Getting to Gestalt


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I think most of us would agree that a customer strategy often involves technology enablement. The thing is, the urban legends around CRM technology failures persist. Sure, most technologists will tell you that CRM projects have some risk not present in other back-office oriented projects (e.g., customer exposure, needing to herd sales and marketing cats). But CRM projects are not THAT different from other large scale enterprise implementations in terms of the required blocking and tackling. Us pundits tend to have lots of ideas about how to risk-proof CRM technology projects, but I don’t hear a lot of advice relative what, to me, is the most important risk-mitigating element: how the (often virtual) program team works together.

To that end, I’d like to share my CRM project special sauce: gestalt. For those not familiar with this notion, gestalt according to Webster’s is “…a structure, arrangement, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated and unified as a whole that it cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts.” It’s essentially the culture of the team, and in IT projects it’s manifest as identity/brand. Yes, I’m suggesting CRM IT programs have a pre-meditated identity based on the gestalt of the team. This identity includes elements such as:
• Gestalt-driven project name (e.g., a fun name for an optimistic team, a serious name for other types of teams)
• Logo
• Artifact templates
• Social networking sites
• Trinkets and trash (e.g., logo’ed pens, polo shirts)

Implementing this idea doesn’t require brain surgery, but getting to the group gestalt requires a bit of work. You’ll need to identify the group attributes via a project storyboard (which I use it for identity work since a identity is essentially your story and a physical manifestation of brand (e.g., “Hi, my name is CRM Phase 3 and here is my story…”

To create the storyboard, consider conducting project team exercises such as:
• Interviews – teams of 2, each partner interviews the other and answers questions such as:
– What three words best define you?
– What are you most proud of?
– What do you still want to achieve?
– What color best defines your personality and why?
• Then do the same, but each partner takes on a different persona
– 1st person is the program
– 2nd person is the colleague
• Brainstorming – Hang flip charts around the conference room with one question per chart.
– Break team into the same number of groups as there are flip charts
– Each group should choose a flip chart with which to begin brainstorming
– After 3 minutes, each team will move clockwise to the next flip chart
– Brainstorm

At the end of this work, themes will begin to emerge that will guide you to the team’s gestalt, which will lead to a meaningful project name, tagline, colors, logo etc. While identifying the gestalt of the team will not guarantee success, it goes a long way toward getting the team to work together, and coalesce around a common identity.

Have you tried this before? Let me know what you think!

Liz Roche
Hewlett-Packard Co.
Liz Roche is a senior leader with HP's Consulting and Integration practice and cofounder of Stamford, Connecticut-based Customers Incorporated. An industry-recognized CRM expert, she has 2 years of IT and business experience. Roche received a bachelor of arts from the George Washington University and an MBA from the University of Missouri.


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