The Basic Human Challenge: “It’s Hard to Learn When You Already Know”

The Basic Human Challenge (BHC) is a factor within almost all business change initiatives, whether that be implementing a new ERP system, upgrading in situ software or optimising your current ERP solution through customisation or development. So how do we deal with this BHC?

The Basic Human Challenge is the concept that “it’s hard to learn when you already know.”

However, let’s unpick this idea a little.

Humans are creatures of habit; our species has evolved over millions of years into what we are today. That evolution has been encouraged and protected through establishing a “safe space”. This usually is replicated into habit and helps us to feel comfortable in situations in which we “know” and can deal with easily. We like our safe space, as this has helped our species to survive and thrive! On the other hand; however, by having that “safe space”, we must, therefore, have a perceived “dangerous space”?

I’m confident most will have heard of the concept of ‘Fight or Flight’. Well, our “safe space” is protected and reinforced by our fight or flight mechanism. Imagine a moat around your castle. So, when a human is pushed out of their normal environment; out of their “safe space”, we’re hardwired to either fight that change or ignore it altogether. In truth, however, neither are productive when that change is critical to your businesses progress.

This evolutionary trait has kept our species at the top of the food chain for a long time, so believe me when I say that this applies to all settings in which us humans find ourselves; including as a user of an enterprise application solution.

So how do we apply this concept to implementing a new application, such as IFS Applications or another ERP solution into your business?

When establishing your project team, it’s common and sensible to choose individuals within your business who have an in-depth knowledge of their functional process area (i.e. HR Manager for HR, the Warehouse Manager for supply chain etc.)

These individuals can offer insight into how your business operates and can support the Application Consultants designing your solution by developing processes for your new and exciting Enterprise Application.

So why are their plenty of organisations who don’t see the benefits they envisaged in their ERP procurement process?

Mitec Consulting believes that the software is only a third of your business opportunity; the other two-thirds being: effective change management and a rolling optimisation programme (which is a subject for another blog post).

What is Change Management and how does this address the Basic Human Challenge?

When your business undertakes projects or initiatives such as an ERP implementation to improve performance, seize business opportunities or address key operating issues, they will require changes to your workforce whether immediate or delayed, obvious or implied – such as changes to key processes, job roles, organisational structures etc.

However, it is the employees of your business who have to ultimately change how they do their jobs; even if this change is very subtle. Let’s be honest, it would be very difficult to make your ERP project a companywide democracy by having every user in your business involved in the project team in some way!

However, if these individuals are unsuccessful in understanding their personal transitions as an output of this project, and if they don’t embrace and learn a new way of working, the initiative will fail. Alternatively, if employees embrace and adopt changes required by the initiative, it will deliver the expected results.

Most project teams dedicate a proportion of their implementation to user training. However, if we cast our minds back to the Basic Human Challenge of that “it is hard to learn when you already know”, is it likely that the training is enough in isolation to support effective learning or adoption of a new process or software?

Your businesses users KNOW how to do their jobs. Some of them may have been employed with your business for over a decade! This is their “safe space”.

However, if you train your users in their new ERP solution and neglect to manage the impending change to their “safe space”, your users will struggle to adopt these new and improved processes and will ultimately revert to what they know.

The result of this often creates a more sluggish application due to poor data quality and manual workarounds created using alternative tools such as Excel, to name one example.

By comparison, if you manage this change throughout the project from its conception to post go-live and beyond, you are showing your users that there is another way which benefits them and the business in the long term is simply expanding the moat around their castle. This often-neglected process within your ERP implementation is the missing link to unlocking the true power of your ERP.

In summary, it’s hard for your users to learn what they already know! Like all humans, we will inevitably be faced with change while living out our days on this planet.

However, as a business, it’s our responsibility to make the investment in ERP worthwhile by enabling your employees to embrace those changes and make them appear “safe”. Do this, and your investment will be a lot more worthwhile.