It has been a while since my last article however, the untimely departure of author Stephen Covey has motivated me to start a 7 week series as a tribute to him. I wanted to highlight some of the best practices in regards to Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) adoption. Based on recent experiences I have seen examples of what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to trying to bring PLM into the product development process. Several consistent examples continue to present themselves when it comes to successful adoption of PLM. Over the next few weeks I will discuss 7 of the most common ones as a way of paying respect to one of the most influential authors for business practice. As I write these best practices I will review Covey’s book again and tie them back into his philosophies which I think are sound and good fundamental principles to serve as the basis for any type of process improvement.
Self-Help books have been around for quite some time in fact I stumbled across a list of the 10 best self-help books of all time and the top book on the list was the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Several other books on the list were from decades back including Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. What is interesting about Covey’s book is that he claims kinship with the older books’ principles and shuns the quick fix mentality many contemporary self-help authors espouse. I see a similar parallel between those who promote the “Quick Start” solution for PLM versus the traditional consultative approach to PLM implementation. Recently, in response to an excellent article by Jos Voskuil about how our brain blocks PLM acceptance Oleg Shilovitsky advocated simplifying PLM to make it more palatable for companies to adopt in his article “Sunblock Cream and PLM Acceptance Problem”. Oleg’s point which is a valid one is that if the solution is too complex then companies will shy away from trying to leverage the solution. I think Mr. Covey would say that truly effective companies will take the time to recognize the value of the solution and embark on the process improvement activity in a way that will ensure maximum value for the company.
Covey quotes Albert Einstein who said “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”. In the context of PLM this typically means that companies cannot solve their product development process issues, which were typically created by a series of quick fix solutions by trying to bolt on technology with another quick fix solution. Simplicity is good but as Oleg says in his article “simplicity is hard”. To be truly simple requires extensive design. Apple has demonstrated this principle with several of their devices including the Ipod and Ipad. What this means from an implementation perspective is that while you don’t necessarily want to over complicate your implementation through extensive customization you don’t want to try to ramrod a solution in without truly understanding the problems you are trying to address. It is really a matter of balance. Covey uses the analogy of the golden goose to illustrate the point. “If you adopt a pattern of life that focuses on golden eggs and neglects the goose, you will soon be without the asset that produces the golden eggs. On the other hand, if you only take care of the goose with no aim toward the golden eggs, you soon won’t have the wherewithal to feed yourself or the goose.” He continues. “Effectiveness lies in the balance-what I call the P/PC Balance. P stands for production of desired results, the golden eggs. PC stands for production capability, the ability or the asset that produces the golden eggs.” Unfortunately, none of us has a real golden goose but we do have product develop processes that yields value for our companies and PLM, properly implemented can maximize the theoretical golden eggs we can produce. As Covey says it is the balance between focusing on the outcome and focusing on the process that yields the outcome that produces the best results.
Habit 1 in the book is “Be Proactive”. Covey has somewhat of a unique definition for proactivity. He defines it as taking responsibility for our own lives. He states that our behavior is a function of our decisions not our conditions. I think this also applies to PLM implementation. When you make the decision to improve process by adopting PLM it needs to be driven by the right factors. It needs to be a conscious choice based on values as opposed to a product of conditions based on feelings. In other words make the choice to implement PLM based on a plan that will deliver value as opposed to reacting to negative conditions in your environment. A proactive person or company embraces change as a means to end. In order to do this you have to know what the end state is and that requires planning and execution. Buying PLM software with a quick start is not necessarily proactive. I guess it could be, in the right context but generally it is a response to a problem without fully thinking through the solution. The balance that Covey talks about is making sure you are fully identifying the issues you are trying to address and making sure that the actions you are taking will solve these issues and deliver the results you desire.
In summary we can learn a lot from self-help books on both what to do and what not to do. The time tested approach is to identify the core issues either in yourself or in your company and to develop plans that will create the outcomes you desire. Being proactive allows you to take the initiative and to drive the nature and direction of solutions as opposed to being passive and having a solution thrust upon you that may not be a good fit. Embrace proactivity and start to identify how things can be improved and you will find yourself in a better place to accomplish your objectives either personally or professionally. Next week we will discuss habit #2, “Begin with the end in mind”.