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Byo Leadership 1

Leadership Project: Newell-Rubbermaid’s SAP Implementation

Submitted By Ben Byo Southwestern College 2009


Byo Leadership 2 Introduction In 2005 Newell-Rubbermaid embarked on a five-year project to implement SAP, a leading Enterprise Planning software system. With brands such as Rubbermaid, Graco, Calphalon, Levelor, and Sharpie this project has been gradually implemented by brand with the Rubbermaid brand being the last to implement. Within each brand, SAP impacts five areas of the business: Warehouse Management, Sales & Customer Service, Purchasing, Manufacturing Planning, and Finance. As the Manager of Production Inventory Control and Distribution my day-to-day responsibilities are significantly impacted by the implementation of SAP. My Distribution responsibilities are impacted by the warehouse management, sales & customer service, and manufacturing planning aspects of SAP. Similarly, my Production Inventory Control responsibilities are impacted or influenced by each of the five areas as we coordinate production plans to satisfy customer requirements and financial targets. With that in mind I was selected as the Business Process Champion (BPC) to lead the project implementation within the Rubbermaid Home and Food Products Winfield, KS manufacturing facility. The SAP project for Winfield operations began in early 2008 with an analysis of the scope, gaps, and operational challenges. Over the past 18 months numerous data audits and testing sessions have taken place to ensure the organization is prepared for a successful conversion. Since there is no plan to run SAP concurrently with our legacy system this preparation is the first critical component of a successful implementation. After the initial analysis and audits the project reached the point in which additional project members were brought on-board to help coordinate end-user training which is the other critical component of a successful implementation. With the implementation scheduled to “go-live� on April 1st of 2010 the project is now in its final stage of preparation.


Byo Leadership 3 Description of Project and Organization Due to the multi-year nature of the project determining how to properly asses the projects progress has been challenging for both myself and the other project stakeholders including the executive team. Ultimately measuring the progress of the project has been measure by utilizing three different tools. First, a project timeline was established at the beginning of the project which established critical deadlines for key targets within the project. Next, bi-monthly data audits were performed to verify the accuracy of the data as compared to the legacy system. Finally, end-user training hours were documented and compared with targeted goals and quarterly end-user surveys were used to monitor the effectiveness of the training. To date, the project performance has gone very smoothly when compared to the tools previously mentioned. The project has remained on schedule and within budget with one minor schedule adjustment needed as a result of a delay with the implementation of another brand. While the initial data audits proved to be problematic each subsequent audit has improved with the latest audit yielding over 99% financial accuracy. End-user training has also yielded sufficient improvements as indicated by the end-user surveys. Significant training is still required prior to go-live but those sessions have been scheduled with contingency plans in place. As mentioned, at this stage of the project everything has gone as planned which should be expected given the experience the company has gained through previous implementations with other Newell-Rubbermaid brands. Over the past 18 months the project has produced many different emotions and feelings among the project team. In the beginning it felt as though SAP would never work for our business and our operations. However, as development took place the new system has satisfied many of our requirements and has shown opportunities where it will improve upon the


Byo Leadership 4 functionality of our legacy system. Still, perhaps the most frustrating part of the project is the inability to make process improvements. From the beginning the goal has been to copy current functionality and focus on process improvements after go-live. While that approach is understandable given the scope, timing, and desired ease of implementation it is also frustrating as we each team member sees opportunities to streamline and improve our processes. We also know that the corporate resources that are currently dedicated to the project won’t be as readily available post go-live which further encourages us to take advantage of these resources now rather than later. Even with the frustration associated with maintaining current functionality the project has provided a tremendous sense of unity, accomplishment, and pride. These feelings have replaced the fear, disbelief, and the feeling of being overwhelmed which were common descriptors used in the beginning stages of the project. Even though the project hasn’t been implemented the overall experience and understanding of SAP that has been developed over the past 18 months has been the primary driver for the change in feelings. In the beginning every day brought a new experience within SAP which made it difficult to absorb everything that was going on. However, with time and repetition the sense of being overwhelmed has been replaced with confidence and desire. Now the project members seek out training opportunities to share the advantages of SAP and are proud of the knowledge gained and alliances built through the process. Modeling the Way Within every organization there is an established set of values that guides the behavior of the associates. Sometimes these values are formally published by upper management and other times these values are informally communicated through the actions of the organizations leaders.


