I was contacted by a manufacturing company in a world of hurt. The short version: the client had purchased an ERP system with the hope that business execution would improve. It didn’t. There were no processes in place to be integrated with the new tool. No one used it. The ERP investment was yielding no business benefit.

The client had an open stockroom and did not want to build a cage around it. When it came time for process roll-out, I had to share the idea of “transacting inventory” to account for its consumption by individual job. I knew “transacting inventory” would never resonate with this team so I had to invent a sticky way of making the point.

As I drove by a Wal-Mart, I discovered a solution to my problem:

  • Wal-Mart is like a big open stock room
  • If you don’t pay (transact the merchandise) at the register on your way out the door, it’s shoplifting.
  • And, for my client, if they didn’t stop by the “register” to charge off the parts to the job, that, too, would be considered shoplifting.

The notion of “shoplifting” became the key to my training and to changing the business practices and culture around ERP adoption. After all, who would want to be accused of shoplifting?

This idea stuck. When someone would come out of the stockroom with one or more parts, the other people on the shop floor would point at the person and ask if they shoplifted the parts. This became a big part of driving inventory accuracy.

Without this “shoplifting” idea, I doubt we would have gotten the adoption we needed. The company had a 35-year history of not transacting inventory–it was like being in the wild, wild West. Yet, I helped my client cross this uncrossable chasm in a matter of minutes.

The lesson: meet people where they are, not where you wish they are if you want them to adopt change their world. It’s okay to make it fun sometimes, too.

 Photo Credit: Alison Christine, Flickr.com

Thought for the week:

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn
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What do you think? I welcome your comments!
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Dave Gardner

Dave Gardner is a management consultant, speaker, author, and blogger based in Silicon Valley. He's been in the front row for the birth and evolution of Silicon Valley, the innovation capital of the world. Since 1992, Dave Gardner focuses on making the complex simple around people, process and technology. Dave is the author of Mass Customization: An Enterprise-Wide Business Strategy - How Build to Order, Assemble to Order, Configure to Order, Make to Order, and Engineer to Order Manufacturers Increase Profits and Better Satisfy Customers.

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