I am writing this from 20 years of experience working with, watching, surveying, and scouting Super User Teams. I have seen them come and go and come back again. Through all the years, no one has ever said, "I just don't think this is important for our company." On the flip side, every discussion about a healthy Super User Program yields confirmation that this is a valuable tool for any company. So why doesn't every company have one? I think I'll need a lot of your time to answer THAT question completely. I have some ideas about that and will publish those soon in my blog. As an alternative, I will give you the top 5 key things you must do to build your high value, sustainable Super User Team. I use the term "Rigid Flexibility", a term I learned from a valued colleague, David Lee years ago. There are rigid pieces, those pieces that you must have. There can be flexibility within them, but the rigid is that which you MUST have in a carefully planned way. So, these 5 are the rigids:
- Engaged, tuned-in Executive Sponsor. Please, please, please, if you are rolling your eyes on this one, contact me and let's talk about this! I know it can seem overused, but truly it is critically important. If you do not have this, your road ahead is splattered with very rough, and sometimes seemingly impassable terrain. You can expect starts and stops. It's also important to get THE RIGHT executive sponsor. The wrong one can hurt more than help. This report published by PMI (Project Management Institute) is packed full of evidence that this needs to be addressed. They state that, "As the role and value of an executive sponsor takes on increasing importance, so too does the need to choose the “right” person to serve as an executive sponsor. A sponsor being “right” has to do with a variety of factors, including the individual’s leadership capabilities as well as his or her ability to exert influence. It should be noted that this trait often has little to do with the actual “authority” a sponsor has over the project or program team, which is a function of reporting structure. The ability to build and leverage networks can trump one’s place in the organizational chart." Trust me, this report is well worth the read if you want to make sure you have the best Executive Sponsor for your program.
- Team trust and psychological safety. I published a post based on the release of Google's research study to find the secret recipe for building the very best team. Bet you can guess what's in that study report! If you truly care about building a healthy, high performing team, this is a must-read. My post contains two different article links that will definitely provide you great information and insights. Trust and psychological safety do not happen by chance. This is a purposeful part of your program design and culture. It must be built, supported, and yes, managed.
- Dedicated Super User Leader. I have had people ask me why can't they just be a self-managed team. Over the years, I worked with several companies trying out this approach to see if we could make it work. Well, to-date it has not. I've also had many people ask if this has to be a full time role, or can they also be a volunteer like the rest of the team - a part time gig, if you will. I've done a lot of thinking, reading, and most importantly, observing, about this question. My current recommendation is that you treat this as a full time role, you need a dedicated leader. If you are doing it right, you will understand why that's the case.. there's a BOATLOAD to do. As one of our Super User Leaders stated, "The engagement of our Super Users and the value they deliver is directly related to the amount of time I spend guiding, coaching, facilitating, and more! We could meet every week and still only scratch the surface." This comes from someone who, at the beginning of their program, couldn't imagine why the team would need to meet more than once a month, and even then, what would they continue to talk about.
- A Model. Follow a proven model. SAPinsight has a Model for implementing a valuable, sustainable Super User Program. This model was developed in 1999, is customer award-winning, and the only model of its kind. You can definitely do it yourself, but why take the long road? Contact me if you are interested in learning more. This is more than just identifying a group of people and getting them on calls to talk about challenges, and ask them to support their users. A real Super User Program is part of your company's DNA, it's a process improvement performing organization, yet it is a very different fabric than your other organizations. So, in addition to following a model, network with those who are doing it so that you set yourself up for total success. This is why SAPinsight exists. Don't go it alone, there are many who understand your journey.
- Passion Plan. In most organizations, a Super User Team is a team of volunteers. Want some insight into how to have an amazing team? Read these 7 Traits of Amazing Volunteers. Yes, I know, your Super Users are employees, but in their Super User role, they are volunteers without the silo walls of their existing organization. Why do volunteers give their time? They do it because
- They believe in the cause,
- They want to contribute to something that matters,
- Someone leads them into and through what they need to do that supports their passion.
Passion is what pushes people through and draws them into giving it all! This doesn't happen by accident, you have to be purposeful. The Super User Leader is a big part of the Passion Plan. In a Deloitte University article, "Passion at work - Cultivating worker passion as a cornerstone of talent development," they cite that, "Up to 87.7 percent of America's workforce is not able to contribute to their full potential because they don't have passion for their work. Less than 12.3 percent of America's workforce possesses the attributes of worker passion. This "passion gap" is important because passionate workers are committed to continually achieving higher levels of performance."
I have worked with many companies who fully support their workers spending time in their volunteer roles for external causes. So, why don't we do the same for internal causes? This is a call to think differently about how you get work done, how you engage employees.
So now you have 5 very important things to consider. What will you do now? If you have questions, feel free to post your comments to get the discussion started.
If you are interested in staying in-touch with the Super User journey, follow SAPinsight. If you are a Super User, Super User Leader, aspiring to be one, wanting to build or strengthen you company's Super User Program, you will definitely want to become a member and be a part of our passion!