Creating Organizational Value through the Integration of Information Technology: A Management Perspective
Change Management and the Construction of a Receptive Organization
Transformational and Participative Leadership
A Decentralized Organizational Culture
Effective Utilization of Resources
Performance Monitoring Systems
Risk Management and Support Strategies
When considering the ever-changing and highly competitive global landscape of business today, firms must stay at the cutting edge of their respective fields in order to sustain profitability in the long-term. With the current exponential growth of technology and the computerization of business and learning, consumers and investors have become much more connected to the businesses they patronize (Kurzweil, 2001). Accordingly, companies are faced with the continuous task of finding new ways to understand and subsequently accommodate the needs of those customers and shareholders, while simultaneously securing lucrative business models and job environments. In doing so, businesses must be able to efficiently integrate and utilize various sources of new and innovative information technology. Firms can no longer solely rely on the corporate tactics and pre-existent systems of their executives to carry them into a profitable future (Vancouver, 1996). The potentialities that accompany these new and vital technological assets span across the entire spectrum of any organization’s structure and culture. And while critical information technology can be an extremely useful resource in adding value to a firm, its efficient incorporation can be quite hazardous . Therefore, the executive body must be continuously aware of all available strategic information and how this information can be implemented in accordance with the firm’s ultimate goals. Leaders must take generally participative roles in company activities prior to and during the implementation process. Being that this process involves a great deal of change throughout the corporate ladder, it is critical for leaders to be able to effectively align, motivate and mobilize their subordinates in accordance with the ultimate goals of the technological undertaking. In many cases, efficient change management results in the relative decentralization of the firm’s pre-existing organizational culture. This type of organizational dynamic has been shown to be a directly positive factor in the collective embracement of change . In addition, upper and middle management teams are also responsible for effectively exploiting all managerial information systems data regarding the most proficient use of resources, budgeting and logistics. This also involves management’s active role in the process of planning and organizing data into actionable formats. In effectively achieving these aforementioned objectives, many firms have turned to helpful technological simulations as a means of ensuring the future success of the proposed information system. This tool has been particularly effective in managing risk, assuring sinuous company-wide adoption, overcoming potential implementation obstacles and testing the firm’s reactive nature in response to change . By preemptively assessing the company’s cumulative capacity and readiness to adapt, executives can more easily predict the future outcomes associated with the eventual implementation of the proposed information technology. Even after the actual technology is implemented on a grand scale, it is also important for firms to maintain effective means of assessing the improvements garnered from the new system. Prior to the final implementation, directors must ensure the presence of reliable support strategies and effective performance monitoring systems. These tools can help firms to gauge the post-change environment and accurately determine the operational benefits of the information technology system . And being that leadership’s ultimate goal is to create a genuinely receptive organization, the amalgamation of several effective change management approaches, organizational settings and strategically useable tools allow firms the ability to amend implementation timelines and invest in further changes that will better poise the business for future success. The construction of this type of company-wide receptiveness is absolutely essential in the production of value through information technology.
Aims and Objectives
The aim of this report will be to elucidate the link between the successful implementation of information technology and the necessity of effective change management skills. This investigation will involve in depth analyses of all organizational changes accrued from the new integration of technology. By specifically examining the applicable managerial and structural frameworks necessary for the creation of an adoptive and genuinely receptive organization, this report will tactically outline all of the vital factors in successful technological implementation. Using several case studies from various industries, this report will idyllically illustrate the proven paths to integrative profitability. Additionally, this article will highlight several commonly used resources in assuring sinuous adoption of new technological systems. These tools will allow companies to increase their preemptive readiness as well as providing means of assessing risk areas and post-implementation performance. Therefore, the wide range of material covered in this report should make the often daunting task of technological change much more palatable for any firm.
Change Management and the Construction of a Receptive Organization
Transformational and Participative Leadership
Charismatic leaders have become increasingly valuable assets to the futuristic and progressive firms that lead global business today. Though while such transformational and participatory leadership approaches continue to be utilized in contemporary business, this style actually originated in the late 1970s when Dr. James MacGregor Burns first described this leadership methodology with reference to its necessity and benefits in the political arena (Hunt, 1999). Especially considering the change-invoking and contemporarily popular scenario in which firms must embrace new technological networks and systems, this type of managerial methodology has become highly advantageous. When an organization attempts to add value through information technology, it is often difficult to supervise and control the assorted cooperative and operational outcomes birthed from the wealth of new variables introduced. Systematic and structural changes need to be immediately acknowledged in order to best accommodate the needs of clients, stakeholders, creditors and internal staff members. With the infusion of new technological software possessing a presumably wide range of new business apparatuses, the pre-exiting culture of the firm will certainly be altered and revitalized. Moreover, in order to successfully achieve this vast sum of objectives, directors must be able to apply the various attributes of the participative leadership techniques and subsequently motivate their workforce into reaching the desired level of productivity and profitability. For by becoming highly involved in the various business processes associated with this type of massive change, leaders can inspire their subordinates and ease their apprehensions by opening direct and reliable lines of communication and illustrating a clear and understandable vision.
Transformational participative leaders are normally those who focus all of their efforts on creating a congruous and encouraged work environment in which the entire organization is working to achieve a common goal. In fact, according to recent literature on the subject, “The transformational leader’s focus is directed toward the organization, and his or her behavior builds follower commitment toward organizational objectives” (Stone, Russell, & Patterson, 2004, p. 349). Subsequently, a company that hopes to achieve increased profitability through the implementation of information technology provides the perfect Petri dish for examining the duties, effects and organizational outcomes that accompany this means of administration. This is primarily because the conditions present in this type of workplace mandate alignment, inspirational and organizational restructuring all to be initialized at the executive level (Aladwani, 2001). While transformational leaders have been historically labeled as the catalysts that drove companies (along with the leadership field itself) out of the “doom and gloom period” of the 1970s and early 1980s, these tactics have since been utilized in corporate atmospheres riddled with uncertainty as well as struggling firms prayerful for value-adding change (Hunt, 1999, p. 130). A perfect example of such a firm is Apple. This corporation was “treading water” until their progressive and charismatic CEO Steve Jobs returned to the company ten years ago (Anthony, 2010). Upon his arrival, Jobs became increasingly participative in the innovation and design processes and proceeded to partake in all the traditional areas of transformational leadership: (Peters, 2006)
Following the implications of the above diagram, Mr. Jobs instilled several revolutionary initiatives that have since made Apple the third most valuable company in the world (Anthony, 2010). He was directly involved in aligning the firm’s shift away from focusing solely on the actual creation of great products and towards the creation of better business models. Consequently, Apple designers began to concentrate more on the origination of new ways to create and deliver such products, while also precisely capturing their ultimate value (Anthony, 2010). In knowing the great benefits that one compelling individual had on this massive organization through his generically proactive and participative approach, one can better understand the importance of such techniques. And while the transformational leadership approach taken by Steve Jobs helped to bring his organization out of the financial basement, the same benefits can be realized when integrating transformational schemes in other types of changing workplaces.
