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Three Decades of Hands-On Implementation Advice with Mark West

Baton thought leadership - green and red

Three Decades of Hands-On Implementation Advice with Mark West

Three Decades of Hands-On Implementation Advice with Mark West

April 3, 2022
by

Mark West is the founder of PPS Management, a London-based consultancy collective of implementation and change management leaders. Across a decades-long career, Mark has spearheaded ERP Implementations and Digital Transformations for a number of global companies including Harrods, JAB Luxury, Bally, Belstaff, and Jimmy Choo.

Baton sat down with Mark to dive into his knowledge and experience, covering topics including: 

  • The most common mistakes made by businesses during implementations
  • His hands-on guiding principles for staging implementations that stick
  • Three best practices for efficient management and team leadership

“For businesses going through major changes, there’s typically a disconnect between how you think it’s going and what’s actually happening on the ground. My work revolves around minimizing that gap as much as possible.” 

Above All, Make It Stick

As an industry vet who’s orchestrated enterprise transformations for 30+ years, Mark considers stickiness the most critical characteristic for a successful implementation. 

In his own work, he follows the guiding principles below to ensure the longevity of his projects: 

Always begin with the right principles

Every project promises its own unique roadblocks. Anticipate those hurdles and shape your initial framework to minimize or circumvent them entirely. 

The 6 weeks post-launch are crucial

Put simply, your go-live date is just a date. It’s the following months that’ll require your deep focus, in order to calmly troubleshoot gaps as they show and ensure all teams are equipped to operate self-sufficiently. 

Get it right the first time

By nailing these first few weeks of course correction, you save yourself from bleeding capital by having to return to issues down the line. 

“We thought things through early on, put people to task, and measured progress aggressively. We put the work in to ensure our systems would stick because that’s the key element here. It’ll also maximize your outcomes relative to cost.” 

Key Implementation Errors to Avoid

In terms of common errors by companies, Mark identifies two which are, in his experience, breaking points for countless major implementations. 

1. Focus on systems and processes

Businesses often purchase a system with the expectation that it can execute the work of countless individual processes. 

This then leads to failure to make necessary adjustments to those internal mechanisms. In response, Mark notes the importance of consistent user training which will, again, ensure your system sticks while saving the wasted capital of staging re-trainings months down the line. 

2. Watch out for scope creep

Scope creep can result from failing to properly define and architect your team’s project. 

Even if every team is performing extensive due diligence, without a holistic view of your organizational structure, blockers and confusion will compound. 

“Things can be running amazingly in parallel, but if no one has a holistic view, the gaps will emerge from that lack of planning. You can always adjust plans as you go. But if you don’t have an architected plan, you don’t have anything.” 

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Optimized Leadership for Optimized Systems

Mark advises that cohesive, streamlined implementations are impossible without efficient people management and team leadership skills. He outlines his three guiding principles for optimizing your leadership practice, regardless of the scope of your team. 

Uplift Multicultural Workspaces

In following his work to international industries, countries, and cultures, Mark reiterates that the only way to truly learn is to listen — to ideas from differing teams, genders, ages, nationalities, and so on. 

Even more, when working abroad or with non-local teams, carve out the time to understand local nuances and customs. This has a twofold effect: 

  • Demonstrating respect for that which you don’t personally resonate or agree with leads to receiving respect in return from your teams. 
  • As such, a well-respected leader is equipped to deliver far more than an isolated or narrow-minded one. 

Select Leaders with Diverse Skill Sets

Mark abides by this practice for a few reasons: 

  • When a team simply can’t afford to bring on specialists for every need, having leaders with two or more disciplines goes a long way. 
  • Team members can thus complement each other’s skillsets, while also challenging one another to improve and expand. 
  • There’s a common fear among team members that their leaders are set in their ways: a singular skillset, a singular approach, and so on. You’ll be setting yourself apart. 

Your Employees Are Smarter Than You

More specifically, one of the greatest mistakes a leader, as well as an implementation team, can make is neglecting to listen to the teams on the ground floor who are actually executing the company’s daily functions. 

As a result, there’s a strong likelihood these individuals know your business better than you do — and thus have the best ideas for optimizing it. 

In Mark’s words, leaders aren’t paid to know everything. Rather, he’s paid to find the folks who do know everything and to weave that knowledge together to orchestrate a larger direction. 

“I always employ people who are smarter than me. Maybe it’s a cliche. But if that’s your case, don’t feel challenged by it. Be massively humble and embrace it. You’ll learn something influential about your company every single day.” 

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