Byo Leadership 5 Fortunately Newell-Rubbermaid has established five values that are critical to the organization’s success. Still, even if upper management encourages and demonstrates these values the leadership team at each facility must also be dedicated to the organizations values. With that in mind the plant leadership team within for Winfield operations established six values that correspond with Newell-Rubbermaid’s core values. These plant values were then utilized for the project with particular emphasis on three of the values; development, teamwork and collaboration, and results. Development, teamwork and collaboration, and results were chosen due to the opportunity the SAP project provides each project participant from a personal development and growth perspective. First, personal development is a key organizational goal that is critical to the future success of Newell-Rubbermaid. As one of Newell-Rubbermaid’s key initiatives the SAP project provides an excellent growth opportunity for project members. Not only are the project members instrumental in the design and training of the system but they’re able to network with professionals they wouldn’t typically interact with within Winfield. The next value, teamwork and collaboration, is vital to the projects success. The SAP project involves professionals from Finance, Distribution, Supply Chain, and Purchasing. Furthermore many programmers are involved along with SAP experts from other brands. While each participant is responsible for a small piece of the overall project the scope of each participants work impacts a number of people and job functions. Making sure each individual’s work corresponds with the functional needs of the business is critical and requires significant teamwork and collaboration. The final value, results, simply emphasizes the need for the project to be successful. Staying on-schedule and improving with each data load and testing round is critical towards keeping the project within budget.


Byo Leadership 6 The fortunate part about these values is the ability to demonstrate all three values within the project. Take Mitzi, a project member, for example; at one point she was having trouble determining which storage sequence was most appropriate for the warehouse management segment of SAP. This decision was critical towards future aspects of the project as the storage sequence provides the baseline for warehouse functionality. After recognizing this potential delay Sharon, another project member, was paired up with Mitzi to help discuss the options. Sharon was ahead of schedule but was unfamiliar with the storage sequence piece of SAP’s functionality. In the end, Mitzi’s demonstrations to Sharon helped finalize her storage sequence decision. In this example the results value was demonstrated as the project remained onschedule even though an additional resource was required. Teamwork and collaboration was demonstrated in Sharon’s willingness to help and development was demonstrated in Sharon’s participation in an area she was unfamiliar with. Examples like this were demonstrated throughout the project and helped a majority of the project members gain an understanding of the capabilities of SAP overall rather than simply within their area of responsibility. While the values chosen for the SAP implementation project proved to be valuable one way to improve involves forging a consensus around the values. In this case the values were chosen after careful consideration by the leadership team but little input was obtained from the project participants. In future projects I plan to come up with the project values as a team enabling the project members to share what they hope to gain from the project. Not only will this help the team find a consensus but it will also allow the team members to understand what is important to their fellow team members.


Byo Leadership 7 Inspiring a Shared Vision As previously discussed, in addition to the business objectives SAP serves, the personal development opportunity provided by the project can’t be overstated. Although the traditional resistance to change was evident in the beginning, the project members quickly found a shared vision in the development opportunities SAP provided. Once it became evident that each project member would be viewed as the “subject matter expert” within their facility there was a noticeable shift in attentiveness towards the details of SAP. The mindset of the project team shifted from “tell me how” to “tell me why” because they wanted to know what drove each action SAP took. Although the project has yet to be implemented it is clear the development opportunity the project provides is paying off. Three project members have already accepted promotions to be effective post go-live. Two other project members have been considered for similar promotions only to lose the opportunity due to the timing of SAP’s go-live. Clearly the organization values the experience and knowledge these project members have gained while on the project which is exactly why the shared vision was established. Many project members have referred to the project as a marathon because you have to have a long-term, steady approach to make it to the end. Within the first six months of the project we lost 2 project members because they were “burnt out.” Looking back these two members simply tried to accomplish too much too quick. They were working long hours and even though they were making a name for themselves they simply couldn’t maintain the pace they had established. Furthermore, their sprint didn’t impact the project as a whole because so many other pieces were required before schedule adjustments could be made. As a result, this is one aspect of the project I would improve upon in the future. Ensuring everyone knows their commitment lasts through go-live whether they finish their requirements in two months or two


Byo Leadership 8 years and monitoring the efforts of the team to ensure no one is pushing too hard. Ultimately the couple months surrounding go-live are the most critical and the project members must remain fresh to ensure a successful implementation. Challenging the Process One of the challenges we have traditionally faced on multi-departmental projects within the Winfield manufacturing facility is the proximity of the various departments to each other. The distribution department resides in one building with planning in another and finance in yet another. Although each building is within walking distance this, obviously, makes communication and collaboration difficult as meetings must be established to get everyone together. Simply walking down the haul to discuss the issue of the day wasn’t an option. In an attempt to improve this challenge the decision was made early in the project to pull the project resources out of their departmental home and place them together in a large conference room. The room was basic with white boards on the wall, one conference and video phone, and a desk for each team member. There was a bathroom, a kitchen, and a vacated office down the hall which could be utilized for privacy when needed. While the relocation of the project members was very unpopular in the beginning I’m convinced it was the right thing to do for the project and don’t feel we could have duplicated the teamwork and collaboration we’ve demonstrated without it. Slowly the conference room has become our home. A couple months into the project we purchased a blow up punching bag to allow the team members to blow off steam when they’re frustrated. We also purchased a Rock Em Sock Em Robots game to be used to settle simple disputes. Ultimately bringing the project team together in this conference room has provided


