SAP Project Leadership
SAP Project Management drives me crazy! As I’ve often said, I don’t generally fault customers or clients who hire outside help for SAP project management. If they believed they had the answers they wouldn’t bother with contractors for guidance.
Too often I see SAP project management treated as more project administration without much leadership. Just about anyone can be a checklist administrator. What is lacking from many SAP projects is the project management leadership to move things along.
After managing a few SAP projects myself and the many projects I have participated in over the years I’ve learned an effective formula for SAP project success–, it takes a project manager who can actually lead the project. What do I mean by leadership? I mean someone who actually pitches in, rolls up their sleeves, gets busy, and gets their hands dirty. They must be directly engaged with the project participants, they need to spend more time with their “ear to the ground” rather than serving as passive administrators.
The key dimensions of SAP project leadership involves enough direct involvement in project coordination to:
- Create a sense of urgency to build momentum.
- To maintain that sense of urgency and maintain momentum.
- To eliminate obstacles, roadblocks, and impediments which slow (or even stop) SAP project momentum.
- To manage conflict (which WILL happen if sufficient momentum is gained).
- To set, manage, and maintain expectations with both the project participants and the broader areas affected by the SAP project outcomes.
1. Creating a Sense of Urgency
I’m still amazed at how often SAP project managers or program managers avoid using project plans with WBS structures, tasks, activities, and the assorted milestones, etc. The only sense of urgency they create is reactive firefighting. Everything will always be last minute, single-threaded, chaotic, disjointed, panicked, and difficult to follow. Without a structured project plan any dates are just aspirations at best and timelines will continuously be missed. This avoidance may be from a lack of ability, fear, or an attempt to evade accountability, whatever the reason it happens too often. Maybe you should be asking yourself what deliverables, tasks, and execution activities your contracted leadership should be providing.
The Effective SAP Project Plan and Project Structure
The most appropriate method to create a sense of urgency is to have a fairly tight timeline but with very clearly defined milestones, tasks, deliverables, templates, and instructions on how to support project execution. Those deliverables must help to measure project progress and they must be carefully managed. Communicating and then supporting the message that as an SAP project manager your goal is to ensure the success of the project participants (then living it out) will bring badly needed leadership.
Without a project plan and proper templates any sense of urgency that is created is really reactive firefighting.
For each project phase or upcoming milestone an SAP project manager must have well defined presentations of what is coming, the timeline, templates, instructions, and the resources to accomplish each set of tasks.
Nearly every contract SAP project manager somehow manages to put together steering committee presentations so why do they have such a hard time putting together critical project supports? What are they really presenting to the steering committee if they aren’t providing meaningful project guidance?
If SAP Project Decisions Need to be Made Get Them Made Immediately!
Over the years I’ve been blessed to have several pretty decent mentors. Back when I was an early manager in industry, long before consulting, I got a major schooling from our GM (and a senior VP). We had a problem come up and the GM wasn’t around to consult so I did nothing. I was the operations manager responsible for all shop floor production areas–, over a dozen leads and over 200 employees at the time. My lack of decision-making brought large portions of the production floor to a halt.
A “manager” who doesn’t make decisions isn’t managing or leading anything.
When the GM/VP got back he immediately set about to get things going and made a number of snap decisions and provided immediate direction. After things got going again he called me into his office and we had a short discussion about my career.He was polite but firm and provided me a very valuable lesson.
The GM expected me to make the decision I believed was correct even if it turned out wrong. He said that 8 or 9 times out of 10 it would probably be right and that 1 or 2 that might be wrong or maybe not the best decision it was easier to correct than doing nothing. He promptly let me know if I made a bad decision he would hold me accountable but it would not be as bad as making no decision at all. He would hold me accountable for my decisions to help me learn to make better decisions but if I couldn’t make a management decision to keep things going he didn’t need me because I wasn’t managing anything.
That was a profound insight. As an SAP project manager if you won’t make the tough decisions to get things going and keep them going then what are you managing?
Decisions must be made as quickly as humanly possible. Delaying key decisions, or delaying any decision making, creates the appearance of indecisiveness, reduces confidence in your ability to lead, creates constant “swirl” around key issues, and slows the project. It also creates an atmosphere where others avoid decision-making and become embroiled in analysis paralysis (or “swirl”) because that is the culture you as the project manager are creating.
Next week, more on building and maintaining momentum and the sense of urgency.