The Apple Corporation undoubtedly illustrates the many benefits of this leadership style, though using a firm that is undergoing a massive technochange as a template allows for a more comprehensive examination of the four critical elements of the transformational leadership theory as described by leading researchers Dr. Bernard Bass and Dr. Bruce Avolio of Binghamton University in New York: individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation and idealized influence (Bass & Avolio, 1994). Considering the numerous parameters associated with a technochange atmosphere, there are certainly an immense array of company-specific considerations leaders must diligently manage. The term technochange itself, which was originally coined by Dr. M.L. Markus of the Claremont Graduate School in California, was created in an attempt to “capture the broad spectrum of aspects that are related to and have an impact on changes within an organization.” Accordingly, the streamlining of the presumably intricate data fields of the relevant organization and its customer and/or investor pool, represents one such daunting but vital aspect for any manager under these circumstances (Dixon, 1999). One of the initial duties in achieving profitability through new systematic integration is leadership’s extensive research and ultimate cumulative understanding of all pre-existing operational inputs (Dixon, 1999). In accomplishing this customized assignment, the creation (and strict adherence to) a feasible time frame has proven to be extremely helpful. Along with the establishment of such a timeline, institutions that have achieved great levels of success in valuation as a result of technochange have specifically compartmentalized the task. Knowing this, management needs to be prepared to do a great deal of planning and interacting before such integrative systems can be put in place. Through extensive planning, communication and data analysis, the future system can achieve greater success in a shorter period of time with less effort wasted trying to backfill operational gaps.
Another aspect of ensuring the success of the new technological system that accompanies planning and the creation of a timeline is the development of a detailed picture that illustrates the desired end state . By taking into account the individualized needs of all interested parties (such as stake holding entities, creditors and employees) leadership can create an appropriate model that would presumably depict what all entities hope for the organization to look like in the short-term and long-term future. Considering the organization’s future capacity and structure relative to all various inputs at specific intervals can be a valuable tool in guaranteeing a smooth and enduring technological integration and revitalization.
In accomplishing a very large and complicated technochange, the composition and work style of the management team is also essential. This factor heeds the necessity of intellectually stimulating action on behalf of the executive body. The leadership body must be able to keenly identify the adaptive strengths of the organization and should thoughtfully determine problem areas and the likelihood of systems failure in these areas . As stated above, the construction of a wide-ranging technological system requires extensive planning and data analysis, which are both human resource-intensive tasks. Therefore, the personnel involved in such undertakings must be encouraged to think creatively and independently (Bass & Avolio, 1994). By promoting innovative process modalities among leadership members, such employees become increasingly more likely to devise new ways to better execute their specific job assignments (as such is the case in the aforeposed Apple example). Additionally, productive and revolutionary teamwork and group influence can show the numerous members of the organization that there is certainly a light at the end of the tunnel of uncertainty present in all changing workplaces .
Due to the extreme exactitude and meticulousness required for success in shifting work environments, many managers in such atmospheres have underestimated the strain such an undertaking can put on the human resources of the organization. As a result of such tension, management faces the next rung on the transformational leadership ladder: inspirational motivation (Bass & Avolio, 1994). By challenging employees to perform at higher standards and providing detailed reasoning behind each new task, managers can equip their staff with a renewed sense of purpose in their work (Barbuto, 2005). However, when considering the extremely labor-intensive planning and analysis processes associated with technochange environments, personnel are often at their cutoff point by the time the newly created systems are actually implemented, which is also the time where the demand for human resource attention is typically at its highest. Therefore, it behooves any manager to create some type of protective contingency plan for training outside help (and potentially bringing them in if the need occurs) before the actual implementation of the technological system.
In addition to the hardships accompanying essential integration procedures, the adoption of a director’s new vision itself can often be quite taxing on employees. To combat this type of anxiety, management must be able to effectively communicate their new goals to their subordinates. By opening direct and reliable communicative channels with the workforce, leadership’s vision becomes much more understandable, robust and generally engaging (Barbuto, 2005). Within these lines of communication, it behooves managers to be thoughtfully optimistic in their conveyance of new initiatives. Perceived optimism from upper management has been shown to directly carry over into the lower ranks (Barbuto, 2005). An employee’s reception of this kind of sanguinity will typically cause him or her to become reenergized and exhibit increased levels of motivation and effort towards job responsibilities.
This communicative nature of leadership required throughout a period of technological change is especially relevant in heeding the essentiality of participatory leadership. The essence of this type of managerial approach involves leadership’s ability to thoroughly monitor, assist and contribute to the creative process . In doing so, management should have direct and continuous contact with their immediate subordinates as well as lower-ranking members of their designated department. By sitting in on creative sessions and conducting regular meetings with team members, upper management can supervise activity and acquire vital feedback from designers and creative minds concerning the deficiencies and productive qualities each department brings to the table . The participatory approach can also ease workers’ apprehensions by creating a direct and open pathway to discourse with the executive body. The figure below illustrates the connective potentials this type of communicative structure can have:
(Principles of Accounting, 2010)
Though the above depiction specifically exemplifies the functional outcomes of this managerial process according to the planning of a budget, the structural idea can certainly encompass a much more comprehensive area. Furthermore, when business, design and operations professionals work together in the same environment, efficiency in the technological implementation process increases significantly. While the operations division would be accountable for providing relevant productive capacities and deficiencies, the design team is typically responsible for bringing new ideas along with extensive knowledge of the target customer group. With this information presented in a collaborative environment, management can then supply additional internal company information and strategic guidelines regarding cost-effectiveness and feasibility (Kapoor, 2001). By allowing the imaginative inputs of designers to directly interact with the traditionally analytical minds of business executives and operations employees, firms can accurately identify any potential opportunities and/or deficiencies that may arise from the various means of technological implementation .
In addition, it is also important to remember that leaders in technochange situations are attempting to achieve the seamless integration of a new revolutionizing operational system. Thus, starting from the top, managers must be able to take additional steps to align employees with the organization’s newly constructed technological vision, while simultaneously heeding pre-existing projects and schedules. In order to accomplish this delicate task directors are required to effectively ascertain their subordinates’ specific capacities to embrace change and whether or not they are honestly committed to the future goals of the organization or if they are just going through the motions. In doing so, a manager in this situation must be able to adequately enact a strong set of operational ground rules and behavioral expectations as well as eloquently outline the specific short-term and long-term integrative objectives the organization hopes to achieve. Once again, this type of instillation calls for leaders to strategically utilize their communication skills .
Through a director’s interactive efforts with his managerial counterparts and fellow employees, he or she can hope to create an ideal model of moral and high ethical behavior during the process of technochange. The creation of this kind of standard system comprises the final element of transformational leadership: idealized influence (Bass & Avolio, 1994). As noted above, the construction of promising ethical norms relies heavily upon a leader’s communicational propensities. If the executive body is truly able to instill a genuine sense of communicational openness through all levels of the staff during such a period of change and uncertainty, the resultant organizational culture can discourage unethical behavior and other regrettable outcomes by opening secure and relaxed lines of communication (Rosanas & Velilla, 2005). This kind of outlet will also aid in persuading employees to speak up if they happen to encounter unethical or illegal activity occurring at the office. Knowing this, a participatory and communicative managerial approach can be extremely effective for firms that fear the potential for unethical behavior, which is quite common among firms undergoing periods of drastic change . Such unsolicited goings-on can cause the ultimate downfall of a company, and in the absence of a healthy and receptive organizational culture the proclivity of this type of behavior can increase drastically. And once a disreputable atmosphere is created in the workplace, this problem can be extremely difficult to remedy (Rosanas & Velilla, 2005).
