There I was, entering the office of the Customer Service manager (we'll call her Maria because, well, that's her name) at a new client when a framed picture on her wall caught my eye. It read: DID YOU JUST CALL MY BABY...UGLY?
It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where the gang learned that it's one thing to think the baby is ugly, and quite another to blurt it out in horror in front of the parents. Amused, I asked Maria for the backstory. She told me about a time when her department was taking some heat for things they were doing (or not doing) and she felt like she was constantly having to defend them. She shared her frustration with her team, and they presented her with the framed sentiment as a gift.
At Reveal, I've heard the same phrase used to describe what we do as a company. Our business is to educate on Supply Chain and SAP best practices, and typically what our clients are already in the habit of doing does not fall into that category. If it did, we wouldn't be there. This puts us in the position of breaking the bad news to the followers - sometimes the inventors - of the not-the-best practices, and firmly but gently guiding them to ["gasp!"] change. And I often fear that my feedback will be perceived as calling someone's baby ugly.
What Does 'Change' Entail?
“What kind of change?” you ask. (You did - I heard you.) For starters, use the system and loose the spreadsheets. Many of those files are old news the second they're saved. Get the data into the system. It's an integrated system after all - let's integrate! Make a list of the pain points and be willing to look at what’s really behind them. And get back to basics by using SAP as it's intended. Challenge the "creative" solutions (hint: any transaction or report that starts with a Z). And if standard SAP doesn't support the business process, re-evaluate the business process. When was the last time it was really looked at, anyway?
Getting back to that framed print on the wall, while making some recommendations during my initial meeting with Maria, I found myself occasionally pointing over to the frame as I was making a point, hoping it would lend some levity to the discussion while acknowledging that I'm sensitive to the nature of it. And I make it a habit of using this awareness to keep it all on a very conscious, respectful level. After all, it does no good to shame or belittle the very people I'm trying to help. And I truly do want to help.