At the end of a consulting contract, a client told me about his new challenge: to roll out a European-developed SAP system across the organisation’s US sites. He brushed off my suggestion of some training to prepare the European staff for working in the States with, “you’re probably right, but we don’t have the budget for that sort of thing.” Six weeks later the project kicked-off. Six months later, my phone rang: “Can you come to the East Coast next week?”
Through telephone coaching, we identified that different approaches to managing and working on IT projects on both sides of the Atlantic were causing the project to stall. We agreed on a basic goal: I should come up with an approach that would allow them to meet their roll-out deadlines. And I was not allowed to mention the word “conflict”.
I quickly designed a 1 ½ day off-site workshop to meet their needs, agreed it with the client and his in-house facilitator, and checked with the US hotel about logistics. The first surprise upon arriving in the hotel was that they had no infrastructure to support this workshop. The client and I spent a couple of hours in Staples finding enough materials to improvise the setting we would need. The next morning the workshop with 50 participants began. By lunchtime on the second day, the groups had identified all the problems interfering with their progress: in many cases it was enough for people to understand each other’s way of doing things; in some cases, once people understood the impact of their work style and behavior, they agreed to modify appropriately.; in the few cases left over, we found solutions that they then put into practice.
The tempo picked up immediately and stayed high. The team made its first roll-out on schedule and the rest of the project plan unfolded smoothly. The project staff cost over-runs due to a delay would have amounted to $50 – 100 K per day; the impact on production and associated business processes an order of magnitude higher.