By Amanda McKeon
The Managing Your SAP Projects 2011 event is off to a great start and I was lucky enough to sit in on Doug Whittle’s jumpstart session, “Practical strategies to improve the way you manage the people piece of project management.” As many project managers know, change is not easy within an organization, and the difficulty often lies with the organization’s employees. To explain this difficulty, Whittle used an Edgar Schein quote: “People don’t resist change… they resist being changed.”
Schein’s quote certainly makes sense in the context of SAP software implementations. Changing the software or platform that employees have become used to can be a jarring experience, as their job functions may drastically shift. The key is to influence the users so that they are excited and prepared for the adjustment.
Whittle explains the process that works for his consulting company, starting with managing different personality types. To be the most effective, managers need to understand themselves, understand others, and be able to adapt and connect. This concept is important when interacting with contrasting personality types, such as a sociable employee who is enthusiastic in meetings versus a reserved person who would prefer to stay mostly silent. Whittle emphasized that it is more important to manage relationships as opposed to the individual personality types.
Managing relationships starts with communication. Whittle told the audience that “communication is more than simple information or a one-time message… [it] is about ongoing, genuine two-way dia
logues with employees — not just what you want them to do or are about to do to them. It is a shared responsibility of everyone on the team.” Part of effective communication is understanding how and where it can be misconstrued. For example, according to a study conducted by Harris Interactive, 80% of people polled said email was the easiest to misinterpret.
Perhaps one of the more important topics covered is the need for a formal change methodology. Whittle provided four reasons to explain why this is so important:
- Provides a standardized, consistent process
- Emphasizes two-way communication
- Reduces resistance and increases the rate of acceptance
- Enables employees to focus on their jobs, resulting in greater efficiency and effectiveness
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of project management topics covered in Doug Whittle’s jumpstart session. I’ll be covering other project-related sessions during the conference, such as Michael Pytel’s foolproof data migration strategy and Jill Mikros’ case study on Johns Hopkins’ upgrade, so stay tuned!