The final product of the successful utilization of change management techniques in a firm undergoing technochange will include aspects like systematic receptiveness, motivated and aligned employees, and genuinely approachable and dedicated leadership entities. Despite the immense amount of legwork necessary to fruitfully personify the numerous qualities of a transformational leader and to facilitate such a large change, the potential for improvement that lies in the comprehensive adoption of new visions and technologies makes such tasks worthy of working very hard to complete. And through sufficient planning and diligence, a competently staffed organization is certainly capable of succeeding in the face of the colossal uncertainty that comes with any type of wide-ranging organizational change. As history has shown, a charismatic and transformational leader can have a monumental effect on his or her organization, and with the right pieces in place and the necessary characteristics, such an individual can become the vehicle for achieving the ultimate goal of providing superior service and operating at the highest possible level of efficiency.
A Decentralized Organizational Culture
Over the last number of decades, creativity and innovation in technological business processes have proven to be particularly vital in achieving success. Thus, the presence creatively minded employees within businesses is now becoming increasingly essential. In fact, the future of many companies (especially those in technologically-based industries) is ultimately dependent upon the innovative initiatives of its core group of inventive minds, the creation of new computerized systems and the restructuring of current systematic configurations (Vancouver, 1996). By restructuring operational models to promote adaptability and by placing greater importance on the functioning of creative groups, businesses can allow for the fluid culmination of ideas, concerns, opportunities and threats. Such methodologies have helped numerous firms to maximize the number of inputs and levels of participation in the ideation and implementation stages. The General Electric Corporation was the first firm to comprehensively integrate the cornerstones of this progressive structural style into its organizational culture. The company coined the term “boundarylessness” with reference to this initiative . By flattening the traditional corporate hierarchy and “uncomplicating” management, this firm created a decentralized working environment in which leaders participated in several new business areas and employees were encouraged to voice their opinions . The fruits of these revolutionary approaches to the business process have gone on to comprise the foundational arena for many of GE’s subsequent technological enhancements and profitability increases. Accordingly, several firms have closely examined the success of the General Electric Corporation and have gone on to implement similar strategies into their business models. One such notable firm is the Toyota Corporation . This firm has taken further steps to customize and modernize the GE method of corporate evolution and idea creation, and subsequently integrated this plan throughout its journey to the top of the global auto market . Thus, with the countless beneficial implications associated with this methodology and its potential for increasing technochange capacities, it behooves any firm to at least consider a switch to this type of organizational structure.
The concept of boundarylessness is one that is seen more and more often today in the global world of intellectual and idea-driven business. However, before the true birth of innovative information technology as a means to achieve corporate success, many firms believed in traditional processes of corporate evolution. These antiquated processes typically included long-established production techniques, slow growth rates and ideation exclusively from the boardroom. As this structure had been the standard operating procedure for much of the 20th Century, General Electric CEO Jack Welch began to rethink this time-honored approach during the latter half of the 1980’s . Despite GE’s steady fiscal performance throughout several decades, Mr. Welch was not satisfied with such sluggish growth and archaic business models . As a result of this realization, Welch began to promote idea creation in other areas of the business, encouraging all employees to think outside the box and share their proposals. In assuring his true dedication to this new operational technique, he also encouraged his executive peers to become more hands on in several areas of business . Rather than simply analyze the periodic reports sent to them from department personnel, Welch wanted his leadership body to truly know their staff and team members by asking questions and providing personal support. In so doing, he also asked his peers to become more knowledgeable about the operational goings-on within the production process. Noting the cumulative nature of Welch’s proposed plan, the foundation of his technique involved the entire capacity of the General Electric Corporation.
In the implementation of his somewhat lofty goals, Jack Welch centered his focus on the importance of unencumbered communication and interaction within the company. He created several reliable lines of communication throughout the ranks of his organization. Additionally, he strove to ensure that these communicational channels were always open and that employees would never feel hesitant to utilize these resources . The results of this technique culminated in the creation of relaxed and collaborative work environments, which have since been shown to be excellent promoters of innovative and generally receptive behavior . Welch was also directly involved in initiating the firm’s systematic shift away from the traditionally centralized executive decision-making hub and the authoritative stencil drawn over many large corporations. And being that the right operational metric is often the first (and most important) step to initiating widespread receptiveness and innovative behavior within a firm, the potentiality of this shift becomes all the more profound.
Welch’s revolutionary formula and his systematic and comprehensive methodology also heed the famous Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of innovation . Schumpeter indentified innovation as the sole means of instilling lasting changes at the microeconomic level as well as the macroeconomic level . And being that the General Electric Corporation (as well as many of its corporate peers at the time) was well overdue for productivity enhancing change, Mr. Welch wasted no time providing his company with the tools for change in the form of innovative programs . Thus, even though the term had yet to be created, Welch essentially constructed the foundation of what is now the field of change management
Furthermore, Welch’s strategic approach to providing such vital adaptive devices was equally important to the ultimate success of GE’s productive engines. Presenting his staff with a genuine sense of openness and approachability was a critical aspect found within Welch’s approach to instilling change and increasing efficiency in the operational process. Ensuring that all personnel thoroughly understood the company’s goals allowed these individuals to produce more highly applicable ideas and proposals as well as promoting greater levels of useful ideation input . Additionally, the thorough knowledge of the corporation’s strategic objectives provided to employees by Mr. Welch and his fellow executives gave these individuals renewed sense of usefulness and purpose within the company . Along with this, the means with which Mr. Welch conveyed and implemented his organizational goals to his employees is yet another causal factor behind this company’s eventual innovative success. Similarly to the aforementioned contemporary Apple example, the optimistic and charismatic way in which the transference of goals and reasoning took place at the General Electric Corporation were extremely important in the process of aligning the company’s technological focus . By chronically striving to break down the traditional corporate limitations (both vertical and horizontal) Jack Welch created a new type of organization that was revitalized and hungry for future success.
The integration of Mr. Welch’s strategic managerial approach created the true basis for what he referred to as the boundaryless organization, which has been previously referred to as a decentralized organizational structure or a flattening of the traditional corporate pyramid . Thus, it should be noted that the previously highlighted figure regarding the configuration of participative management within an organization would likely be modified to abandon its stark triangular nature. Though the illustration above was only intended to elucidate the communicative structure associated with participatory management styles, a truly boudaryless organization’s structure would likely resemble the forthcoming diagram:
In the absence of authoritative or dictatorial leadership, employees are given a greater say in the productive and ideation processes and many traditional horizontal boundaries are subsequently destroyed. However, even though many companies undergoing technochanges have already attempted to create and utilize prominent collaborative focus groups into their business models, such inventive staff members are often left to their own devices and asked to report their final ideas to administrators on a periodic basis. This relatively segregative approach has shown to be much less productive in that it does not involve business professionals in the creative process (McGrath & Zell, 2001). Thus, the successful flattening of an organization’s structural facets often involves the discarding of the more traditional analytical business paradigm of Mathematics/Economics/Psychology (MEP), which comes with a wealth of vertical and horizontal limitations (like the segregative example presented above), and the subsequent adoption of the more innovation-promoting and receptive Architecture/Design/Anthropology (ADA) paradigm (Brown, 2009). This structural shift allows the potentially creative minds of lower-level employees to become much more involved and influential in the creation and implementation processes.
Additionally, firms must take a multilateral and decentralized approach towards corporate evolution in order to realize the full capacity of this change-friendly structural apparatus. By not specifically limiting technological development and progression to one aspect of the business, firms can promote the useful outside of the box thinking on behalf of their labor force (Brown, 2009). Such instinctual brainstorming can often produce some very unique and inventive ideas. This is because staff members are not limited in their thinking by the various pre-existent operational restrictions. For when creative employees place too much importance on current capacities, groundbreaking opportunities are often thrown away for fear that they will not be able to “navigate through the system” (Brown, 2009, p. 1). Therefore, one must recognize the significance of allowing a group of innovatively minded employees to have a period during the ideation phase in which they can operate with complete freedom. When a business continues to allow vertical or horizontal boundaries or limits to stand in the way of its true potential for value-adding change, such a firm is also accordingly placing limits on its lucrative potential and future sustainability.
