Change management: 3 tips to break down resistance
25+ years of experience have taught me that, when an ERP implementation fails, it is much more about the people involved than it is about technology. Forrester Research also already documented this fact more than 10 years ago. And along the years, many studies have shown the same result: resistance from users to adapting to the required is the main cause of ERP project failures. If this is indeed a fairly well-known issue, it seems to be a tough one to crack: this problem has been haunting the ERP world for the past (too) many years. Apparently, solving it is not that straight forward. If change is the problem, then how do you use change management to ensure a successful project?
Every year in my job, I meet large international organizations whose headquarters have decided to roll-out a new ERP solution in their subsidiaries. Group management has decided that new global processes need to be implemented together with the new system. In most cases, if they do not handle the human factor conscientiously, users start resisting to adoption, which can in reality sabotage the entire project. Human nature and cultural differences should not be underestimated when trying to make changes to business processes.
Before you can begin to think about tackling resistance to change, you must consider the potential reasons for resistance. Are they really due to a general resistance to change? In my experience, resistance to change often occurs when the processes themselves are flawed or inappropriate for your organization. Do your global processes have the necessary quality? Is your organization ready to follow you and back you up?
Practical change management tips before you start
When faced to resistance to change in an international ERP project, I like to start by checking a few things:
- Ensure the quality of global processes: Before you start harmonizing processes, make sure that the desired global processes are in fact of high quality and best practices that can benefit the entire organization. Often global processes are challenged at the local level, and it is not always due to general resistance to change. If acceptance of the new process is not because of a human-behavioral problem, then this suggests that either the process has quality problems or it simply cannot be used due to differences in local conditions.
- Check your ambition level: The level of ambition for change has to match the maturity level of your organization. If your company is mature, centrally driven and it is most efficient to drive decisions from operational headquarters, then it makes sense to have everybody working on the same system. If, on the other hand, your organization has not already harmonized processes and has diverse operational processes in place, then a more evolutionary approach to harmonization may be the solution.
- Choose carefully your implementation method: To avoid delays, use a flexible implementation method, one that can enable international harmonization without delay. It could be a CORE solution approach where all entities have the option to run on individual copies of what is essentially the same harmonized platform. A CORE solution includes all the common company-wide processes and features, making local changes possible without jeopardizing processes in other entities or companies running on the same system.
Bottom line is, whether you lack a buy-in for change or people are actually actively resisting it, you want to do everything you can to make sure that your entire organization focuses on the optimized future scenario, rather than today’s shortcomings. In any case, basic rule number one for change management: make a realistic plan for change first, and then you can begin to think about how to manage the change in your organization.