Displays of vulnerability are more likely to help the rest of the team open up. Leaders can also build trust by recognizing positive behaviour in others; for example, applauding someone’s courage for raising a risk early or highlighting a recent collaborative approach that led to innovation.
Nor should leaders forget to find opportunities to simply keep things light-hearted. They can schedule a fortnightly team connect and rotate the facilitator to inject some fun and get conversations going. Team members can share a skill, run a short quiz or game like “guess who’s fridge it is,” or even have a mindfulness session. The exact activity isn’t as important as the effort to tap into the team’s creativity and get everyone engaged.
3. Be transparent and communicate
Without transparency and clear communication, the rumour mill dominates, creating a fertile breeding ground for speculation and mistrust. The entire programme team should have equal access to relevant information about what’s happening on the programme. When they understand the big picture, people stop fearing the worst and make well-informed local decisions.
Tactics to ensure transparency need not be complex or onerous. They might include a weekly soapbox address by leaders to share programme status and celebrate success, joint townhall events for programme members where suppliers and the client stand shoulder-to-shoulder to reiterate the vision and field Q&A, and open forums for discussions on specific hot topics that require a deeper dive. On the technology side, enterprise apps like Flowdock, Trello and Quip have been designed to optimize innovation, collaboration and sharing. Even encouraging teams to take advantage of the simple social media-style features of more familiar tools like Teams and Webex (e.g. likes, hearts and thumbs-ups) can enhance idea-sharing, engagement, consensus and support.
4. Be empowering, caring, and supporting
Leaders rarely invest sufficient energy in influencing team culture, climate and motivation levels. This is short sighted: Engaging the hearts and minds of the team will unleash additional discretionary effort and creativity that would otherwise be lost.
To motivate high levels of effort and engagement, leaders need to proactively shape the tone of all their interactions. They have a massive opportunity to bring out the best in those around them – whether employees, clients, vendors or contractors – if they can use their communications skills to actively support and empower their team members. Coaching skills like careful, intentional questioning and listening techniques can unearth individual preferences and traits and access deeper and more meaningful connections with team members. Building time to connect like this can feel like time away from driving the programme forward. However, leaders need to remember that a supported and empowered team will be more inclined to go above and beyond when faced with unexpected challenges.
5. Monitor relationships and address breaches of trust
During an ERP programme implementation, the complex mix of clients, vendors and contractors can quickly devolve into disfunction. To avoid spirals into misalignment and outright conflict, it’s critical to monitor the health of team relationships, and particularly the relationships between the client and vendor at the leadership level.
To monitor relationship health, leaders can make relationship health a standing agenda topic at key leadership meetings. They might also institute periodic ‘drains-up’ with their team, or leverage “temperature surveys” to evaluate the team’s satisfaction with programme collaboration. Relationship-related questions can be open-ended: “What’s working well, and where can we improve?” But they might also be more probing: “Are you being kept in the loop?” or “Do you feel like you are set up for success?” Answers to these questions are indicators of the current level of trust and the effectiveness of collaboration; they should be used as a springboard for discussions on how to improve.
Sadly, relationships do sometimes deteriorate despite even the best efforts. At the outset, the programme should establish clear mechanisms to address such issues quickly when they cannot be resolved between peers. When a resolution cannot be found at the programme team level, there should be a clear escalation route to programme sponsors for appropriate mediation and intervention.
Conclusion: Enabling Hybrid Collaboration
For large ERP implementation programs, hybrid delivery is becoming the new norm. It is certainly more efficient: Enterprises are able to reduce travel time and costs, while leveraging the talents of a more geographically distributed network of team members. The downside is that teams often fail to build the strong bonds that reduce conflict and spur innovative collaboration.
The upsides of hybrid ERP implementation can absolutely outweigh the downsides. The key is to proactively strengthen team relationships through both digital and in-person interactions. When digital tools and careful relationship-management allow diverse teams to work together toward a common aim, the experiences and skills of each team member are amplified, contributing to ERP programme success.