Technological Change: The Critical Role of Organisation and People Values

Technology has the greatest impact on how people do their work. Yet too often the potential benefits of technological change are not realised. Why is this?


The Change Silo – (see Organisation Renewal – How to Avoid Change Silos – posted on 16th July 2008)


Information Technology Managers often struggle to escape the Change Silo problem. As a result critical technological change is conceived, planned and executed in an organisation personality vacuum. The technological “experts” consult with potential users at the technological level but often fail to explore and understand what, how and why people can directly benefit from the new system. This requires a deep understanding of the strategy and mission of the organisation. It also requires a deep understanding of the values of the people who work in the organisation – why people decided to contribute to this organisation and not a competitor.


Impact of Values


Technological Change Managers must first examine and understand whether the proposed system will be accepted by people. This requires an analysis of the values fit between the organisation, people and the impact that the new system will have on these values.


The first question is: Does the current values set contribute in a positive way to the achievement of mission and strategy?  If the answer is no, then considerable work is required before implementation of the new system is attempted. That work involves organisation wide values development and realignment. To impose a new system on an inappropriate value set will reinforce the anomalous values set, and because of the inherent rigidity of most information technology systems, will result in virtually no chance in the future to realign values without catastrophic intervention.


Alternatively, if people’s values are aligned to mission and strategy, then the Technological Change Manager must ensure the system is designed and implemented so that people can continue to work in ways consistent with their values. This seems obvious. However in many cases this factor is ignored – because the emphasis has been on the technological aspects of the change rather than the people aspects of the change.


Organisation Personality


Understanding the organisation personality is critical to realising the full benefits of new information technology systems. For example, the application of information technology to secondary education. Principals are the education leaders of their local community. They expect, and the local community expects, that Principals will have a major input into the design of information technology systems that impact on their school and children. Yet too often technological change is conceived, planned and attempted to be implemented from the “Expert” centralised perspective – “We know what’s best for you”.


In this example, the organisation personality is one of local independence – Principals lead their schools on a day-to-day basis, teachers are focused on the best interests of their students and expect to have control over the available information technology to deliver education outcomes to their students.


In this organisation environment, removing a Principal’s opportunity to influence technological change outcomes undermines his/her leadership in the local community, and prevents Information Technology Managers from fully understanding how to optimise information services to schools. The result is poor implementation outcomes, ongoing resistance and conflict with Information Management groups.


New Information Technology Roles


No longer is it sufficient, if it ever was, to just focus on the technological work of Information technology professionals. Modern organisations are complex with broad cross functional interdependencies (see Leadership – Effective Cross-Functional, Multi-Discipline Leadership Will Power Performance posted on 11th August 2008). This means IT professionals skills need to include:


{    Leadership, particularly cross functional leadership

{    Technological Change Management with emphasis on organisation renewal and people (see Page – What is Organisation Renewal)

{    Project Management

{    Problem Solving/Innovation

{    Technology Risk Management




The missing link in technological change management is awareness and understanding of the critical impact that values have on how information technology systems need to be conceived, planned and implemented. The failure in the past to acknowledge this factor has resulted in project delays, cost over-runs, less than optimum final implementation and work arounds ie people finding ways to subvert systems.


It is time for Information Technology Managers to rethink the skills set of their IT professionals.


Dallas Burgess



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