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Control Report from Jim Montague: Help wanted

March 11, 2022
Useful change needs participation to overcome inertia

While cleaning up my bloated email inbox, I was reminded recently of the hundreds and likely thousands of people, who generously help me cover Control's major topics from flow to fieldbuses. They patiently explain their basic workings, how they evolve, and most importantly, how to help our readers understand and hopefully benefit from using them. I know it's not easy to get these concepts and principles across to me, so I can relay them to others. I'm grateful to every source who is willing to try, and I hereby offer another sincere thank you to all of them.

However, I've learned this willingness to participate and explain has a value far beyond simply informing readers and keeping me employed. Similar to voting, jury duty, public/military service—or a family just talking about their days over dinner—I believe that willingness and participation binds together groups, organizations and communities of all sizes. Older veterans get to share their hard-won lessons learned and even regrets, and younger rookies get to share the inspiration of everything that's new and full of life—and hopefully each listens long enough to benefit from the others.

Whether professionally or geographically defined, I know many groups and communities are elevated by the exchanges between their members. The real value of the truth is it gets everyone on the same page, and generates the best ideas and options about what to do next.

At the same time, I've covered other groups that are unwilling or unable to participate or even communicate. Some are stuck behind short-sighted communications policies or corporate hierarchies. Others are closed off behind physical, self-imposed gates. I think most are unaware of the vitality they're missing, and don't think interacting with their communities is important because they don't realize what's possible. Ignorance isn't really bliss after all.

This is why every upgrade, migration, adoption or integration project starts with recruiting one or more internal champions, who can drive these efforts and convince their colleagues, management and organizations to buy in and support them. When each fieldbus, Ethernet, batch, wireless, cybersecurity or IIoT protocol and standards effort emerged, they all needed evangelists to advocate for them, almost as much as they required the developers who created them.

In this issue's "Rubber meets road" cover article (p. 22), the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) is again urgently seeking participation in and support for the Open Process Automation Standard (O-PAS). Even though it's already made significant progress, OPAF knows that O-PAS must maintain its momentum to achieve its goal of interoperable process controls.

Whatever the endeavor, securing the greatest possible participation is essential. This is just as true for local bake sales, kids sports programs, school and municipal boards as it is for international process standards and all sorts of multinational coalitions, which have been tackling COVID-19 and supply chain snags, and now Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

However, even though seeking participation in good causes is commendable, I should mention that I've noticed it comes with at least a couple of occupational hazards. First, just as stiction is hard to overcome and valves don't like coming unstuck, inertia-bound individuals and organizations usually don't appreciate being rousted to action or even asked nicely to wake up. Consequently, opening communications and inviting participation is often a thankless task.

Second, organizers and participants in every effort to make useful changes or adopt something new typically have to deal with endless undermining along the way, whether they're pushing for O-PAS or local ordinances. Plus, they usually have to accept partial victories, many setbacks, and compromise on achieving far less than they originally planned.

As usual, slow chipping away is the only way. Keep forging ahead for what's right. Just be ready for plenty of backbiting.

About the author: Jim Montague
About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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