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Change Management: Glitches and Wrinkles

By BTM Institute Staff Writer  |  Posted 2008-11-04 Print this article Print

The BTM Institute interviews Robert Keefe, CIO of Mueller Water Products and member of the Society for Information Management (SIM) to get some perspective on effectively handling technology-related change management and organizational change management.

Q. Can you describe some of the glitches that put a wrinkle in the change management process?

During the construction of the new plant, we had instances where equipment didn't arrive on time or things didn't go as well as we had envisioned it from an engineering standpoint. Retrenching and doing things over affected our budget, our timeline, and the people working on the project. Moreover, it also put a dent in our credibility of whether or not we could accomplish the company's goal.

With one of the ERP systems, we didn't have a smooth implementation when we carried out a pilot test of parallel systems. We had many things missing. People had envisioned better results than what we had achieved.

Because we had a hard deadline for the divestitures, we make sure we had a contingency of many manual processes. We didn't have the time to correct things.

Q. Did hiring a consulting firm simplify the technology change management process?

For some of the larger ERP systems, we hired a consulting firm. Some of the firms brought their own change management methodology and had team members trained in organizational behavior or in organizational development. In these cases, the systems implementations went very well. On the other hand, doing things according to the way the consulting firm worked added to our frustration at times.

Q. Can you go into more detail about working through the change management process with a new acquisition?

We spent most of our time figuring out how to bring two different cultures together harmoniously.  The parent company had a very process-oriented culture where people carefully looked at each step and its related contingencies. Management wanted to make sure it had a solid strategy for growing the business. The acquired company, which had achieved much success, had a highly entrepreneurial and patriarchal culture. People in this company weren't as analytical as those in the other company. They operated more on their gut feelings, not thinking twice about any risks.  Unfortunately, the person who started the company had left, leaving everyone floundering around. No one had a good sense of the marketplace or the customers' needs. The company, however, had a good product line, but the competition had started to eat at it.

Because of the cultural clash between the two companies and because of the strength of acquired company's product line, we decided to hire an organizational development consultant to help us work out a reasonable comprise between the two companies.

We went through the process of determining what the value proposition was, how we could make customers happier by migrating them to newer products, and how to make the acquired company's employees feel welcome by the new leadership team.

The BTM Institute (www.btminstitute.org) brings together the academic, corporate, government and thought-leadership communities as a multi-disciplinary research think tank to address the need to integrate business and technology.
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