Also, a relaxed and comfortable work environment is yet another piece of the decentralized organizational puzzle. Such workplaces promote unencumbered and candid intra-organizational communication and cooperation. And in the process of undergoing collective technochange and creating more efficient business models, this type of collaboration and open channels of communication are vital. In fact, recent studies have shown that, “intra-organizational aspects of communication are directly associated with innovative performance” (Kivimaki, et al., 2000, p. 35). Knowing that some of the most modern and innovative companies on Earth (i.e. Google and Facebook) have already integrated this kind of relaxed working atmosphere into their corporate structures, the implications for success become much more succinct (Brief & Weiss, 2002).
Knowing the numerous benefits of Jack Welch’s decentralized and boundaryless corporate system, countless companies have integrated this structure into their operations. Perhaps the greatest success from the adoption of this system came when the Japanese carmaker Toyota gave it a try (Liker, 2004). Beginning in the late 1930’s, this firm struggled initially to compete with its numerous Asian competitors (Fujimoto, 1999). Attempting to break in to the small-car manufacturing market proved to be a difficult venture. However, through strategic labor decisions and expansion practices Toyota was able to grow its business towards the middle of the 20th Century and eventually started producing small trucks and cargo vehicles (Fujimoto, 1999). This lead to the company’s entering of the United States market in 1957 (Fujimoto, 1999). By tweaking their business model and naming strategies to fit American preferences, Toyota began realizing significant sales numbers in this critical market. And with the oil crisis of the early 1970’s in the United States, Toyota was poised to reap the benefits (Fujimoto, 1999). The fuel shortage caused many Americans to begin purchasing smaller and more fuel-efficient cars (like the ones Toyota was producing) and abandon American carmakers that primarily produced gas-guzzling vehicles (Fujimoto, 1999). By gaining a leg up on their foreign competitors, Toyota continued to grow and expand its operations. However, the car company was expanding at a rate continuously equal to its small-car making competitors in Europe and Asia (Liker, 2004). Therefore, leaders at Toyota still searched for new means of advancement relative to their counterparts. And while the company had certainly evolved a great deal from its humble beginnings, Toyota executives still strove for a greater sense of dominance in the global auto market (Liker, 2004).
This is the point at which Toyota discovered the General Electric Corporation’s concept of boundarylessness. Similar to GE, Toyota is a major manufacturer and is always looking for ways to increase productive efficiency. Therefore, through extensive examination of Jack Welch’s system, Toyota began constructing an implementation plan by which they could utilize these proven organizational methods to improve their performance. Consequently, Toyota identified several key focus areas for the organization and its leaders in the adoption of Mr. Welch’s verified method. These specific focal points included setting the specific direction for the organization as a whole, demonstrating personal character and reliability, mobilizing individual employee commitment, and engendering the organization’s capability through the construction and subsequent adoption of new innovative technological systems (Finnie & Early, 2002). The company and its leaders determined that if they were to be able to truly demolish the numerous vertical and horizontal limitations that existed within the firm, each of these attributes would have to be well established.
In accomplishing their ultimate goals and adhering to the fundamental principles of a decentralized organization, Toyota strove to empower its employees at all levels of the corporate ladder. By taking the time to hear the ideas of workers and sharing/conveying their own ideas and goals with such employees, Toyota’s leadership body aimed to help the firm further evolve into the future (Garvin, 2003). Company executives have since become increasingly participative throughout the manufacturing process and several inventive technological resolutions have been initiated by relatively low-ranking Toyota employees (Garvin, 2003). Toyota leaders have always kept in mind one of Jack Welch’s famous token phrases: “people are your greatest asset” (Slater, 2000, p. 33). In keeping within this line of thinking, Toyota has continually promoted an entrepreneurial spirit (offering hefty incentives to those willing to share their innovative ideas) within the organization and has gone on to take gigantic innovative leaps as a result (Liker, 2004). In fact, Toyota has become the world’s leading manufacturer as a result of their adoption of this type of operational system (Liker, 2004). Toyota officials always keep in mind that ideas can come from anywhere and that no idea is a bad idea. Therefore, by flattening their corporate hierarchy, creating a collaborative work environment (promoting teamwork) and always striving to improve, Toyota has overtaken its competitors and sits atop the global automotive industry (Garvin, 2003). In doing so, this company has embedded itself as an ideal exemplar of the profitability-enhancing powers of Jack Welch’s proven approach.
With the countless benefits associated with a decentralized organization, employees are typically very satisfied in these working environments. Being that one of the fundamental elements of boundarylessness (mentioned above) as described by Jack Welch involves the great importance of human resources as vital assets to any company, a firm that truly adopts this philosophy will presumably take very good care of its employees (Ashkenas, Ulrich, Jick, & Bossidy, 2002). In most cases, working environments are catered to employee preferences, various performance-based incentives (i.e. advancement opportunities) are provided and superiors are regularly available for consultation regarding concerns or possible areas of improvement (Ashkenas, Ulrich, Jick, & Bossidy, 2002). However, despite the seemingly euphoric nature of a decentralized firm, this type of structure can often have its shortcomings for employees. Such occurrences usually result from the poor implementation of the boundarylessness concept. For in its purest form, employees should remain treasured assets and thus very satisfied with their employers as a result. Nevertheless, there are often individuals within a firm that thrive off of the sense of power and authority over their subordinates. This type of individual will likely make the work lives of his or her employees very difficult and in some cases unbearable. While such individuals are often highly ambitious and may be acting in ways they believe are beneficial for the company, a flattened organizational structure with limited vertical and horizontal limitations leaves little room for this kind of behavior (Ashkenas, Ulrich, Jick, & Bossidy, 2002).
Ultimately, almost every business could stand to benefit from the truly pure implementation of a boundaryless corporate structure. And despite industrial or cultural intricacies present in each firm’s unique technochange situation, there is always an effective means of instilling such organizational enhancements. It is important for companies to follow GE’s example in realizing that they cannot force employees or leaders to truly embrace changes, rather they can only create environments in which the purpose of such changes is thoroughly understood and respected. Firms like Toyota provide perfect exemplars of the great success and profitability increases that can be achieved through this type of structural configuration. By adopting several managerial, structural and environmental policies, the Toyota Corporation has poised themselves for future corporate evolution and innovative ideations (McDaniel, 2000). Knowing that an inventive idea can come from anywhere, this company has learned to share information and strategically communicate with all functioning input sources so that no good idea is left behind and employees are always ready and willing to adapt. For with the right levels of information and collaboration, innovative technological enhancements are created that can customize and revolutionize business operations and customer interactions.
