Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cultural Change Management or How I Saved PLM!

It was dark; too dark. The rain pelted my hat and left crusty pools of congealed slush around my feet. The wind blew hard against my back and produced a rhythmic swaying like that of a tall tree that is being cut down, just before it falls: gracefully tracing an invisible arc in the sky. The only light was a sharp point at the other end of the room, barely visible in the harsh conditions. After considerable effort, I reached out my hand to push the puny button and the neon lights above my head sprang to life.

I stood under the harsh lights of the server room. With the door closed, I was able to breathe freely  for the first time in several hours. It had taken me some time to traverse the many hallways and cubicles, undetected, to finally come to this place. Several rows of servers stood motionless, gleaming in the glow of halogen warmth, their lights blinking and flashing in a symphony of digital magic. Somewhere in the distance, a low beeping sound brought me out of my stupor; I had to act fast.

Quickly, I ran between the rows of digital sentinels looking for the one that held the key to my visit. They all looked the same, standing there with those unfeeling eyes; judging me; taunting me; profiling me. But, I would have the last laugh, not them. I pulled a crumpled piece of paper from my pocket to see the barely legible scrawls that would identified my target.

At last, I saw the one I was looking for. I stood before my prey and wondered what the thousands of users would think when many of their favorite applications would no longer be available. I imagined they would stare at the screen, bite their lips, and profane silently. Maybe now they would be forced to log into the new PLM system we had just rolled out. Maybe now they would make an effort to learn how easy it was to search for information, collaborate with their colleagues, and find the latest version of any file.

With one decisive stroke I pushed the glowing green button, and with a low whine, the fans stopped running, and legacy applications were no more. The digital crutches that so many had used for so long were gone. No longer would they be able to submit an Excel spreadsheet, and call it "current"; no more guessing about where the latest version resided. It was deceptively easy. It took only a small amount of effort, and PLM was saved. I had saved PLM!

It was than that I heard a low rumble. The moaning and whining of thousands of users, and the groaning of managers all over the company; it would be a long night...

But, I had saved PLM. Instead of being able to ignore the new PLM tools, the users would be forced to use these new tools and learn better ways to do their jobs. There would be no way to get around our corporate workflows to support engineering change activities. Now our many pages of configuration management rules would need to be followed, or no work would be accepted. I knew this was not the recommended way to manage cultural change during a PLM implementation, but I had no choice.

If I had done this properly, I would have created a Cultural Change Management Plan, long before we ever rolled out one piece of new software. The plan would have included advanced education for our super users in every organization. They would have been a key part of our roll-out plan, and they would have helped us educate their users. We would have had some excellent user group meetings with free pizza, to let everyone know what was happening. We would have communicated frequently to make sure everyone felt good about the new system before we ever rolled it out. We didn't do any of that, and that's what brings me to this server room to do this dirty deed.

Please, learn from my mistakes. Make cultural change management an important part of any PLM planning activity. If you don't know what to do, there are people who can help. Do it right the first time, and you won't be the bad guy...like me.

What do you think?



  1. Wonderful cautionary tale, reminds me Sheckley.
    Of course, transient process should be expanded in time and planned.

  2. Dmitry,

    Thanks for your comment! I think the key idea here is that many people do not think about cultural change management planning until it is too late. This is one of those things that must be considered from day 1 if you want PLM adoption to be successful.


  3. Culture change can be successful only when you have a good understanding of the difference between the culture you currently have, and the culture you are trying to frame.
    culture change

  4. Michael,

    Thanks for your comments. Yes, I agree with you. That is why a Cultural Change Management plan must be created that takes all of this into account, and gathers input from many sources.


  5. Spaceage Security, sell a Server Room Environment Monitoring Manufacturer, distributor, dealer, supplier, exporter in India and Delhi/NCR