Notre Dame leads Georgia Tech 24-3 in the final 28 seconds of a 1975 football game in South Bend. The game is essentially over. The crowd is relatively calm and the Notre Dame Bench is quiet as the season winds to an end. Notre Dame Coach Dan Devine puts number 45 in for the last few plays of the game and the fans and players erupt in excitement. Number 45 makes an inconsequential sack on the last play of the game. The crowd goes wild and number 45 is carried off the field on his teammates’ shoulders in celebration. Why all the excitement over a trivial end-of-game play?
Grown men shed tears of joy seeing the moment recaptured in the film “Rudy.” Understanding the excitement and tears requires explanation. Number 45 was Rudy Ruettiger. Rudy was the first in his family to attend college after shirking the destined life of a melancholy factory worker in a small Illinois town. Rudy’s learning disabilities did not prevent him from being admitted to Notre Dame. However, Rudy’s 5’6″ and 185-pound frame was far below the standard for collegiate football. Despite Rudy’s physical and mental challenges, Rudy persevered and joined the elite Notre Dame football squad. The film “Rudy” immortalizes Rudy’s heartwarming story and helps viewers understand why the seemingly trivial football play is important.
Understanding why makes a difference.
Business changes are often delivered without an explanation of why they are important. Change is met with resistance, good people leave the organization, or people decide to work around the change.
One of the most common causes of change occurs when a growing organization faces the challenge of implementing new business or ERP systems. The new ERP system impacts everyone in the organization. However, the only tears shed are tears of frustration and the only eruptions are those curses hurled at computer screens.
People in the organization only see how the new ERP is impacting them at a personal level. In most cases, the new ERP system makes their job more difficult. More information is required to process an invoice, shortcuts cannot be taken, and reports take longer to run. Paper is eliminated! People in an organization need to understand why the new ERP solution is being implemented.
A large oil and gas company was recently faced with the challenge of replacing all of their business systems. Prior to implementation, the organization’s leadership took the time to clearly communicate why the organization needed to implement a new ERP system.
Give Everyone a Reason Why
There are plenty of small-framed men who break collegiate football barriers. However, Rudy’s plight was multidimensional with physical, socioeconomic, and mental barriers.
The “why change” at the oil and gas company also had multiple dimensions. The why at the CEO level was to support acquisition growth. The why at the revenue accountant level was to clean up data and streamline prior period adjustments (one of accounting’s most significant headaches). The why for operations was more timely production data. The ERP team ensured that each group understood their personal why.
Do More Than Just Implement
Rudy’s academic success was attributed to befriending an intelligent yet awkward graduate student named D-Bob. D-Bob tutored Rudy while Rudy helped D-Bob overcome his awkwardness with the co-eds.
During implementation, the ERP team looked for quick wins to help sustain the excitement. For example, the ERP team found a simple way to improve the planning process and helped the finance team develop a plan to eliminate manual data entry. A parochial ERP team might have declared the improvement out of scope. However, the investment to assist the planning group was small in comparison to the benefit of improving the planning process. This gave the ERP team one more why.
Never Give Up
Rudy applied for admission to Notre Dame and was denied multiple times. Once admitted, Rudy did not make the roster until the final game of his senior year.
Likewise, perseverance was key to the ERP implementation team’s success. During process design sessions, the team was told the new AFE process would not work. However, the team knew the AFE process would improve well scheduling and accelerate production. Most ERP teams would throw in the towel, but this team persevered through the design sessions and conference room pilots and ultimately proved the new AFE process would work during user acceptance testing.
In the movie, Rudy makes a passionate plea to convince his doubtful family that he will play football for Notre Dame. Emotions run high, but Rudy turns his family’s doubt when he is honored at the Georgia Tech game.
At the oil and gas company, the project sponsors and steering committee were not afraid to be passionate about the project. For example, an engineering group started a conflicting initiative. The ERP steering team made a passionate plea, supporting why the company needed to change. This halted the conflicts and kept the ERP project on track.