PDM and Change Management


PDM implementation. Managing a changing environment.

Dynamic young engineers who have just been appointed to lead the project to select and implement a PDM system will know that they have an exciting assignment. To help them succeed here are a few guidelines to help them through the complex issues of a changing product development and Engineering environment.

Although some people will look forward to using the new PDM system, what about all those product developers who have trouble using e-mail, spreadsheets, simple computer-based project management tools, and basic word processing systems? It's unlikely they are going to be great PDM users.

Similarly, those people who have spent the last thirty years developing (and modifying) product specifications alone in their office using the back of an envelope? Do you expect them to switch overnight to using team-based, cross-functional PDM and PDM-controlled engineering change management?

PDM isn't a 'tool to improve the product development process'. It's a 'tool to support an improved product development process'. Before it can work well there must be other changes. Before a company can use PDM effectively, it must have an environment in which it's possible to work well with PDM. Simply buying and installing a system isn't going to result in major benefits unless the overall environment (organizational structures, people, organizational methods, infrastructure, etc.) is supportive. To get to this environment requires the application of 'tools for change' such as learning, leadership, communication and the right reward systems.

Maybe this sounds too theoretical, but imagine you have to make massive change in your organization - in which most people feel their world is falling apart and they are doing all they can to hang on for dear life. How are you going to get them to stop doing the things they've succeeded with over the last 20 years (such as working with a paper-based document control system), and instead work with a new tool such as PDM?

If people in the organization are seeing the whole world changing and their company losing ground to its competitors, do you expect them to worry about their future or think about your proposed project? How are you going to get someone in Engineering to work in a Concurrent Engineering team led by someone from Manufacturing? Do you think it matters to people who decides on their bonus - Engineering, Manufacturing, the team, the team leader?

So what should you do? To introduce change you have to:
  • understand the need for change
  • accept the need for change and the difficulty of implementing change
  • understand that you personally have to change
  • understand that 'change' is a major activity in its own right
  • find out where you want the changes to lead
  • find out how to carry out the changes
  • carry out change activities
  • then implement new tools and techniques such as PDM

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Page last modified on March 16, 2000
Copyright 1999, 2000 by John Stark