To’ Your Company”; “For an ERP Implementation, What Comes First”).

George’s first step in that ERP implementation years ago was educating top management to understand that their role was to define the policies that the company would adopt to perform roles, and that those roles only existed as required within the ERP System.  Management wrote a policy statement roughly stating that the Company would use the ERP System as a management platform; that as an effectively managed company, the Company had a future in the marketplace; and people who took an active role in using the ERP System had a future in the company.

George then implemented a company-wide ERP education, and we learned the effective use of our business management software. Since everyone understood roles, there was no misunderstanding of how to work effectively. Information flowed through the company in an organized and predictable fashion.  There was no reason to doubt the future, and everyone understood his or her roles in that future.  Our organization had progressed through all of the stages of the “Kübler-Ross” effect and into the stage of acceptance, a journey that only took 9 months, the same period required to birth a baby.

And I’m happy to say that the baby is still thriving.




Death and Dying - a Typical ERP Implementation

Michael Roman - Wednesday, January 30, 2013

In 1969, the late Swiss psychiatrist and author, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, wrote her famous book, On Death and Dying, which many institutions of higher learning still use to define the five stages of emotions that terminally ill people experience when faced with the reality of certain death. Sometimes simply referred to as the "stages of grief," the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Dr. Kubler-Ross later noted that people suffering with other personal tragedies such as drug addiction or loss of a loved one also experienced the same five emotional stages; which brought me around to the realization that the same equation holds true in many companies that are spiraling down and asking for help from a consultant. When faced with the reality of a “certain death” for their companies, most owners will eventually seek outside help from consultants, hoping that he or she can provide an objective analysis and deliver recommendations for improvement. And most consultants are well-equipped to do just that. But the problem in many companies runs much deeper than the systems used to operate them; and it is a problem that has its roots in human nature. And most consultants are ill-equipped to provide therapy to people whose emotions control their better judgment.

What I have learned after years of assisting in multiple ERP implementations to help struggling companies improve their operations is that people working in the organization are already passing through the emotional stages described in the Kubler-Ross model. And I have found that understanding that has helped me understand and work with people who are simply going through the five stages and on a path that will ultimately lead to acceptance. I have a thousand examples of all five stages, but let's start this time with the first stage: denial.



Employees who have worked at a company for a while and developed routines and methods that seem to them to be working fine, will often ignore the problems they are creating for the next department down in the business system. Just “throw the data over the wall” and let the recipient do whatever they have to do to understand and use the information. When someone – very often a consultant – points out that there are tools that will provide accurate and timely data to the downstream departments, many employees – and managers and owners – will deny that the problem exists.

During an ERP system implementation for a manufacturing client in the Midwest, I discovered that they had a practice of producing a product in large quantities and storing the material on the shop floor (considered work in process – WIP in many ERP Systems).  They would open a work order once a year and continually add the material produced to that spreadsheet.  Since there was only a manual system in place, the work order to produce that material was “understood” to be open for a year.  Material produced or material taken from inventory to make the product was not a consideration for recording since the production planner kept track of the quantity produced.  Pounds of raw material used were added to a spreadsheet, with the “global understanding” that if it was used, it must have produced a product.  There was no accounting of scraped product, the direct labor required to make that product, or for the supporting overhead associated with that direct labor.

As we began implementation of the ERP system, it became a goal of the accounting team to manage that activity for a number of end items associated with like practices throughout the plant.  The production team’s poor accounting practices were an “insult” to the accounting team.

And the production team denied that there was a problem and argued that their method was the easiest way to produce an end item. Their denial, which I recognized to be the first stage in the Kubler-Ross model, was an emotional response to the situation, and like it or not, I would have to be patient as they worked through that stage to the next.

Through many meetings between the accounting team and the production team to change the practice, little headway took place. In short order, the production team adopted a sedimentary position, and their attitude toward the accounting team, already strained, became short-tempered if not downright hostile. The company’s top management took on the role of peacemakers, but only after the production team’s emotions had erupted into fits of – you guessed it – anger, the next stage of the Kubler-Ross model.

Understanding Dr. Kubler-Ross’ five stages may not solve the major issues confronting a dying manufacturing operation, but during an ERP implementation, understanding those emotions can be a great help as the organization works through the process on its way to new life. In subsequent blogs we will discuss these emotions and provide a few suggestions on how to deal with them.

What to Consider When Hiring a Consultant

Michael Roman - Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When you recognize that something just isn’t working right in your company, you’ve already taken a huge step toward solving the problem. The next step might be to hire a consultant to help you dissect the problem objectively and find solutions that work. But how do you find the right consultant, one who can genuinely understand your particular operation and the issues you are facing? If you are implementing a new ERP system or enhancing the value of your current business management system, I recommend that you find a specialist with proven experience in your field. And before you begin the interview process, as yourself this question: What do I expect the consultant to do for me and my company?

