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All Blacks Strength

I am a keen rugby union fan. The All Blacks from New Zealand are heads and shoulders above any one else in the world at the moment and have been for many, many years now.

For those who don’t know, during the 2011 Rugby World Cup held in their homeland, they were under enormous pressure to win. While being Number 1 for most of the time, they had only ever won the world cup once – the very first one. They were eliminated in the semi finals on every other occasion. The pressure from their countrymen and women was enormous.

In the 2011 final they faced France, who had eliminated them twice before in a world cup semi final. France where historically erratic performers at this level. One day there were hopeless and the next world-beaters. The All Blacks didn’t know which team was going to turn up on the day of the final. As it turned out, the world beating team ran on the field.

In the rounds leading up to the final New Zealand lost Daniel Carter to injury. He was then considered to be the best fly half in the world. In another game prior to the final his replacement, Colin Slade, was also injured. They had lost their top two fly halves and the final had not arrived yet. This left a relatively inexperienced Aaron Cruden to take the weight of, what is considered by many, the most critical position in the team. The team management called up Stephen Donald as a reserve. Donald had stopped training after missing selection in the original squad, had enjoyed the end of season festivities with his super rugby team mates and was out whitebait fishing when he got the call that the team needed help.

Aaron Cruden got injured in the final. It was now up to the fourth choice fly half, Stephen Donald, to steer the back line in what was a very close match. He did so with aplomb and kicked the winning goal.

The key learning here is, the New Zealand rugby system had managed to train and develop four world-class fly halves. Any one of them would have been the front line player for any other country.

The All Blacks win on this occasion was about bench strength or depth of capability. They had people in line who were suitably trained with the required skill to step in and do the job when called upon. The All Black’s captain, Richie McCaw, said his side’s preparation for the unexpected saw them prevail under duress. This is important he said because, “If you hope for the best but when adversity comes or something happens you can’t deal with it.”

A long bow perhaps, but just as strength of the All Black bench helped them win the world cup, the same goes for your ERP implementation project. A critical ingredient to your success is, the strength of your bench. When you make the decision to replace your business system, you are designing your company’s future operating model. You want your very best people on this task. All too often I see companies appoint people who are not skilled for this task under the guise that the key people are too valuable to release from their day-to-day jobs. More often than not, those people who are appointed to an implementation project are those that can be released because they aren’t so bad that they deserve to be moved on – but they clearly are not the most valuable people in the business.

An ERP implementation is like winning the world cup. You want the most skilled performing this work, not someone from your reserve grade. The depth of capability displayed by the All Blacks only comes about when you plan for it. In my view, not enough companies consider their succession planning early enough for their ERP project to leverage this strength. My experience is the ERP project actually highlights the inadequacy or lack of succession planning from the past and then goes on to develop the bench strength as a result of the project’s progress.

If you are considering replacing your existing business system, then you need to start succession planning now – if you haven’t before now. Make sure you have a sound number two in each work stream of your business.

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