Effective Utilization of Resources
Once an organization and its leadership have implemented the necessary managerial approaches and structural configurations, such a firm can begin to investigate the case-specific tools they will utilize in the actual implementation of their new technological proposal. Computerized systems that are to be integrated on a large scale most often take the form of networks, which various employees from different departments will be required to access on a daily basis. Being that network components typically become embedded in many employees’ daily organizational routines, it is vital for these individuals to be adequately educated and prepared for the intricacies of a new system . If leadership and technology departments do not adequately complete this process, it is very likely that the operational efficiency and productivity of many employees will suffer a great deal . Consequently, many firms have chosen to utilize simulations as means of preparing employees and testing their capacity to productively embrace change. Studies have shown that, “simulations techniques have benefited the traditional areas of many firms in helping to mitigate design flaws, learning system behavior, providing training, and becoming a standard practice for building complex systems” (Barjis, 2001, p. 3). The vast majority of simulations are based on technologically modeled systems. Such models have various key characteristics that need to be considered by companies before implementing a simulation. The categories of these distinct qualities include “system of interest,” “visibility,” “probability” and “dynamics” (Barnett, 2003, p. 2). This systematic approach was initiated as a means of ensuring consistency throughout the staff during a given simulation experience. In order to achieve success in the simulated environment management must have expertise in motivational discourse and human relations that are typically necessary for the sinuous streamlining of simulation techniques (Baudrillard, Foss, Patton, & Beitchman, 1999). Ultimately, “simulation is a tool for managing change” (Barnett, 2003, p. 1). When utilized effectively, this tool can help to fluidly mobilize a labor force from its old ways into new ones.
A simulation can be a valuable apparatus for the “study, analysis, optimization, comparison of different scenarios, and the measurement of potential effects” before the company initiates a permanent change (Barjis, 2001, p. 4). Knowing the variety of purposes a simulation can serve; many companies need to use this training device in different ways. Therefore, the consideration of the various unique traits and features of simulations is crucial in order to serve the diverse efficiency needs of such organizations. For example, “system of interest” models help a company determine what specific information is necessary in order to optimize the effectiveness of the ensuing simulation. In this type of model, a company can be looking to enhance the productivity of its physical system or perhaps its management process. In the case of the prospective physical systems improvement, a company might want to enrich its supply chain, increase its interactive capacity with its customers and better understand its current patterns in the movement of inventory (Barnett, 2003). Whereas with a managerial system of interest, companies are often looking at the data used in production and even human resource models (Barnett, 2003).
Another aspect of simulation is the “visibility” into the structure of a company’s current and prospective model (Barnett, 2003). Highly visible models have become increasingly popular in business today. Managers want swift and accurate answers to quandaries and they also want equally rapid corrective action. Despite this fact, business management also requires explanations as to why decisions are made and how solutions are thought to meet the goals of the firm. Thus, providing this explanatory information almost always requires a relatively high level of visibility into the structure of the simulation model (Barnett, 2003). With decidedly visible models, engineers can spend more time increasing efficiency and less time explaining the inner-workings and technical jargon to management.
The role of “probability” is also important when constructing a technological simulation model. This consideration is especially critical when planning a model of significant size and sophistication. This is because such models are usually accompanied by a relatively large set of unknown behaviors and outcomes (Barnett, 2003). In large-scale operations, companies are often examining employee and customer behavior under and wide range of circumstances (Suzuki, Jin, Koyama, & Kang, 2010). Consequently, in is often an arduous examination and interpretation process once results are pooled. As a result of this unwelcome outcome, many companies utilize probability principles in order to extrapolate accurate representations of their targeted zones (Suzuki, Jin, Koyama, & Kang, 2010).
The last vital dimension of any simulation model is its “dynamics” (Barnett, 2003). This aspect of modeling is often thought to be the most important. This is because a dynamic model can provide a corporation with much more potentially useful information that a more static model (Barjis, 2001). Dynamic models can illustrate “the change of important business metrics over time and across space (i.e. geographically)” (Barnett, 2003, p.5). This fabulous feat is accomplished through the amalgamation of various smaller models into one integrated system (Barnett, 2003). While each of the smaller models is created to serve its own purpose, the formation of this “mega model” can serve many purposes quickly and easily. Therefore, a dynamic model is better equipped than any other type of model to meet the multi-faceted needs of virtually every large company.
Aside from the numerous critical characteristics of models, there are many effective methods of employing simulations used in numerous corporations in the modern world. Using technological means is by far the most popular of all apparatuses, and even simulations that are not entirely technological often utilize technology a great deal in their construction and implementation . Technology is a superb device to manage the highly complex and mathematical network components of almost all firms (Barnett, 2003). However, technology can also be used for the purposes of achieving more personable changes. In the case of a highly complex simulation system, customized software and networking mechanisms are usually necessary to facilitate an efficient and lasting change (Barnett, 2003). Highly complicated interest models require sophisticated coding and design (both graphically and mathematically) (Barjis, 2001). Consequently, the previously mentioned decentralized organizational culture is highly applicable in that its collaborative nature will allow business professionals to directly interact with technology professionals possessing the required skills in coding, design and networking.
On the other hand, technological simulations can also be used to increase efficiency at a more basic level. In such a case, the person constructing the desired model will create a straightforward and that employees can access to learn more about the changing needs of the company and how to better meet them (Barnett, 2003). In this type of system, the software acts primarily as an extremely helpful and infallible monitor of an employee’s responses. These answers and reactions given by staff members can provide accurate and informative data regarding the areas that he or she needs to improve as well as the areas in which the company may need to restructure its strategy for change (Suzuki, Jin, Koyama, & Kang, 2010).
As elucidated in the data presented above, each characteristic of a given simulation needs thorough examination before a firm engages and finances a real simulation. Competent managers are critical assets in determining what areas of the simulation model need intense focus in order to adhere to the organization’s unique needs (Kloeber, 2010). Additionally, good management is essential in the efficient and accurate interpretation of the data collected by a simulation model. With the wide variety of qualities and methods of utilizing simulation models, companies and their executives need to be diligent in knowing their competition as well as their own staff. “Chronically increasing capabilities and features of emerging technologies and growing customer demands require organizations to keep current and be swift to changes” (Barjis, 2001, p. 4). Therefore, simulations are just one tool that companies can use to stay ahead of the ever-changing game.
Performance Monitoring Systems
When reflecting upon the multitude of intellectual and motivational duties required of organizational leaders it is useful to have some type of visionary and systematic performance measurement mechanism in place (Harrison, Hitt, Hoskisson, & Ireland, 1991). Knowing that a firm has already undergone quite a few potentially enhancing operational changes, it is important to truly ensure that such alterations are indeed worth the effort and expenditure they require. In other words, not only is it important for a business to add fiscal value through information technology, but it also essential that the given company maintain that value after the implementation of a technological network or system. Performance assessment programs can help to assure the longevity of the relevant technology’s value-adding effect. The most successful of such measurement metrics includes both qualitative and quantitative evaluations (Harrison, Hitt, Hoskisson, & Ireland, 1991). In terms of the latter evaluative arena, it is often necessary for firms to create a sophisticated computerized system to collect information from various sources throughout the production process. This idea of sample data collection from various selected points in the operational process heeds the theory of statistical process control . By merging the fundamentals of this theory with a modern computerized network, corporate officials and shareholders will be able to easily access vital operational and performance-based information in a concise and easy-to-read format. Knowing the great importance of time in the daily lives of executives and investors, and the essentiality of an accurate performance measurement mechanism, it is easy to see why this type of complex network is absolutely mandatory. However, in constructing and implementing a technological system of this magnitude there are several pre-considerations that must be made in order to ensure the future success of the project. Successful systems construction typically requires the strategic utilization of all available tools. Accordingly, there are several helpful implementation programs (like Microsoft Project) that have been proven to make the lives of technology employees much easier by providing a straightforward means of achieving essential levels of organization and efficiency. Therefore, by tactically including such goals in the cumulative nature of the technological implementation firms can ensure that the new system is understood and genuinely embraced by end-users.
