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What Star Trek Has Taught Me about Team Dynamics in ERP Implementation

Posted by Scott A. Holter on Mar 20, 2014 9:56:00 AM

Last month we discussed the factors associated with a successful ERP implementation. This month I’d like to Space Shipdive a little deeper on the topic of team dynamics. Who are the types of people that should be on the project team? What does each of the team members need to bring to the table that contribute to the success of an implementation project? And how on earth does this relate to the loveable characters of Star Trek?

Although many readers like me may not remember the original episodes, with syndication, I grew up on Star Trek. I loved following the story of Captain Kirk and the USS Enterprise as they boldly went where no man has gone before. It was creative, exciting, and entertaining.  Now, years later here I am spending most of my time in a virtual space, aboard an Enterprise Resource Planning System, working with foreign crew members trying to figure out this thing called ERP. Regardless of whether you’re a Trekkie or not, I’d like to discuss how the main characters of the original series relate to ERP implementation projects today. It is my perspective that there are 5 personality traits that contribute meaningful value in this time of change for your organization. Ready? Engage!

Positivity: Captain James T. Kirk

Captain Kirk is the commanding officer aboard the USS Enterprise. You are undoubtedly going to need a person on the team who can fill the role of a cheerleader, hence Captain Kirk. This is a person who can see through failure to the important lessons learned and can more importantly lead the team members through moments of despair or setback, which is the essence of Captain Kirk. Not an empty shell by any means, but rather a person who can boost morale and has an inner strength for motivating the team. ERP implementation projects occur once in every 10 or so years, so the likelihood that you or your team has the experience required to be successful, is lessened by the fact that some of the previous launch team may no longer be with your firm. You are going to experience obstacles, setbacks, and even failures; it’s this person’s job to not allow the negativity to get the best of your team and to continue your journey forward.

Collaborative: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura

Lieutenant Uhura is the chief communications officer on the Enterprise. Her talents go beyond communicating directly to the Captain, as she has also mastered multiple languages. To me, her character is symbolic of collaboration, a requirement for any team. This is a person who will be the glue holding your team together, who has an uncanny ability to work with and communicate effectively with anyone at any time because they can see other’s strengths and harness other’s valuable input. An ERP system is at its core, a collaboration of many different roles and responsibilities that communicates data and information across those functional roles. By having a person that can speak the language of an operations manager, while talking to your salesperson is pivotal. Don’t underestimate the value in such a role, as you might find a large gap between your ERP system and the end-users without a translator to bridge that gap. This person is great at fulfilling this role and then translating your requirements into how the new ERP system will handle these issues.

Strategic: Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu

Mr. Sulu is the senior helmsman aboard the Enterprise. At first he may be a stretch for this strategic quality, but Mr. Sulu sets the course of the Enterprise and calculates the trajectory and speed. Do you have a person that does the same on your implementation project? Typically, these are the big picture thinkers that often find themselves in a project manager role or project leadership role. True visionaries who can lay down a path for success, set priorities, and attain the goals of the organization within the project. They keep the team on task, on budget, on time, on scope, and provide direction and a course of action. Above all, they’re the decision makers in times of confusion by leveraging their strengths of being proactive and pragmatic thinkers. They can also quickly re-set the course, to react to changing business conditions.

Analytical: Spock

Mister Spock is the first officer and the chief science officer under Captain Kirk. When formulating your team, you will want a person that is motivated by numbers and statistics - just the facts, please! However, these detail-oriented people often are the ones to uncover problems and work through solutions because they can break down the complexity into manageable portions. This person values a logical perspective, and very rarely will let their emotions interfere with the facts. Expect this person to give you a straight answer without the frills, but you may want to help them stay out of the technical detail weeds, while still maintaining a big picture focus.

Systematic: Montgomery Scott

Mr. Scott serves as the chief engineer aboard the Enterprise. It is because of his vast technical knowledge of the Enterprise that he often finds himself translating the technical capabilities of the ship into realistic solutions for the Captain’s strategic plans. It is almost too obvious that you will need someone with vast technical skills and acumen of your ERP system to translate the functional requirements of your business into technical solutions. They are the valuable people that have a methodical approach to problem solving, connecting the dots across divisions or functional roles and also develop stronger bonds across the weak points in your system. They are best likened to an IT Manager. They are very talented people and even more rare to find. Don’t expect your ship (ERP system) to go anywhere without someone with the technical expertise to metaphorically get it out of the space dock, let alone engage your more complicated tasks like warp speed or MRP. It helps to have someone on board from the beginning who knows how to fix those critical elements.

So what are the key takeaways from this? Truly the best value you can gain as a reader is to acknowledge that your core team- meaning the personnel charged with getting your system up, running and functional, will need to possess a mixture of the above qualities and characteristics. The successful projects have the right mix of people. The risk you face is an unsuccessful implementation, or a post go-live disaster, especially if one or two people are dependent on fulfilling all of these critical roles. It may be prudent to have the potential team members take a personality test (Myers Briggs) to see where they fit in, identifying their strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to manage the expectations, accordingly. Also seek out professional consulting assistance, if needed.

Remember that in Star Trek it was a journey, not a destination, and that your core team is “boldly going where no one [in your organization] has gone before".


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Kevin Goergen works in our M&M Business Solutions Group. He has over 5 years of experience in business analysis and consulting and primarily works with clients in the manufacturing industry, assisting them with business process evaluation, and providing application training and implementation services of Enterprise Resource Planning Software Systems.

Image via Victor Habbick/

Topics: ERP

Scott A. Holter

Scott A. Holter

Scott Holter is the Director of Meaden & Moore’s Business Solutions Group. He has spent 20 plus years in manufacturing and technology consulting.