How to decouple PLM from our psychic system

How to decouple PLM from our psychic system


If you ask two engineers how to solve a problem, the odds are you can finish with three different solutions. When you ask engineers in engineering, manufacturing and support how to organize processes you end up with many options. People hate changes and to bring consensus is the hardest mission. Status quo is one of the most complicated competitive force.

This morning I read a whitepaper by Herman Paetzold – Accelerating the integration of people, processes, business systems & information. You can download it via this link. Additional information and interviews with Herman Paetzold can be found on the following LinkedIn page PLM Culture.

The whitepaper speaks about complexity of decision making in an organization and how to overcome the problems of introducing PLM systems as a organizational change. I captured few passages:

The psychic system and social system are structurally coupled; an individual human being can stimulate the communication in a social system using language. The social system constructs in communications, the human being as a person, just like to couple software and electrical systems you need analog-to-digital or digital-to-analog converters.

The counterintuitive definition of the social and psychic systems has a big advantage; it allows for a clear separation of the analysis of social and psychic phenomena. In talking about change processes in organizations it is only required to take communications into account and it is not required to handle the complexities of individual human beings

To come to a stable network of decisions, the organization takes – following Luhmann – decisions only in referring to other decisions or in other words the organization decides based on decision premises. This means, each decision is a continuation of the organizational decision communication process. Consequently decisions are the operational basis for further decisions, reproducing the organization self-referentially like a living system. If an organization decides to introduce a PLM system, then it will take time for the network of decisions to adapt to the way that the PLM system is used in the organization for day-to-day work. This exactly fits our experience.


The conclusion of the white paper – accelerate decision process by bringing cross-functional teams makes sense to me.

The main actor of the change is the cross-functional team, because of its domain knowledge of decision premises. It designs and communicates the decisions for new procedures and guides the organization through the change. If the cross-functional team is set up properly supported by consultants understanding organizational change processes, then the integration is accelerated as well.

However, in my view, it won’t solve the problem of complex PLM implementations industry is facing now. It made me think back about one my earlier articles – What’s wrong with analog PLM?

Think about every PLM system as a glorified database that can help you to define objects from the world of design, engineering, manufacturing. It bundled with workflow mechanism to simulate people communication. PLM people like to call it data model. Read more from Jos Voskuil who is a big proponent of change management in manufacturing organizations.

The traditional world of PLM implementations is requiring to translate everything into PLM data models. Take every PLM system and you will see this step as an essential element of every implementation. If I refer to the engineering definition of “analog” system, PLM implementation mission is to translate the real world – organization, data, processes into “analog world” of data models. With a full respect to flexible PLM data models and architectures, this translation is creating distortion and the process itself is very complicated.

Trying to fix organizational communication, speed up decision process and bring value proposition of organization improvement as a reason to implement fully blown PLM system became a norm of PLM sales process. I haven’t heard about anything that can improve that process. Initial introduction of “cloud” technologies into PLM only reduced IT complexity of PLM sales process.   It is not clear what can be an alternative. The race to the cheaper PLM implementations doesn’t sound to me as something that can solve a problem too – cheaper doesn’t mean better (especially for large manufacturing companies).

An alternative is to take a look back in the concept of PLM implementations and technologies behind that. Think how to rationalize the process, make it flexible, adaptable in the way that will capture existing organizational processes and provide tools to manage information in the organization. Though job…

What is my conclusion? It seems like organizational changes is the most problematic element of PLM implementation. There is wall to wall agreement about it in the community of people selling and implementing PLM. Blaming people is easy. To understand what are problems, concerns and fears of manufacturing people is hard. To designate the biggest pain and to address it with a technology to manage data and communication is the only possible way that can convince people to embrace the change. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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