Saturday, September 22, 2012

How to deal with uncooperative users

By: Erwin L. Sison

After years of implementing ERP projects I have dealt with an array of different users. The most challenging to handle are those who are uncooperative. Obviously.
Based on experience these types of users are usually those who have been in the company for a considerable number of years and very much comfortable with their current workflow.

Here are 8 tips on how to handle them effectively:

1. Give Assurance. Make them feel assured with the new system. Always keep in mind that you are in some ways taking away their comfort zone, so a little assurance that your system is better that their current one could go a long way.
2. Plan and Prepare. Make sure you got all sides covered as much as possible before you meet with them. Do your homework so you could address their concerns effectively. Plan all your activities specially those ones, which involves these users and let them know in advance, this way they could also plan their schedule and both sides will be on the same page. Uncooperative users normally tries to look for an excuse to be uncooperative don’t give them this opening.
3. Be Confident. The users would be assured if you show confidence and to be confident you have to have everything prepared. Your aura of confidence will rub onto them, if they saw you as a tentative and unsure kind of person, they will feel the same way towards the project. On the other hand, your confidence gives them assurance that they are in good hands and everything will be all right.
4. Never Lie. There is a fine line between convincing the users and lying. Never promise something that cannot be done just for the sake of getting their approval. Be truthful, sometimes all it takes is a single lie and everything that you worked so hard for could go down the drain. If it cannot be done just say so, if you have a workaround then make a proposal.
5. Own your Mistake. In a huge implementation it is very difficult not to make mistakes. The important thing is how you accept and own yours and be able to smartly pick-up the pieces from there. The last thing you need in a project with unhelpful users is for them to discover a mistake you tried so hard to conceal.
6. Communicate well. Dealing with other people always, always boils down to an effective communication skill. Listen intently and make sure you understand their apprehensions then speak in a mildly toned voice. They say that 10% of conflicts are due to difference of opinion and 90% is due to wrong tone of voice. Always bear in mind that conflict in a project will not benefit anybody.
7. Ask for their opinion. Everybody wants to be heard period. In a situation where what you will decide on directly impacts another persons working habit, that person deserve to be heard; their opinion matters. In asking for their opinion you are shooting two birds with one stone; gathering information and making disobliging users oblige.
8. Project an approachable image. Because a project implementation is a two-way street, there should be minimal or no room for uneasiness. You should let them know and feel that they can approach you and ask question anytime. Projecting an approachable image will encourage all types of users to liaise with you effectively.

Of course there are more things that you could do to deal with uncooperative users and make the project implementation become successful but most of them revolves around those I have listed above.


  1. In my experience, the following points are required:

    Step 0 - Find out the 'real' reason behind the client's non-cooperative attitude. Be Open in your mind and have a good talk with them. Take them into confidence and alleviate any mis-conceptions that they may have.

    Step 0A - List down their real apprehensions and genuinely address them. If some of them are out of the purview of ERP project, tell them openly that they have to live with them.

  2. Hello Erwin,

    Another important one: Have a proper "Project Goal". A lot of miscommunication exists because decisions are taken, that have no contribution to the project goal.

    Every decision taken should take the Project Goal into account. If everybody understands the Project Goal properly, people will see and understand their own participation in the bigger picture and unwillingness will become less.

    Best regards,