For sure, you will have many expectations, but there is one that is absolutely essential. As Oli Wight wrote in his groundbreaking book The Executive’s Guide to Successful MRPII, the consultant “should be the catalyst, not reactor” (p. 153). In other words, you want a mature, experienced consultant who will work as an agent for your organization and not just a “yes-man” who simply agrees with your choices no matter what.

To find the right consultant for your organization, there are a few universal issues for you to consider:

- A qualified, experienced specialist will do more than simply implement the ERP system.  A well-trained consultant (especially members of the Institute of Management Consultants and those who hold APICS certifications) will offer advice on improving your company’s overall performance, even if it means that your organization does not require an ERP system.

- There is a difference between training and implementing an ERP system.  Training simply means learning which buttons to push on which screen.  Implementing an ERP system means integrating it into your company’s flow.  A good consultant will provide personalized advice and teach your company how the system fits uniquely into your organization.

- Some consultants focus on only one ERP specialty (Oracle, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics AX, etc.). This might lead to limitations in the selection process and you could wind up with a niche system that does not suit your needs. Veteran consultants with broad experience will include those systems they are familiar with on their resumes and be willing to discuss multiple options for your company.

- Another potential problem area might arise from an inexperienced consultant.  If a consultant does not understand the flow of your particular operation, expect a system that could require expensive modifications as you move forward in the implementation process.

Hiring a consultant to implement an ERP system is often a good choice.  However, it is very important to do your research and find a qualified, experienced consultant who can make accurate assessments and provide reliable solutions. Otherwise, you may begin walking down a path that leads to more problems than it does to solutions.

Commitment Minus Resolve is a Negative Number!

Michael Roman - Sunday, January 20, 2013

Several years ago, a couple I know made a decision that both of them would lose weight.  To meet their combined weight loss goals, they remodeled their basement and created a home gym equipped with an elliptical machine, a treadmill, a stationary bike and a rowing machine. So well-equipped was their new home gym that it became the envy of their neighborhood. When friends came to visit, the couple would show them the brochures that described the weight-loss benefits they would derive from each piece of fitness equipment. They even went into great detail about the “value-added” videos that came with each piece of equipment explaining how to target particular muscle groups or get the best cardio results.  All of that they proudly shared with their neighbors, who all agreed that their decision was the right thing to do for their health; and all of us wished them well with their new resolutions to lose weight.

But things didn’t work out as planned. Sadly, it became evident very soon that their dreams for slimmer, toned bodies far outweighed their resolve to maintain a daily exercise program. The sad part is that while they had in fact bought the best equipment on the market and understood the long-term benefits, and even though they had received “training” from the vendor’s materials, and even though they were fully committed to making it happen, there was still something missing. And to sum it up, it was commitment without resolve. Yes, they both showed up that first day and made a valiant effort to complete their prescribed routine. But after that, they found a thousand excuses for why today would not be a good day to exercise. An early business meeting, drinks with the boss, errands, parties, chores – you name it, their other “priorities” got in the way of a daily – or even weekly – routine.

It’s the same issue for folks who have made the commitment to implement a new business management system or ERP in their organization. Vendors tout the benefits to owners and managers, and their brochures provide the “training” to users in every department. Typically, there is buy-in and a commitment from everyone to use the system and reap the bottom-line rewards. But just like my friends and their failed weight-loss program, commitment gives way to a lack of resolve, and people responsible for simply performing routine activities within the system, don’t. The reasons for lack of resolve are many, but often it is a regression to the old familiar ways of the past or failing to see the big picture and understanding the critical nature of what might seem to be mundane tasks. Whatever the reason, the results of a lack of resolve by any user in the organization will undermine the integrity of the entire system. And that will in turn have a negative effect on performance and the bottom line.

There is a solution to this problem. It is a matter of educating users beyond the training they receive about how to use the system from vendors. Education provides users with a more complete picture of the entire system and a deeper understanding about why they should use the system. Why it is important to the company and why it is important to them personally. They need to understand that, unlike my overweight friends who only hurt themselves by their lack of resolve, users of a business management system who fail to use the system hurt everyone. Weak links in the chain will eventually break the system, so it is critical that everyone makes the commitment to use the system and everyone remains resolved as time goes by.

It might sound self-serving to say it, but the best educators for business management systems come from APICS and seasoned consultants who are well-versed and certified in the APICS Body of Knowledge (BOK).  The APICS BOK lays the foundation for the focus of an ERP System, and APICS educators are the best at operations and supply chain management (the system within an ERP package). It has been my experience that organizations with APICS –educated users dramatically outperform those who rely on training from vendors to serve as motivation for using the system. Remember, commitment to use the system isn’t enough; a resolve to use the system must follow.