By Matthew V. Brown, Ph.D.
What is organizational change readiness – alignment? Once your executive team has decided to consider upgrading (or replacing) the existing ERP system, what comes next? The obvious first step would be to create a reasonable change plan and project roadmap. Our recommendation is before creating a change plan or project roadmap that we help you find out whether a few things are reasonably aligned with respect to the firm’s culture. What does aligned with the culture with respect to change readiness actually mean?
One way to begin to think of aligning a culture is to understand that organizational cultures as we describe them are not monolithic, meaning one would be most hard-pressed to define a firm’s culture. What we can do is try and measure the actual, as-is, culture trusting that the members of that culture will respond honestly to a series of culture assessment questions.
There is always a gap between what we measure to be an actual culture [the summary of statistical measures of the various answers to the many “how do we do things around here?” questions] to what culture consultant, Chris Dawson (2010) calls, the shadow cultures: the Ideal culture perspective and the Required culture perspective, sources of member’s understanding of their culture which is highly symbolic yet quite influential.
Why should we as practitioners care about “actual” culture versus “shadow” culture? “As experienced practitioners and change agents in the field, we know subjectively that the organizational culture impact on ERP organizational change can be significant. As ERP researchers, we also know objectively this to be the case. We also know that ERP assimilation has significant shortcomings and challenges. Therefore, as practitioners, let’s work to address the problem and let’s give more consideration to the potential impact of culture (and other potentially significant factors) upon ERP success. As practitioners, we need to reflect and approach our trade slightly differently.” (Jack G. Nestell, Partner, Nestell & Associates)
The Ideal culture is comprised of [projected images of values, behaviors, and capabilities that are really NOT appropriate targets for change by themselves. Without actual culture measures, these ideal culture elements may just be shadows on a wall. And yet, we somehow know they are important to our daily work. However, shadow culture influences produce a multitude of distortions and challenges for change.
A Required culture is the culture determined by the stated strategic objective that those that determine are critical must-haves informed by forces affecting both the external and internal environments. This view is a shadow culture because stakeholder demands often conflict, strategy changes and is stretched by reality.
The other [as-is] culture is the VISION culture. It is the amalgam of all three previous culture frames. What we have committed to becoming as of today is a result of adding together: Who we really are (ACTUAL), and who we would like to be (IDEAL), and who we are required to be (REQUIRED).
I explain this brief typology of cultures precisely because without being able to distinguish the influences and perceptions associated with ACTUAL culture from the other three frames of culture leads to project errors and possible failure.
So, what can we do to better ensure ERP project success?
Just like we do for assessing [auditing] legacy and new ERP systems, we can basically assess the legacy culture [ACTUAL] and the new culture [VISION] culture.
Establishing a starting point. When assessing any firm’s culture, the assessment begins just prior to high-level project planning. The reason for this priority is that several “alignment” issues can be addressed BEFORE a project plan is conceived. Five key points will be discussed further in the next 5 posts:
Alignment Pulse Issue 1. Actual level of project urgency [priority]:
Alignment Pulse Issue 2. History of change projects [learning]
Alignment Pulse Issue 3. Executive level of authenticity [leading]
Alignment Pulse Issue 4. Behavioral-based Roadmap [charting]
Alignment Pulse Issue 5. Vision Culture Translations [navigating]