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How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

(OP)
New job, new workflows, new people to interact with, new responsibilities. At the new job we are getting ready to implement new/modern/web-based ERP (enterprise resource planning) and PLM (product lifecycle management) systems. I have been made a project lead and administrator for the PLM side of things. Part of my duties involves coordinating between several distributed sites. People doing their current jobs have been doing them "for years", which seems to be close to 5-8yrs. That's a long enough time to get comfortable and complacent, and adopt the ill-fated "we've always done it this way" mentality.

I'm trying to reach out to everyone so they can voice their concerns, and I can get some "I'd fix it like this if I could" suggestions. I'm also trying to put them at ease about the inevitable changes to their world, and explain the benefits of the new systems. As probably normal, I am experiencing some emotional responses and resistance. As an example, one person has been in charge of issuing part numbers. The format and reasoning behind the format makes little sense. When I ask about it, I am given good explanations for process in a manual system. When I try to bring up examples of why the current system is not effective, I get agreement but it is swept under the rug as "usually never happens" or "yes, sometimes my system fails". When I try to speak about the upcoming automated system and how things could change to make things more efficient and streamlined, I get the "fine, do what you want" responses.

I am generally a nice guy, and want to get consensus from the key players but it isn't happening. My supervisor is of the hands-off approach. My communications with key players have been via Lync (still Skype), Webex, or GoTo Meetings. My supervisor agrees with me face-to-face, but doesn't "publicly" support my arguments in these other venues. I'm looking for sage advice.

"Art without engineering is dreaming; Engineering without art is calculating."

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RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

MadMango,

The biggest success I ever had setting things up on computers was when we set up to use PordWerfect to write up parts lists. This was a long time ago. I realized that a bunch of low paid, unskilled clerks were going to be trying make sense of descriptions like CAP SCREW HEX SOKCET, CAP SCREW, SOCKET HAD CAP SCR, HSHCS, and such, and were not going to realize that all actually are the same thing. I was determined to have letter perfect parts lists. (typos deliberate)

I can touch type. This rendered me invincible. I typed up a list of fasteners that we would use. Anyone needing to populate a parts list would load my file and copy and paste the appropriate BOM entry. A few years later, our fastener entries were letter perfect. People had a choice. They could do it my way or they could do it the hard way.

--
JHG

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

MadMango,

One other tip.

Don't assume you know how to do their jobs. If you control the work process for some job you don't do, you are probably doing it wrong. Your system should be, if at all possible, transparent to the way people do their work.

--
JHG

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

Not an easy task. Especially when dealing with engineers that always want to know 'why'

I have found that extensive process flow diagrams can show the big picture of how information gets from one department to another to illustrate 'the why'

Another resource is temporary workers or co-ops to man-handle data conversion to clean up years of 'almost following a process'

Run pilot programs to prove out your new processes and work out the bugs

Don't be afraid to sideline processes that just aren't working; you can always go back and rework them after the fact and allows you to carry the program forward to prove out the remaining processes

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

2
After dozens of projects, the speech could write itself. When I see somewhat consistent resistance, the speech goes something like, "my job is to implement the best ERP and PLM systems possible. Your job is to provide meaningful, productive, and efficient content for your part. I will implement a system with you, or without you. It's your choice. If it's with you, we will have fun on the journey, it will be a much better product, and you will share in all that is bestowed upon us. If it's without you, you won't. It's entirely up to you."

The direct approach saves a lot of time, IMO. Rarely does someone get moved out of the way, but it does happen from time to time.

Good luck,
Latexman

To a ChE, the glass is always full - 1/2 air and 1/2 water.

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

Been there, done that.
When confronted with an argument along the lines of "we've always done it that way", I cringe. I had a long diatribe I was going to write in response, but, in the end, Latexman said what I was going to say, just more succinctly.

Jeff Mirisola, CSWE
My Blog

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

It's easier to run with someone and trip him than to stop him in his tracks.

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

When I was promoted to department manager, some people had to go. I never had to outright fire anybody, but some people's day to day became so unbearable to them that attrition took its toll. Do the best you can, stay your course and most of the BS will weed itself out. The garden is never free of weeds, though.

