18 June 2006

The Implementation Question

An appointment with the Director of Finance to document his responsibilities, daily tasks, objectives, and purpose of his job for the value he creates for his company. He started talking with preconceived notions of "nothing will ever work here because everything in the past has just gotten filed away" and "what will all this accomplish for me personally?". Very genuine questions from an individual who's worked in the same company for 30 years.

So what is the answer to the million dollar question of how best to implement a new system? Here are some ideas, in no particular order:

1.Each individual's support is essential, but beyond that the input of each individual while the system is being created is what would make the implementation challenge that much easier. Involve everyone who will be affected by any decisions to share their input in a structured way. Do not make the mistake of creating a system without adequate input to save time and announcing it in a memo.

2. Select an implementation team/panel/force comprising of individuals who possess high levels of organizational committment and personal values of work ethic, accountability, and personal responsibility. If you do not have members with these qualities, implementation will fail and get filed away. So start building these qualities in the culture of your organization, where every employee thinks like a leader and is not conscious of hierachical structure and titles. Nothing works magic like genuinity does.

3. Communicate your implementation plan to everyone involved in a group interactive process. This is so essential. Do it in an offsite 3-day meeting if necessary, in order to invite buy-in and total support fot the new system. The most important aspect of this is that the group needs to know that the system operates like a democracy and is subject to the people's receptivity. Nail down who is responsible for what actions by what time and hold the group accountable as a group instead of individuals. The group needs to be self-correcting.

4. If things slip during implementation, go back to basics with the group. The implementation team must connect with everyone as individuals and create a way to instill motivation by linking the new system with personal benefits. As the Director of Finance asks, "What's in it for me?" The answer lies in what he values as a person in the first place. Once you find that out, make sure you create that personal link in your rewards scheme.

5. Reward the group for success in all phases of the implementation process. I'm not just talking about overtime. I'm talking about real benefits for the person individually. Think about unique ways to compensate them for their efforts. Pleasant surprises always work. The key is to be unpredictable in your rewarding structure.

I have been asked whether penalizing individuals for failing to do their part is an effective method. In all honesty, it is not a good idea because it can lead to more resentment that is sure to surface and affect your process negatively. The world-class organization of today is positive and inspiring, driving individuals to want to complete the job by their own free volition. So select self-motivators, nurture their personal goals, and offer them a platform in your department/team/organization to carry them out.


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