Visionary Leadership

26/12/2012 12:01

In introducing PLM an organization has the opportunity to change the current way of working to a new practice, which takes benefit of the PLM capabilities. Preventing the risk of a real change some leaders intend to slow down the change in proposing the current way of working applied to the new tool. (I saw people using a PLM system like MS File Explorer.) But without visionary leadership, significant cultural changes in the organization will not occur (Schein, 1992).


Let's talk about a simple example of a current and a proposed new practice: Customer specifications in our business consists out of general specifications for products and processes, and product specific requirements. General customer specifications cover more than half of the customer specs. In general they do not change from one project to another. Specification changes are revision controlled at the customer's site.

The new practice should be the following: instead of storing all general specifications for a project related to that project (don't care about duplicates related to other projects), setup revision control for all general customer specifications (implement spec only if not already implemented) to have a clear understanding of changing requirements. If there is a new revision of a general customer spec, then initiate clarification of the impact for future projects.

Sales being responsible for the revision controlled implementation of the customer specs will use more time for the implementation, but in focusing to the changes, only, the organization in total will save time. Additionally there is a better understanding of the customer specs, which could lead to a higher satisfaction of the customer.

But the new practice is different from the current one and changes the workload for and the responsibilities of individuals and groups.

Only managers, who care deeply about customers, stockholders and employees will manage these kind of changes in contrary to managers, who care mainly about themselves, their immediate work group, or tasks associated with that work group. The former also strongly value people and processes that can create useful change (adaptive corporate culture), the latter value the orderly and risk-reducing management process much more highly than leadership initiatives (un-adaptive corporate culture) (see Kotter/Hesket, 1992).

If the corporate culture of an organization is characterized being more un-adaptive than adaptive, then following Kotter/Hesket (1992) the change in an organization requires great power to overcome, and that power resides at the top. You can't change an un-adaptive culture from the bottom up.

C-level management has to promote the corporate PLM vision taking the PLM capabilities into account. Then visionary leadership can grow and significant cultural changes in the organization will happen. 


Kotter, J. P., & Heskett, J. L. (1992). Corporate culture and performance. New York: Free Press.

Schein, Edgar (1992). Organizational Culture and Leadership: A Dynamic View. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.