The creation of a new systematic computer program to monitor operational performance requires extreme diligence and thorough planning. The specific targets and goals for the program should be discussed and subsequently approved by management (Fletcher, 2001). Many firms will require a performance appraisal system that is equally as large and sophisticated as the newly implemented technological networking system. Therefore, technology department employees should be thoroughly involved throughout the process (Woodall & Montgomery, 1999). What is more, being that this type of computerized system will presumably affect and account for a multitude of operational inputs throughout the corporate ladder, numerous consultations must be made (Oakland, 2007). The feedback and specifications garnered through these surveys and meetings must be strategically integrated into the project plans in order to effectively meet the needs of all potential end users, and to ensure that the performance system is collecting data that accurately represents operational capacities at strategically selected stages of the production process (Oakland, 2007). Each area of an organization will likely present its own unique concerns and priorities regarding the performance program’s functionality and features (Woodall & Montgomery, 1999). As a result, creation teams must be able to include these facets, while also creating a system that is cost-effective and user friendly.
Knowing the massive amounts of requests and informative feedback facing technology departments during the initial stages of the creation process, there are several tools that can be utilized in order to accurately examine the potentialities associated with this surge of input information. Similarly to the pre-planning creative process, and in keeping with the goal of tactically utilizing all of the effective tools at an organization’s disposal during the formation of a new technological monitoring device, Microsoft Project software has been extremely helpful to numerous firms. This can help technology groups and managers in vital creation and implementation related areas like “resource management, schedule management, financial management, time and task management and team collaboration” (Microsoft Corporation, 2010, p. 1). By integrating traditional organizational tools like Gantt and other control charts, this program compiles massive amounts of information into a succinct and easily accessible computerized forum. With the ever-increasing modern demands placed on executives and upper management teams, this apparatus provides a means of effective, yet unobtrusive, communication. By not having to take up a supervisor’s or end-user’s time with continual phone conversations, Microsoft Project allows such contributing individuals to readily view the status and progress of technological projects electronically and at their leisure . Being able to monitor and manipulate the goings-on in the creation and implementation processes is a unique and innovative way of efficiently disclosing vital information to principals and other relevant parties.
The strategic sharing of information is also an important consideration for managerial groups. Being that a new technological performance-monitoring system will affect the operational activities of both technical and non-technical staff members, appropriate task assignments are vital in achieving the highest possible levels of efficiency. Successful information-sharing tactics in systems creation and implementation normally revolve around the economic concept of specialization and exchange . This process involves the allocation of specific tasks to specialized groups, which then become solely responsible for completing these explicit objectives . Managers and project leaders are then equally responsible for the amalgamation of all the productive results from specialists . Accordingly, during the creation and implementation of the new computerized monitoring program, technical professionals should only be given the relevant information regarding systems data, implementation plans and technological goals. Whereas, directors and project managers should be in charge of cumulative project plans, training programs and the selection of applicable systems components.
In addition, while systems software can comprise a means of monitoring quantitative performance, simple and candid employee-manager discourse can provide valuable feedback in assessing the quality-based performance of the newly integrated system as well as reports regarding various other operational deficiencies or opportunities (Harrison, Hitt, Hoskisson, & Ireland, 1991). Considering the aforementioned moral and ethical advantages of this kind of open structure and being that it is extremely essential for all employees to truly embrace new systems and visions, these types of regular meetings and intra-company interactions provide an excellent tools in assuring the successful furthering of a newly created technological network or system.
The task of successfully creating and subsequently implementing a proposed performance appraisal system can be extremely grueling and laborious. Pre-planning and feedback collection alone typically require significant amounts of funding, manpower and time demands. And while there are certainly many other areas of performance program creation and systems integration that mandate intense and continuous scrutiny, extensive knowledge regarding all the available strategic tools should make the process much more sinuous. The tools listed above should be strategically utilized as a general framework for assembling and implementing a systematic computer program to accurately monitor productive performance. However, as repeatedly implied, all systems present their own distinctive set of operational confines and potentials. Thus, planning and systematic analysis are always necessary to overcome any and all unique obstacles.
Risk Management and Support Strategies
Aside from the actual lucrative implementation of a new performance-monitoring system, the development of an effective support strategy to manage risk is another area of any new computer program that mandates continual diligence and pre-planning. This resource is often integrated into the performance-monitoring package, although it actually aims to monitor the performance of the system itself (and its creators), rather than its users . And being that company-wide technological networking almost always involves massive expenditures, a firm must be able to accurately locate and acknowledge potential risk areas. Failure to recognize such potentialities can ultimately lead to systems failures and various types of future inefficiencies.
The numerous uncertainties that accompany all technologically integrative endeavors must be individually scrutinized in order to ensure the feasibility of the task and the completion of its goals. With the various potential origins of destructive or counterproductive outcomes, the incorporation of support strategies should certainly remain high on the list of priorities when engaging in this type of systematic venture. The prospective for corporate losses as result of mismanaged risks is quite significant in most cases. Therefore, while every company certainly strives to sustain fiscal durativity, all possible risks must be assiduously analyzed. In doing so, there are several ways to avoid the potentially debilitating effects risks bring to the table. Such tactics include the specific identification of risks prior to the initiation of the technological network, chronic communication regarding risks and the creation of a reliable risk response system. While each of these aspects of strategic support provides their own individual benefits, each is necessary and should be utilized as a system of building blocks in combating the negative outcomes of risk environments. Especially noting the great importance of accurate data representation in a performance-monitoring technological network, support strategies are absolutely critical for ensuring that the new system is in fact doing its job.
The process of accurately identifying all potential risks associated with technochange should be the first item on any manager’s agenda. Consideration of future scenarios and risk origins should be utilized as a means of constructing the right team for the job (Raz & Michael, 2001). Each member of a leadership body brings along unique experience and characteristics. Human resources comprise the essential catalyst and possible source of many project related risks (Raz & Michael, 2001). Also, thorough examination of a company’s documents can provide a useful method of initially locating risk areas before truly engaging in the technological endeavor (Chapman & Ward, 1996). While the creation and planning of most systems implementations involves significant amounts of document creation and review, garnering the necessary information from each sheet of paper is essential in the timely recognition of risk origins. Many implementation teams are extremely focused on the project objectives, and such information is often overlooked (Chapman & Ward, 1996). Additionally, leaders and technology departments tend to concentrate on the necessary documentation required for the completion of their specific project. However, when panels take the time to review old project plans and proposals, it often provides a helpful source of historical risks and roadblocks (Chapman & Ward, 1996).
Following the preliminary identification of risks, findings should be then classified based upon their positive or negative potentials. While most risk areas commonly carry a negative connotation as threats to the project, there is also quite a bit of literature supporting the recognition of positive risk scenarios (Ward & Chapman, 2003). Such opportunistic risks can help leaders to bolster efficiency and perhaps provide alternative channels to increasing profitability (Ward & Chapman, 2003). Many firms focus their complete attention on the management of threatening risks, though noting the potential benefits coupled with the location of positive risk areas, it would certainly behoove such groups to dedicate at least a small portion of their time to trying to find such prospects.
Another crucial aspect of successfully managing risk is the maintenance of unencumbered lines of communication within the organization and between the firm and its customers and stakeholders. Arising from the information stated above, efficient intergroup communication is often a product of the conscientious selection of implementation group members. By making risk communication a regular part of leadership’s agenda, ongoing communicative behavior is thereby encouraged (Raz & Michael, 2001). Consequently, technological implementation meetings should always include discourse about the management of the previously identified risk areas. Also, managers are ultimately responsible for the continuous conveyance of such information to the firm’s major investors and stakeholders (Raz & Michael, 2001).