Byo Leadership 9 immeasurable benefits as the team members are right next to each other to discuss their actions and how they affect each others responsibilities without needing to track down the other party. Enabling Others to Act From the beginning of the project one particular policy limited the communication of the overall SAP project. Based on past implementations the corporate SAP team developed a very structured line of communication where the site project lead was the primary point of contact with the corporate SAP team. The site project lead was responsible for communicating issues, understanding how to resolve the issue, and then relaying the information to the site project team. This process was developed to ensure the corporate SAP resources maximized their development time rather than answering inquires that could be resolved by the site project lead. In other words, the site project lead was essentially a filter between the site project team and the corporate project team. While the basis for such a strict structure is understood this structure also limited the site project teams access to the resources that knew the most about SAP. This, in turn, limited their growth opportunities and the development vision we established for our site project team. Ultimately this restriction resulted in the site project members feeling more like role players versus true project members and questioning their involvement overall. To resolve this issue we implemented a daily review of issues the team felt required the attention of the corporate SAP team. Throughout the day the team members would write unresolved issues on a dedicated white board and at 2p each day we would review the issues. Sometimes I, as the project lead, could resolve the issue without corporate involvement and other times I would direct them to the appropriate corporate SAP contact. For the initial contact the team member and I would jointly reach out to the corporate SAP contact for the appropriate introductions. Thereafter the team member would reach out individually to discuss their issue


Byo Leadership 10 and report their findings to the group during the next 2p meeting. This process, although cumbersome at times, enabled the site project members to interact and learn directly from the corporate SAP project members while also filtering the overall inquiries placed on the corporate resources. By removing this barrier the site project members immediately felt more engaged and truly part of the SAP team. Although we occasionally aggravate the corporate SAP team this process allows us to adhere to our development vision and better prepare our site team members for a successful go-live. Ultimately, at go-live this preparation should reduce our reliance on the corporate SAP resources as our site members have the knowledge to troubleshoot most issues that may arise. Encouraging the Heart Within any project there are highs and lows but this is especially true over the course of a two year project such as this SAP implementation. In an attempt to keep the team motivated various forms of recognition have been utilized. The daily 2p meeting discussed above provides the perfect opportunity to verbally recognize the team or the individual members for their progress. Such recognition could be for acts as simple as one member reaching out to assist another or the successful completion of a project milestone such as data audits. In addition, about six months into the project we implemented the Pokey award. The Pokey award was a toy Pokey character from the once popular kids show Gumby. The premise was that Gumby got all of the recognition but couldn’t have accomplished what he did without his trusty sidekick Pokey. Once we established the award we began holding a monthly project team vote to determine who should carry the Pokey award for the following month. We would present the award on a Friday along with some pizza and a mandatory afternoon off for the team. Although I know the team appreciated the verbal recognition they really grew to enjoy the Friday Pokey presentations. I


Byo Leadership 11 believe these events were successful because the award was representative of the team’s recognition rather than simply my recognition and it meant a lot to have their efforts recognized by the team as a whole. Another form of recognition that is planned prior to go-live is the purchase of team jerseys. Throughout the project the team members have discovered a common bond in their passion for football. Some prefer college and others prefer NFL but, nevertheless, everyone enjoys football. In preparation for go-live we plan to purchase personalized jerseys that represent each project member’s favorite football team to serve not only as a form of recognition but also as a mock uniform for other associates to recognize them as SAP experts. Tying it All Together – Lessons Learned When reviewing the SAP implementation project to date I feel extremely proud of the progress the Winfield site team has made coming together as a team. Throughout the project a few key actions stand out in terms of their importance towards the development of the project team. The first action, challenging the process, in which we relocated the project team to one conference room was a highly unpopular but a critically important action to take. Although this was the most difficult action to implement, without this action the team would have rarely been together and each member would have been acting with consideration only to his/her own interests. While the project could have been implemented under this scenario the go-live process would have been marred with problems as everyone’s individual work was finally combined. By bringing the team together each team member was readily available to discuss the implications of one member’s decisions on the remainder of the team. These discussions not only ensured quality decisions but also acted as a developmental tool as each project member


