We have all heard about the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulghum. I re-read this book every year as it prompts me as to why I got into ERP consultancy in the first place. The passion I have for the food software industry, the knowledge I gain from my peers and clients, the responsibility I have to myself and others to show up, be present and live to fight another day. Okay, the last part may be a bit much, but in all sincerity, it is true; everything you need to be a trusted advisor, change facilitator, and develop a collaboration mindset with your customers (internal and external) you really did learn at age five.
1. Share Everything
It sounds so simple, but this precept can grow your collaborative mindset within your company and with your customers. Knowledge hoarding is a more commonplace occurrence than you think. When individuals possess knowledge that is beneficial to the team and their customers, but refuse to share or allow access, purposefully or otherwise; it is a massive detriment to productivity, collaboration and the bottom line. When we share our industry knowledge, it increases interaction amongst our peers and customers, preserves the “tribal knowledge”, enables us to access vital information, and instills a culture of confidence and transparency.
2. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe - it only matters what you do
I like this little gem to suspension of disbelief. In dealing with our customers, whether internal or external, please do not assume the burden is on them, rather than us, the consultant, to achieve a successful project or implementation. We have all seen where the customer is willing to overlook the limitations of the software or ISV so that these limitations do not interfere with the acceptance of change, which is the implementation. It is our job, no matter how unseemly it may be, to make our customers aware of these and foster a discussion around these gaps to provide clarity and trust.
3. A giraffe has a black tongue twenty-seven inches long and no vocal chords. A giraffe has nothing to say. He just goes on giraffing
We all have conflicts, they usually all get resolved…but is it done in the correct way? I took a consultancy course and part of that course was conflict resolution. There were two languages of conflict resolution, Jackal and Giraffe. Jackal has a language of analyzing and criticizing, very much from the head, if you will. On the other hand, Giraffe has a language from the heart, that allows for empathy, requesting rather than demanding, and a general sense of promoting the well being for ourselves and others. When we deal with internal and external conflicts, we must be like the giraffe. We need to observe, identify, explain and finally, request. Giraffe language in conflict resolution allows people to be heard without being forced to make a decision based on derision or castigation. I challenge you to use giraffe language and see if you can note difference in responses when conflicts arise.
4. Speed and efficiency do not always increase the quality of life
We all lead terribly busy lives. We have meetings to attend, deadlines, the list goes on… and on. Sometimes we lose sight of our purpose because we are so entrenched in the output. A wise woman once said, “the quality of your outputs is not directly proportional to the number of things you do-it’s on the level of intensity you put forth in it.” Sounds like a surefire formula for burnout. We need to be able to allow for our priorities and schedule to increase our purpose, not detract from it. Reducing the time suck by saying “I don’t have the bandwidth right now, I need another resource.” Or “I need to focus on the module roll out and cannot attend the meeting, please send salient points in an email.” These are things that allow us to focus on the quality of work we are doing for our customers, rather than becoming so stretched we are reduced to subpar outputs.
5. Clean up your own mess
My mother used to say, “Don’t leave things like you found them, leave them better than you found them.” This applies to people, your peers and customers, places, your workplace, and things, the ERP. No one wants to be responsible for the mess that someone else made, even if it is in our job description. So, CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Remember, most of us got something for nothing the first time just by showing up here at birth. Now we have to qualify
It is not enough to have to have certifications, a fancy degree and however many implementations under your belt. All these things are great, do not get me wrong, but if we fail to understand our customer and their business or process at the most cellular level, what is the point? We need to not quantify but qualify. Meaning, we need to get in at the ground level of understanding our customers, to walk a day in the life from the machine operator on the floor to the CFO reviewing the numbers. Too many times I have seen projects fail due to lack of fit or general misunderstanding of the goal or vision. We must qualify why our software/ISV/consultant/team is what that customer is looking for without reservation…and have fun doing it.
7. Play fair
In other words… Observe the golden rule. Keep the peace. Conduct oneself properly. Mind your manners. Discipline Thyself. Be nice. Be good. Play fair.
8. Keep your eyes open, suspend judgement. Be useful
It is of utmost importance to never assume we know what is going on in anyone’s life at any given time. This is especially true in projects. As a former customer, now a consultant, I remember the hardships of getting buy in from my peers for an implementation. It was a stressful time in my life, but not without reward. Remember to be of use to your customers. Take the extra fifteen minutes on that application that he or she is just not grasping, look for red flags and have a steering meeting and above all else, lend an ear and listen. Sometimes all anyone needs is an allowance to vent and continue.
9. Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some
It is possible to have a work life balance. Understand it will ebb and flow. Prepare yourself when it is time to work hard. Remind yourself it is okay to re group and take time for you and your family as well.
10. And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together
Remember, we are all in this together. Alone, we can do so little, together we can do so much.