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Organizational Change Management

A Formula for Change

By June 27, 2022July 19th, 2023No Comments

“Progress is impossible without change,
and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

George Bernard Shaw

There is no argument that product development is strategically important to the financial performance and even the survival of manufacturing companies today. Both the pace and complexity of product development has accelerated to the point that even a one percent reduction in the time to market can translate to major financial benefits. Properly implemented, PLM is a technology that connects product development more closely to the voice of the customer, enables information and data to flow more freely between disparate functions and ensures the traceability and accountability today’s growing list of regulations require. With so much violent agreement that PLM can facilitate lower production costs, as well as accelerations in new product designs and launch schedules and engineering cycle times, why is success so elusive? It requires process change and, in most cases, that means people need to change the way they see a problem and respond to it.

In manufacturing, three systems must interoperate to achieve success – technology, processes, and people. Technology is changing faster than ever before and enabling new and better processes. But people, as a rule, are resistant to change. It’s not a judgement statement. It’s a simple fact. We are hard-wired to resist change. The amygdala, part of your brain, interprets change as a threat and initiates the fight or flight response. In the past, this response protected us. It ensured survival. But, if we’re not careful, it can also prevent it. Recognizing this, David Gliecher created a formula to quantify the factors and forge a path forward, which was later revised by Kathleen Dannemiller.

D x V x F x CL> R

Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Concrete Steps x Creative Leadership > Resistance

Change management drives the successful adoption and usage of change throughout an organization. Done effectively, it enables employees to understand the need driving the change, the advantages of transformation and their role in it, supporting their commitment to it – and overall success. Change management is also one of the most overlooked pieces of the PLM implementation process. It’s easy to understand why. Technical details – the specific technologies involved, processes, deadlines and schedules are much more logical and predictable. But every step in a PLM project involves people and people are messy. From the executives who need to sponsor the vision to the IT department who architects, implements, and supports it, to the end users who use it. Failing to take people into consideration can lead to project failure and negative consequences for organizations, creating additional hurdles to the progress sought.

As an example, let’s focus on end users, those responsible for the variety of functions necessary to develop and manufacture a product, typically highly skilled, often engineers. We are our own worst enemy. At least some of us are. For a group of individuals who pride themselves on innovation and finding new answers to unasked, even unimagined, questions – we are notably slow to change. Why? Because we are taught to trust processes established over time (“Ain’t broke? Don’t fix it.”), to trust the tangible and our own judgement, our minds if you will. And to distrust those who would seek to change those minds. The more complex the product we’re creating, the bigger the potential gains and the obstacles. Each function – conceptual design, mechanical design, electrical design, simulation, production, resource management… is more interrelated every day and we’re all eager to believe in and promote the importance of our own piece of the puzzle. If we share what we know, don’t we risk the loss of stature, our security?

So… engineers! Engineers are the problem. Good, that is settled! 

We always knew that bunch was trouble. Wait, not so fast!

While engineers certainly contribute (to both the problem and the solution), the burden for success does not rest on them alone. Referring to Dannemiller’s formula above, Creative Leadership is a multiplying factor. Leadership has the advantage of an overarching view of the enterprise and its functions. Their responsibility for the success of the company and its bottom line should free them from any lingering bias as to individual importance of function. Armed with the vision of all that is possible, and an urgency fueled by the need to survive, what is lacking?

Change is a complex and challenging process on an individual level. Leading change for other people and within an organization requires a new way of thinking, as well as new tools. Recognizing the need and setting the vision for the organization is important. Recognizing the need to constantly facilitate that change is even more critical. Over the next few months, we’ll continue to discuss the various aspects of successfully leading change within an organization – and how doing so increases the effectiveness of any PLM implementation and your organization as a whole. 

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