If you are determined to gain and then maintain SAP project momentum you will see stress. Part of the requirement for momentum includes asking people to reach for stretch goals which can challenge (and deepen) their capabilities but also causes tension and even conflict.
One author says conflict is “a situation of competition in which the parties are aware of the incompatibility of potential future positions and in which each party wishes to occupy a position which is incompatible with the wishes of the other.” [FN1]
In plain English, conflict happens when there are competing expectations and priorities. Put another way, I want what I want and you want what you want and the level of our conflict depends on just how much each of us wants “it”.
Without hands on, active SAP project management it is likely that stress and conflict will destroy your SAP project momentum. Active SAP project management is not about micromanaging people or their activities but rather finding the right balance around task execution and delivery while working through the stress that will arise. As a project manager part of your key responsibility is to work through conflict to maintain momentum. At its most basic project SAP project management is like babysitting adults who at times act like squabbling children (and I’ve been guilty of childish squabbling as well at times!).
Key Phases of SAP Project Stress Which Can Create Conflict
In relation to physical and life stress Canadian Physician Hans Selye (1907 – 1982) proposed 3 stages of stress in his 1956 book “The Stress of Life”:
On an SAP project the alarm or panic stage occurs when you attempt to create a rapid project delivery pace. The resistance stage occurs when the alarm does not slow down or stop the momentum that is gaining. Exhaustion or “checking out” can occur when the stresses and pressures of an overly aggressive timeline continue beyond what the project participants are able or willing to deliver. A good SAP project manager must carefully evaluate and then manage the source(s) of alarm and resistance.
The key to good SAP project management is to maintain a sense of urgency that is strong enough to keep momentum high but no so urgent or so stressful that it causes people to burn out or check out.
There is a healthy level of tension which is needed to keep momentum going but knowing where that line is requires a project manager to be directly engaged with the project participants. Even though it is critical to gain and then maintain momentum at times you also have to know when to ease up to allow the stress level to moderate.
It is equally important for a project manager to know whether the alarm and resistance are from unskilled project participants who are trying to hide their lack of experience, or from unrealistic demands, or from the project as a whole.
At First Most People Try to Deal With SAP Project Stress in a Productive Manner
Regardless of the reason for the stress, and ultimately what the conflict is, most people do attempt to mitigate the initial source of the stress. The research shows they may:
- apply extra effort to compensate for the greater demands,
- they may attempt to overcome the stress by fixating on the task(s) which create the stress, or,
- they may become anxious, worry, and then avoid the tasks.
If a project manager is skilled and recognizes these signs they can quickly intervene and help to alleviate the source of the stress. Although it is critical for momentum to keep a forward looking perspective throughout the project there are times it is more productive to pause, reflect, and allow stress levels to lower. When you see tension and stress building to an unhealthy level it may be time for a special recognition of how much progress has been gained to help people regain a sense of perspective and give them a chance to “take a breath.”
A good SAP project manager must carefully evaluate and then manage the source(s) of alarm and resistance.
Knowing when to back off the gas and recognize accomplishments and when to press the gas and push ahead is the most difficult skill for any project manager to develop. It is like a professional race car driver who must know when to step on the gas, when to let off, when to apply the brakes, and when to step back on the throttle. A project manager who is able to perform that balancing act demonstrates their experience and their people skills. This requires direct engagement with the project participants on a day to day basis.
This type of engagement by the SAP project manager needs to be in the project participants’ work environments, not just in planned meetings where people may not be as candid or forthright. That direct engagement requires the project manager to serve as an active umpire, counselor, decision-maker, expediter, and all around gopher to help coordinate many of the integration activities.
A Good SAP project manager GENUINELY UNDERSTANDS that their success depends on every other project participant’s success and will directly engage in activities which help promote the success of project participants. Sometimes this means giving some project participants the opportunity to be successful on a different project :)
As a final thought, an SAP project manager who needs a separate “integration manager” should be more carefully considered. It may be necessary but do you really need a Microsoft Project administrator or a meeting monitor or do you need a manager for your project? Needing an “integraton manager” may be a way to avoid the day to day involvement that is critical for SAP project success.
[FN1] Capozzoli TK. Conflict resolution-a key ingredient in successful teams. Supervision (60:11), 1999, pp 14-16