Being a manager for the first time, it took some time to sort out when I was wrong about something vs when others were being unreasonable. I had many a time where I felt unsure or wasn't confident. I sought advice of others with management experience more than once! I found that certain things were better discussed with managers I know outside of my company.



RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

ERP and PLM and SFT and WRZ and ACBS is all the same thing - so many people in the modern work environment have to "create" something in order to be announced or declared as creative and useful and contributing to the company and bla bla bla. I see entire departments creating massive amounts of fog and B/S in order to justify their existence - otherwise they will be replaced with robots or what?

Adjustment to a good system or to a principle is great school of life, adjustment to B/S is an act of moral and intellectual capitulation.

Dejan IVANOVIC
Process Engineer, MSChE

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

The OP is in a tough spot being in a new position with new people to interact with. Rejigging processes that you have intimate knowledge of is tough enough let alone starting from scratch.

I've seen too many managers come in after reading things like 'your iceberg is melting' or 'first rule is break all the rules' and scrap an existing workflow without understanding the consequences. Typically they make a lot of noise and then move on to other projects and leave a broken process behind, often worse than the original process

Another mistake commonly made is creating a process that doesn't handle emergency situations - late design changes, forced vendor changes, etc.

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

I recommend watching several episodes of 'House of Lies', probably the first full season.

That will give you lots of pointers in how to proceed.

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

(OP)
Thanks all for the advice. The management role is nothing new to me, and I don't consider this a management position, just more of a one-man steering committee. My supervisor announced yesterday that I am "The Guy, that's why I hired him" and for everyone involved to assist and support me. The changes in most attitudes have been like night & day. I am receiving process improvement ideas, part numbering suggestions, etc. I still need to make sense of it all, but at least I am getting data.

"Art without engineering is dreaming; Engineering without art is calculating."

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RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

A "NOW HERE THIS" moment?

Good luck,
Latexman

To a ChE, the glass is always full - 1/2 air and 1/2 water.

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

But do read the whole of Parkinson's Law - not just the precis of Chapter 1 contained in that article.

The High Finance and Principles of Selection chapters still make my toes curl.

A.

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

Mad Mango- I am in the same boat at my company with a small rag-tag group trying to standardize engineering work processes. We have been at this for about 5 years now with some success and much frustration. Slowly we are starting to get some management buy-in. To speed this along, I am convinced that we need some sort of matrix to track completion of key workflow elements. The propose is not to get anyone in trouble, at least not yet. There just needs to be some picture of how well each piece of the puzzle is being completed and, if things are falling through the cracks, we can start to figure out why and make changes that address the issue. There are some good reasons that certain things are not getting done, one of which is that we have minimal administrative support. I am hoping, probably quixotically, that the matrix will inspire management to hire some assistants.

In short - make a tracking matrix.

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

MadMango, I was hired to my current employer just over 10 years ago as part of a team doing similar stuff.

I would say try to understand what they do now & how & why etc. as coming in and not fully taking stock of the existing situation will pi$$ folks off. Sadly I was about the last of my team to be hired and my colleagues had already ruffled a few feathers.

Also, if some of the folks are up to their necks in if fighting proverbial Alligators, they may not be too concerned about you trying to improve the valves on the drainage pumps.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

I worked for many years in process development and grew a pretty thick skin. I recognized that most of my policy memos were read as "Colleagues - when naming new parts, please blah blah blah blah". I would pick and chose my battles - some policies took, others didn't. The stuff that was required for compliance documentation wasn't negotiable, cleaning up line weights on legacy autocad drawings not so much

RE: How to be a Friendly Conquerer?

(OP)
Kenat, I would have loved to have been able to experience "the system" for a time, but the deadline is end of January 2016. Considering all the holidays and time off people have from now and then, there isn't much time left. Great example, current engineering/drafting standards are being managed by an EE. His only exposure to "standards" are vendor datasheets and design standards associated with PCBAs, so when I askt why nothing conforms to ASME Y14.100 or ASME Y14.5 I hear crickets.

"Art without engineering is dreaming; Engineering without art is calculating."

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