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In the My First SAP Job I explained some of the difficulties when faced with a large scale SAP project for the first time, often as a first job. The general perception is that these ‘difficulties’ just have to be experienced to get the best out of a situation. However as a new Project Manager I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the demands of the job.

It was at this point that I started to question ‘on-the-job’ learning. My limited working experience had been spent learning to deal with problems, not solve them. Insufficient characters to represent all of the process steps in a production routing? Simple, use an encoding system to further complicate the instructions. Want to implement a Kanban cell with no internal work-in-progress storage? Create some virtual bin locations to ‘make the system work’. 

It was clear that the same old mistakes were being made time and time again. All the experience was providing learning, it was just that I was altering my behaviour in response to the environment. I was learning to cope.

However this did demonstrate that it is possible to develop and learn through experience, without actually improving the performance of your team, the new system or the environment. But I didn’t want to just cope; rather I wanted to change things for the better, on a consistent basis. After all, I could see the potential of the individual SAP modules, and I could readily identify areas of waste in the organisation. No matter, what we need are metrics, monitoring and reviews!

As a young Project Manager I had fallen into the management tool trap, because anyone who has installed performance measures with enthusiasm soon returns to earth with a bang when the administrative nightmare unfolds. Add to that the use of targets by departments to suit their own political ends, and the realisation that you appear to be measuring everything that moves (or doesn’t), the weekly stats soon become another ball and chain.

After struggling to come to terms with the surrounding chaos, I reflected back upon my experiences (what on earth have I done/what am I doing here?). I remembered in the dim and not-too-distant past a short course I had undertaken as an undergraduate student. The course centred around ‘learning from experience’. Wearing my cynical Project Manager’s hat this could of course be management-speak for on-the-job learning!

In the My First SAP Job – Part 3 I shall explain an approach to working that eventually became something I was unable to dismiss. 

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