In addition to all of the tactics necessary for managing and identifying risk areas, an effective risk response network is critical in order to minimize the effect of the few inevitably unforeseen risks (Chapman & Ward, 1996). While the aforementioned tools will unquestionably help managers in controlling risk-related outcomes, it is important to remember that such outcomes continue to loom. Therefore, it is imperative to accept these possibilities and create a universally functional response system. The implementation of the desired response behavior should begin within the confines of the technology department’s implementation team and then progressively expand outward to other leadership entities and end users. (Chapman & Ward, 1996). Though it is important to remember that in order to create an efficient and productive response system, risk areas must first be accurately identified and examined (Chapman & Ward, 1996).
Ultimately, in managing risks and assuring the triumph of the project, competent managers become essential pieces of the puzzle. With the various potential risk origins present in every firm, managers must be able to effectively monitor and communicate with their staff members, as well as their corporate counterparts. No company wants their technological system to fail, be poorly implemented or go over the authorized budget. Therefore, implementation teams must have an accurate and all-encompassing idea of the corporate structure and all of the various specificities related to the unique technological system. This wide range of knowledge, along with a functioning support system will help to safeguard companies against the many inevitable (yet unforeseen) threats that will present themselves in the highly uncertain future.
It is no secret that companies in the modern business world must be able to efficiently implement various profitable forms of information technology. New leadership styles and structural arrangements are often required in order for firms to realize the true and entire potential of value-adding technology. Knowing the massive influence such technological advances can have, it is also essential for companies to remain mindful of the numerous potential pitfalls that accompany this type of all-encompassing undertaking . Therefore, the entire process essentially boils down to a balancing act on behalf of leadership. Executives must be continuously cognizant of the firm’s greater goals, while also accommodating the various risk origins and structural threats . In assuming this delicate role, leadership must play an active and participatory part throughout the entire pre- and post-implementation periods. By making diligent efforts to motivate, educate and align staff members throughout the firm, managers will better prepare their labor forces for eventual systematic triumph. The chronic promotion of collaborative working environments will encourage employees to share their ideas and concerns with managers capable of applying corrective measures. Infusing these social approaches to technological implementation with the strategic utilization of more technical resources like simulations and performance appraisal systems creates a truly comprehensive method for developing a receptive firm that is very likely to increase its profitability through information technology.
In undertaking this project, my group members and I were quite confident in our ability to compile all of our wisdom into a professional format. Many of us believed that we possessed thorough knowledge on the intricacies of change management with its relation to the integration of information technology. I myself was particularly confident because I am highly interested in management science and management theory. In fact, even before undertaking this assignment (or this graduate program for that matter), I decided that my career goal was to occupy a managerial position. Nevertheless, despite our collective confidence in the material, each of us soon realized that this linkage we chose to research went far beyond the obvious associations. Our initial meetings (prior to the collection of significant data) were essentially discussions about the several easily observable connections between leadership and change. Building upon this knowledge, we all began to collect data regarding different aspects of leadership, organizational structure and behavior, and information technology. Through the examination of this data it became strikingly clear that this topic had many more comprehensive implications than any of us had initially considered. The result of this culmination of relevant data sources was quite overwhelming, though all group members seemed to agree that a wealth of information is certainly better than a shortage. However, this surplus of applicable information caused a slight degree of initial disorganization and misalignment. Each group member seemed to have his or her own ideas about where the project should go and how it should get there. It did not take us long to come to a collective compromise in which we tried to accommodate all relevant inputs. Accordingly, I was also able to overcome my own sense of being engulfed through the help of my faithful group members. Upon completion of our group work and my own individual report, I came to realize that I had learned quite a few valuable lessons about organization, group dynamics, compromise and triumph.
In hindsight, I still believe that my group and I were very successful in putting together and presenting a high quality research report. The group process was basically an initial brainstorming session followed by a progressive collection of information. In the first few sessions, aside from openly discussing our pre-existing wisdom regarding the topic, the main goal seemed to be in assigning each group member an appropriate area to research. After the second meeting we all seemed to be relatively comfortable regarding our task assignments. Essentially, the group was divided in two, half of us were set to research the intricacies of change management and organization structure, while the other half was assigned to take a further look into information technology. This dynamic seemed to be very helpful in giving each member a more specific focus during the period of research. My micro-group eventually decided to collaborate outside the normal team environment, which also helped in the process of delving even deeper into our topic (change management). It was as if our smaller group soon became divided once again and our individual focuses became even more specific.
Perhaps as a result of this individualization throughout the group during our research, some pretty significant disparities were created upon the culmination of research in further meetings. In fact, with the new and exciting knowledge each person had stumbled upon in his or her own individual investigations, each seemed to want to take the entire project in a different direction. I can even recall one collaborative session that was partially comprised of a large argument surrounding the trajectory of the project. Not only was the group divided bi-dimensionally (as in those who had researched information technology vs. those who had researched change management and organizational behavior), rather it seemed to be divided multi-dimensionally (as in everyone arguing for their own unique idea). Without question, this process was very unproductive, though thankfully it was also very short-lived. The group as a whole soon realized that a compromise needed to be made. In coming to such a conclusion we decided that each group member would have a chance to present their ideas to the group one by one and that it would be a good idea for micro-groups to meet more regularly than the entire group. After each person went on to present their ideas, we began to discuss how these ideas could be integrated into the project and if some ideas may have to be discarded. Once we were in agreement, we moved on. This process proved to be extremely helpful in the actual construction and development of our project.
It took about two or three group meetings to accurately determine the final components of our group’s project proposal. Each group member seemed to be exceedingly satisfied with the final product and their own respective contributions. Upon the completion of the configurative outline, the dynamic of the group was extremely strong and confident. By making decided efforts to listen to the ideas and proposals of each individual, the group quickly evolved into a highly organized and fully functional machine. Like my group members, I felt like I became more productive and my team skills improved as a result of the fact that I became continuously aware of what was expected of me. It became an exciting challenge when I was asked to present my findings to my group and I wanted to be sure I made a significant contribution. All team members seemed to genuinely embrace this challenge and subsequently excel in further group activities.
Continuing on a personal note, I was initially assigned to research the role of change management in the process of successfully implementing information technology. While my technical knowledge and abilities fail in comparison to those of my group members, I was happy to research this topic. I have worked on quite a few research assignments regarding management theories and organizational applications. With this background knowledge and being that a large portion of my interest lies in managerial roles and decision-making models, I was confident that I could be a strong contributor in this arena. Though, once again (perhaps as a result of my background knowledge in this particular subject matter), I was met with a wealth of useable data. Being that I did not want to leave any stone unturned, I buried myself in my research and soon found myself falling behind my group members in terms of my tangible contributions. Thankfully, the rest of the group was in somewhat of a directional deadlock and not much collective progress was being made (thus, I was not completely left behind). Nevertheless, I had never taken on a research role in which there was so much applicable data readily available. I was certainly overwhelmed during the initial phases of the research and data collection period. At one point I found myself feeling very hopeless with regards to the project as a whole and my individual contribution. Being that many of the initial group meetings were predominantly comprised of heated debates, I did not feel any sense of relief. I knew I had a large amount of great and applicable data, though the process of narrowing such information down into a specific focal area became a daunting and discouraging task.
