Be Prepared, Even When You Can’t

By Harvey Nelson

There are some things you just can’t prepare for. I mean you can prepare for them but you will never be prepared for reality. However, after going through one such situation recently I’m hoping I can help you prepare for those times you cannot be prepared for. If you have kids you know what I mean, you can prepare all you want but when that little bundle of joy shows up – you are unprepared. If I sound a little loopy that’s because we recently implemented a new ERP (enterprise resource planning) system at work and it has been brutal.

We spent two years preparing. We shut down production for 3 days so we could get an accurate inventory count and do final training for the end-users. During that last week as we scrambled to get ready and tensions were high and people were panicking I told everyone “Don’t worry this is nothing, wait till we turn it on, then you will wish we were only dealing with the current anxiety. And that – was a tremendous understatement.

I wish we would have taken inventory way more seriously. I wish we would have trained our people way, way earlier. I wish we would have started off with a much simpler version, not trying to add so many bells and whistles. I wish we had discussed the emotional intensity and had tools to help us deal with each other better. I wish I had assigned one or two people to do nothing but make sure they were focused only on the new system. I wish everyone at work understood the language and thought process of programming and software. I wish we would have done more testing – more real-world testing. I wish there could be peace in the Middle East.

And even if all those wishes had come true I still think it would have been a nightmare to claw and sweat through

As an aside, I have to say as difficult as it was, it was invigorating. One day during the worst of it on my drive to work after getting very little sleep I literally set out loud to myself, “Man I hate this!” and the next second I said, Man, I love this!” As someone who started a company from scratch, I missed those crazy startup days where every day I thought it was going to be our last.

So – Be prepared to see the worst in people but also to see the best in people. Be prepared with a mantra “that this too shall pass and things will get better”. Be prepared to walk away and look at it from the larger perspective then at some point be prepared to let it go completely and find something else that fully occupies your mind for a couple of days before diving back in. Be prepared for the business to suffer for a small time. Be prepared that you cannot wrap your head around everything at once. Be prepared for a long learning curve. Be prepared for the tears (literally) and talking people off the ledge. Be prepared for a range of comprehension and expectations. Be prepared to tell people to go get a good night’s sleep because a good night sleep can be magic.

In the middle of the craziness when I would talk to friends they would all ask why I was so involved? I was a programmer and analyst of software systems in my early days so I had a unique perspective on the language of business and the language of software systems. Even without that I still think the CEO needs to make the implementation of the new software system their highest priority. The CEO needs to lead the charge because I believe for the CEO of a smaller company the information and data that are captured and analyzed become the lifeblood and one of the keys to your survival.

I guess what I’m saying is you cannot be prepared for all the scenarios but you can prepare yourself for the battle.