The President as Change Manager.

In Change Management, part of the most difficult tasks is to have all stakeholders, groups or even “couplings” within an institution or company to think alike. If managing a company is already a daunting task, imagine how difficult it is to only change certain aspects of day-to-day operations of big enterprises. As you might know, we are no longer in a direct top-down relationship with each other; we are merely interconnected through a complicated network of matrixes where in every project we have different roles. All the world’s a Stage, even more so in Change Management.

And yet, the biggest Change Manager of all times, should he wish to succeed in his plans, will be the next President of the United States. Change, most important cliffhanger of his campaign, can only happen if we believe we can change something.

If you accept that a manager is not much more than a robot getting the things done, you will realize pretty quickly that what we really want is a leader who knows where to go. Ask all the managers on Wall Street what happens if you only manage and fail to lead. In most cases to lead equals some degree of change. But if in our daily activities we are not very eager to even change the order of the day, then why should we want to change important parts of government. From Social Security to Kindergarten: we do not like to change our habits.

You might ask yourself: why did it take so long before someone took charge and tried to change things?

First, before Obama, lots of other candidates tried to change different aspects of government. Either they failed to even start their project, never could realize their vision or never got elected. Why? Let’s just say that elected officials and the government as an institution do not (or fail to) proactively address the different issues important to voters. Lobby groups, media and wealthy individuals, however, are important, as they decide firsthand who gets elected into the House or Senate. A publicly shared secret, valid in almost all democracies.

Second, it is for us voters -part of an intricate economic and social system- not always very interesting to see some big changes interfering with our current status quo. Even more, we do not “understand” everything, and are influenced easily by pundits (let alone experts) who claim to be addressing the issues with knowledge and impartiality. We are a diverse group with conflicting interests and this comes in handy when you need to get elected without being held accountable.

Third, there now is a sense of urgency. Where a couple of years ago things would be worked out “soon”, today certain decisions can’t be postponed any longer.

As such, I will be watching the Inauguration of the next President of the United States with great attention. For once, I will not pay attention to the policies he announces or the giant financial plans on his agenda. More important will be how President Obama will be able to communicate in clear terms his view of change, reconcile the different interests and have all 300 million Americans look into the same direction. How will we as a country make change?

Neither for Lincoln or FDR change has been easy or without party politics, but the fight for change they put up, changed the prospect of many citizens around the world. Fact is, the financial, economical and social tissues of our society are falling apart and maintaining a status quo is just not possible anymore. Will he be the right man who has come at the right time? I’m sure he will.

10 points to help you preparing for the SAP certification.

Last month I passed what is called the “SAP Certification” for the Materials Management part of SAP. From my (humble) experience, here are 10 rules that will help you get there.

1. Expect the worst but do not fear.

“You must do the things you think you cannot do”. Avoid consultants trying to impress you by telling you how terrible the SAP certification exam can be. People have failed the test, but many more did become successful Certified SAP Consultants. So can you!

2. SAP is all about details in a bigger picture.

Let’s face it right away: in SAP, without studying the bigger picture, you’re lost; without eye for detail, you can’t operate any business. It is thus imperative to understand how SAP is configured, both from a global and process oriented perspective.

3. Get to visualize SAP transactions in detail.

Know how each transaction looks like, which options can be configured, where data comes from and which data can be entered.

4. Know how SAP will react.

One thing is to know what you can configure, knowing how to get where you want in SAP requires you to know how SAP will react to every change in data entered (in transactions, master data, customizing, …).

5. Where are you today?

It is imperative in SAP to know at which level data is contained. Plant level, Purchasing Organization or just plain Client Level, all data is valid only to its area of operations. And you can see the logic in this: every part of a company is responsible for doing its own things right. And why should this be different in SAP?

6. No time to waste: get summaries!

Before digging into the obscure SAP courses on SAP itself, find yourself a good summary. Mail colleagues, friends and managers and get that HQ document. You probably will have to study all the SAP documentation to pass the test, but you now will be able to distinguish between what is important and what is detail.

7. Find example questions on the Internet.

The SAP Certification exam consists of about 80 questions, all of them multiple-choice. Most of the time you will find each question having five answers. Indicate for each answer whether the statement is true or false in relation to the question asked. While the questions I found on the net helped me in understanding the exam, the key given on many web sites is of poor quality.

8. SAP Certification is all about grammar!

More than once during the exam, you will find that the devil is in the language used. From the cheap alterations between must and can, examiners (in this case, a simple PC) at SAP will try to corner you with questions and answers where the difference between true and false is in the wording used.

9. Ask your coach!

Any decent consulting firm will assign you a coach to help you through studying the Certification. If you’re stuck, ask him!

10. And above all: have confidence!

Enter the room with confidence. If your coach told you to go ahead with the exam, you will pass! Read all questions carefully, answer with confidence.

Good luck!