Byo Leadership 12 was learning about the overall scope of the project and the projects overall impact on the business. The next important action, enabling others to act, challenged one particular policy that limited communication between the site project team and the corporate SAP team. Ultimately we were able to implement a process that satisfied the corporate SAP team’s desires while also enabling our site project members to have access to the critically important resources. While this may appear to be a relatively simply action the impact this action has had on the project team has been phenomenal. When the site project members gained access to the corporate resources there was an immediate shift in their attention to detail and overall excitement regarding the project. Aspects of SAP that were previously undiscovered were being learned and shared throughout the group and you could see everyone begin to think of the future potential an enterprise system such as SAP brings to our business. The final action, inspiring a shared vision, connected the project to each individual project member’s development. While the project values were understood they didn’t take hold with the project members until the vision was developed. Whereas the project began as “another assignment” it quickly became a development opportunity as each project member realized the impact they would have on the organization and the opportunity that existed for them personally. Now, as project members begin to find their post go-live assignments it’s nice to see how the development has paid off. While I feel the above actions were critical to the project success to date there is one aspect that I would improve upon in future projects. The formulation of the project team’s values was handled poorly and led to some initial ill-feelings on behalf of the project members. The development of the project team’s values could have been used as an initial opportunity to


Byo Leadership 13 bring the team together and learn about each member. Instead, the values were directed to the team and a big opportunity was missed. In the future I plan to take more proactive step in the early stages of the project to bring the project team together and learn about the priorities of each team member. Although we eventually got to the point in which we understood each other the process was much more difficult than it needed to be. Two critical aspects of leadership that I’ve learned throughout this project is the importance of recognition and empowerment. Although often overlooked recognition is critically important in keeping the team motivated; especially over the course of a multi-year project such as this SAP implementation. I began the project so worried about the timeline that I never wanted to take time away to recognize the work being accomplished. However, I soon realized the recognition, especially the Pokey award, energized the team and actually mad us more productive. I also learned that consistent positive recognition made the occasional negative or constructive feedback much easier to communicate. Both the project member and I knew what he/she was capable of so any constructive feedback was merely a tool to help the team member find their potential. The power of empowerment was also an important lesson I learned throughout this project. Prior to taking the enabling others to act action discussed above I was an advocate of the corporate SAP teams policy regarding being contacted only by site project leads. After all, I was a project lead and I desired to be “in the know” with everything related to the Winfield project team. Fortunately I realized I was doing myself and the Winfield team members a disservice by limiting their access to the true SAP experts. I was overwhelmed with all of the information and simply couldn’t absorb enough to adequately train the Winfield team members. By taking the action discussed above I empowered the Winfield team members which streamlined their


Byo Leadership 14 learning and enabled me to focus on my actions as they pertain to the project teams values and vision; particularly seeking developmental opportunities for the team members. Future Learning Opportunities As discussed the SAP project has provided numerous important learning opportunities for me personally. Still, a few opportunities come to mind when considering future learning. First, in many ways project management is similar to leadership in that the needs of each project are unique to the situation. In other words, although the actions taken in this project have been successful to date the same actions won’t necessarily be successful in future projects. With that in mind, the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, presented by Kouzes and Posner (2003), help leaders focus on the actions that are typically present in successful projects. Taking these Five Practices and applying them to future projects will only strengthen my approach to leadership. In addition to seeking additional leadership roles I’d like to explore mentoring opportunities. I feel I could take the “lessons learned” throughout this project and help another project leader be more successful with their respective project. At the same time I would be learning another aspect of leadership through the eyes of the individual I would be mentoring. Finally, leaders of voluntary associations have my utmost respect as they must rely on their ability to model the way and inspire a shared vision to gain influence versus the power associated with leaders in paid positions. Taking Kouzes and Posner’s (2003) Five Practices into a leadership role within a voluntary organization would provide, perhaps, the best opportunity to learn, grow, and develop as a true transformational leader. Conclusion This paper has reviewed Newell-Rubbermaid’s SAP implementation project within the Winfield manufacturing facility. Eighteen months into a two year project everything has


Byo Leadership 15 remained within budget and on-schedule. Furthermore, data audits and end-user training have steadily improved indicating the Winfield facility is well on-track for a successful April 1, 2010 go-live. Still, the past eighteen months have not been without turmoil and adjustments. In particular, three important actions were taken to improve the project team’s collaboration, engagement, and personal development. Although the fruits of these actions won’t be fully recognized until after go-live it is clear the actions of the Winfield project team has made an impression on the organization as project members are already being recruited for post go-live opportunities. For me personally, the project has provided me with learning and growth opportunities I could not have experienced outside of the project environment. I witnessed first hand the impact recognition and empowerment has on the team member performance. I also learned about the importance of engaging the entire team when developing team-related objectives such as values, vision, and goals. Ultimately the project has made me a better leader and I look forward to future leadership opportunities to further develop and put my learning into action.


Byo Leadership 16 References Kouzes, J.M. & Posner, B.Z. (2003). The Leadership Challenge Workbook. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Leadership Project