Fortunately, later group sessions revealed that many of my teammates were experiencing the same feelings as I was. Many of the heated arguments that comprised our early sessions began to way on the collective morale of the group. In fact, there was one very memorable instance when the disagreements actually erupted into an offensive conflict. In the heat of the discussion, two of my group members each felt that they knew the best direction for the group to proceed in the field of information technology and its applicability and relevance to our project. Each of these individuals began by stating their own case for why theirs was the best direction to go. This was immediately proceeded by each somewhat harshly discounting the others claim to correctness in the matter. Before we knew it, the argument had exploded into a full-blown fight between two valuable group members. Eventually one seemed to come out on top, yet he continued to discount the correctness and relevance of his combatant’s ideas. Not knowing when enough was enough, this individual continued this rant and began to make accusations regarding the amount of work the other person was contributing. He claimed that this person was not pulling his weight and that he was not adequately contributing to the group discussion due to his lack of knowledge on the subject. These final comments visibly offended the group member at whom they were directed. In fact, the pain inflicted was to such an extent that this individual immediately left the group session and proceeded to be absent for the following session. After this person’s exit, the rest of the group began to chime in on the subject (for we had all been mostly silent observers throughout the conflict). Each group member seemed to believe that the aggressive and harsh comments were certainly not necessary on either side of the table, though the comments that provoked the other group member’s departure were especially hurtful and unproductive. The remaining group member (that is, the one who made the comments in question) seemed to cool down quite a bit after this and he began to reassess his approach to the situation. Each group members gave him feedback on how to proceed and he made a few seemingly heartfelt promises regarding his conduct in further group settings and activities. We also each commented on the behavior of the other participant in this conflict. While many defended him in this initial reactive discussion, it seemed like feelings started to change upon his absence in the ensuing meeting. We all hoped that there would be some type of apologetic action or behavior upon the other group member’s return to the group (which, thankfully, there was). Nevertheless, no one seemed to lose sight of the ultimate goal and the group soon got back to the subject matter.
After the lost group member’s return to the group in a further session (and as a result of the notorious conflict), the group decided to abandon the actual research material and decided to only talk about organization and structure within the group for a short period. Upon this discussion, we then decided to form smaller focus groups to help decipher the massive amounts of data each person had been collecting and navigating. This structural adjustment was extremely helpful to me and it seemed to be very welcomed by the rest of the group. By meeting only with other group members who were researching the same subject, I was allowed us to develop a strong focus and provided me with some reliable aids in the process I considered to be extremely overwhelming. I was able to meet with my micro-group several times before reconvening the entire research group. Collectively, this process proved to be highly beneficial to the entire group. Our subsequent meetings were very productive and organized. All group members were now very confident, straightforward and compassionate in their ideas, contributions, and interactions. The project developed very quickly after this strategic adjustment on behalf of the group’s human resource department.
Throughout this entire experience I have learned several valuable lessons that I will undoubtedly apply to all future group assignments. There are several areas in which my group excelled that I would surely like to pass on to my future group members, and there are other aspects that I believed to be lacking in my team that I would hope to remedy in future group endeavors. First of all, I have realized the great importance of having an agreed upon vision in place prior to the initiation of research. I believe that a clear and understandable vision would have eased many of the overwhelming feelings present in my group during the initial stages of data collection. Personally, I had a strong feeling of not knowing what I was looking for during this phase of the project. Therefore, I feel like the development of a collective vision should be one of the initial priorities of the group prior to task assignments and instead of arbitrary data accumulation. This idea would also apply to micro-groups if applicable in the relevant group environment. I believe our group would have benefited a great deal from a clear vision at the beginning of our proposal process.
Similarly to the aforementioned concept of vision, I also learned the great importance of structure and organization in group environments. While the idea of constructing a universal vision for the group has a cumulative connotation, organization and structure should be applied on a more continuous and individual basis. In other words, each group session should have it’s own unique agenda and goals. Instead of only giving each team member a generic task assignment that will be relevant throughout the project, group members should be given a specific idea of what will be expected of them at each meeting. This strategic structure will ensure that the group is progressively expanding and continuously developing in the right direction. I felt like our group certainly excelled in this area, though the implementation of a truly organized group structure was achieved very late. Because of this tardiness, our group experienced a great lack of productivity in our early sessions to the point of becoming deadlocked. To avoid such unwanted outcomes, I will explain (to my future groups) the importance of constructing a reliable and mutually supported group structure for meetings. The structure and individual expectation for the forthcoming meeting should be discussed at the end of each session. This way, each member can be consulted to ensure thorough understanding and feasibility.
Yet another important lesson I learned during this group experience was the essentiality of good leadership in a team environment. I believe our group continuously lacked effective leadership throughout the entire process. Perhaps this was a result of a lack of vision or organization, being that many group members (including myself) felt extremely overwhelmed in the absence of such factors. And while it is certainly important to make almost all group decisions on a mutual basis (where each group member has a say in the decision), it is very helpful for someone to occupy a leadership role in guiding the group’s progress and taking charge in cases of divergence or disparity. The presence of a leader would also help to ensure the strength of the aforementioned principles like organization, vision and structure. While I believe I am capable of occupying a leadership role, the lack of organization and my extreme feelings of being continuously overwhelmed caused me to shy away from such a role. Nevertheless, even in the absence of an obvious group leader, we were able to make significant accomplishments upon organizing ourselves and developing a reliable structure. Therefore, even though success is possible without a clearly defined leader, such an individual would likely help a great deal in avoiding periods of unproductiveness by acting as a catalyst for organization.
I also learned a great deal about the importance of communicating and using the group itself as a resource during this experience. There are often roadblocks in any group situation, no matter how organized. Such obstacles may confront the group as a whole or sometimes just an individual member. I can certainly attest to feeling all alone in my seemingly hopeless struggle to consolidate the wealth of information I had accumulated. Once again, due to the disorganized nature of my early group experiences, I hesitated to bring my feelings to the attention of the group. Though once I began meeting with my micro-group in a more focused environment, I began communicating more with my peers. This interaction brought me a great sense of personal relief and helped me to develop a greater level of focus and determination in my individual work. I was pleasantly surprised about how receptive all of my group members were to all of my concerns. They also purposed many of their own doubts and feelings to me, and the group arena soon became a mutually helpful and constructive atmosphere. I will certainly not hesitate to promote and encourage this type of interactive and communicative atmosphere in my future group endeavors.
Additionally, I learned about the many benefits of creating smaller focus groups especially when undertaking a very large group assignment. The construction of such micro-groups makes group work (particularly during the initial stages of research) much more efficient. Group members are collecting information on very similar topics. Therefore, group discussions are acute and focused. Every member is required to be continuously attentive and contributive. Often in larger group settings it is more attractive for group members to remain somewhat reserved and non-participative (especially when their assigned material is not being discussed). Our group was very successful in making this determination. However, this determination was only made after failures in the collective group environment. Thus, to realize greater levels of success and efficiency in future group settings, I am surely going to propose this type of structural composition in the early stages.
Ultimately, my group experience was somewhat tumultuous, though it turned out to be very rewarding in the end. There is no question that we made some mistakes (especially is the early going), but the important thing is that we learned from these mistakes and took effectual corrective action. What is more, several of the shortcomings that were initially present in our group dynamic and structure proved to be some of the most pivotal learning points in this experience. In retrospect, it is very easy to recognize the importance of a certain concept when it is lacking in the current surroundings. Nevertheless, my group members and I did come up with some very efficient ideas to better the functioning of our group as a whole and eventually created a very respectable graduate-level research project. I also felt like I grew a great deal on a personal level through this experience and I know I will have a great deal of beneficial ideas and suggestions to bring to my future group members.
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