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Implementing change in a public agency
Leadership, learning and organisational resilience
School of Business and Government, Division of Business, Law and Information Science, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia, and
Implementing change in a public agency 239
School of Management, Marketing and International Business, College of Business and Economics, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Purpose – The article aims to investigate implementation problems arising from the introduction of a new computer system in a public agency. Design/methodology/approach – Two analytical lenses were employed: a prescriptive model of technology-based implementation and planned and emergent models of change. Findings – Unintended consequences tested the organisation’s resilience. It was found that those parts of the organisation with enhanced resilience exhibited localised leadership. Practical implications – Successful implementation of change involving new technology requires a balance between “top-down” planning and distributed leadership. Adequate attention to organisational learning is also a signiﬁcant factor. Originality/value – Implementation involving new computer systems is a commonly-encountered problem in the public sector, yet there are few empirically-based studies that deal with organisational and management issues in this context. Keywords Change management, Computers, Workplace training, Leadership, Public sector organizations Paper type Research paper
Organisational change, no matter how well planned, often produces unexpected problems, particularly where new or upgraded technologies are involved (see for example Tidd et al., 1997; Genus et al., 2003). From a research perspective, the impact of change exposes, in a dynamic way, complex relationships between leadership and organisational learning that are otherwise difﬁcult to observe. The public agency that forms the basis of the current study underwent a period of severe crisis, which tested its leadership to the limit. By investigating the way in which the agency extricated itself from the situation, we were able to show the importance of distributed forms of leadership in underpinning resilient responses. In this sense, our study is an example of an “instrumental” case study, in which the empirical detail of technology change is used as a mechanism for the exploration of broader issues of organisational resilience and adaptive change (Stake, 1994).
International Journal of Public Sector Management Vol. 20 No. 3, 2007 pp. 239-251 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0951-3558 DOI 10.1108/09513550710740634
Leadership, organisational learning and change The literature on organisational learning stresses the importance of supportive processes, particularly those involving “knowledge creation” and “information” sharing. According to DiBella et al. (1996, p. 363) organisational learning improves “the capacity (or processes) within an organisation to maintain or improve performance based on experience”. Developing these learning processes enables organisations to adapt to change by acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to resolve problems and increase productivity. This, in turn, requires organisational leaders to establish a high degree of trust among employees that they will be permitted to utilise their skills, knowledge and abilities and to engage in a degree of innovation and risk-taking, albeit within clearly deﬁned boundaries (Leonard-Barton, 1992; McGill, 1993). In addition, organisational leaders are encouraged to establish a work environment that is supportive of learning by engaging in consultation and information sharing with employees to increase their level of participation in, and ownership over, the learning process (Ellinger et al., 1999). These models of leadership, adaptation and learning do not, however, fully illuminate the crisis situation that is the object of our study. Nor do they explain why it was that pre-existing conditions of teamwork and training, seemingly uniform across the organisation, conferred adaptive capacity in some parts of the organisation rather than others. In a crisis situation, when learning had to occur very quickly, it seemed that these existing conditions had to be complemented by leadership capacities of a more direct kind. Moreover, it was not just learning that was required, but the capacity and conﬁdence to bounce back in adverse circumstances – “resilience”. As Harland et al. (2005) have noted, empirical literature linking leadership and resilience, whether at the individual or the organisational level, remains poorly developed. For Sutcliffe and Vogus “resilience is the capacity to rebound from adversity strengthened and resourceful” (cited in Harland et al., 2005, p. 4) and organisational effectiveness may be increased where the capacity for resilience is developed at all levels of the organisation. This highlights the importance of localised leadership in concentrating branch-level energies, and linking effectively with the central leadership. Overall, our paper sheds important light on the signiﬁcance of multi-level leadership as a determinant of resilience in overcoming adverse consequences of change. Characterising the process of change Technology change management combines two contrasting and (often conﬂicting) operational values. On the one hand, IT standardises and systematises particular processes, so that the organisation gains both efﬁciency and effectiveness from more structured decision-making. On the other hand, we know that the socio-technical systems of the organisation will not enable the technology to be applied to best effect unless there is room for experimentation, improvisation and renewal. As Levine observes “Organizations that support information sharing and knowledge creation are much more likely to establish effective and efﬁcient processes and to improve organizational life” (Levine, 2001). Two analytical lenses were employed to understand the process of change. First, we used Carlopio’s (1998) prescriptive model of IT implementation, in order to characterise the agency’s approach to change. We chose this particular model because it combines
detailed attention to the processes of managing technology change, with a perspective that takes in the people-centred dimensions of organisational behaviour. Carlopio advocates a multi-level approach to implementation, one in which risk analysis plays a prominent role in implementation planning, and detailed attention is paid to facilitative activity at the group and individual level. Carlopio’s work on the implementation of technology-based change involves a process that links the actions of work-groups with a centrally-devised menu for change. Because computer systems are inevitably developed and applied from the “top down” (although those who will use the system will be involved to varying degrees in design and testing), implementation requires a disciplined capacity to carry out pre-planned change, as well as constant communication between those in the ﬁeld and those doing the planning. Second, we applied a processual model to explain this particular IT implementation in order to understand the emergent nature of change within the organisation (Dawson, 2003). The processual interpretation of management action highlights that in place of a rational process of planning and execution “both organisations and markets are often sticky, messy phenomena, from which strategies emerge with much confusion and in small steps” (Whittington, 1993 cited in Legge, 1995, p. 100). This approach allows for unintended strategies to arise, or what Mintzberg (1978) calls “emergent strategy”, whereby the combination of an uncertain external environment and micro-political struggles within the organisation give rise to responses that were not anticipated or planned for by the instigators of a particular change management strategy. Nonetheless, the development of strategy involves both a rational process of planning and the potential for emergent learning. For Mintzberg and Lampel (1999, p. 27) the development of management strategy involves more than achieving a ﬁt between the organisation’s internal strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats evident in the external environment, which represent the key focus of the design school of strategy formation. In place of this “one best way” to develop strategy, the process also involves organisational learning and the two processes of emergent learning and a more deliberate approach to planning are closely interconnected (Mintzberg, 1990). For Mintzberg (1996, p. 93) “. . .strategy always precedes structure, and always follows it too. And so it is with planning and learning”. The strategy making process can shift from planning to a focus on learning under conditions of dynamic change where it is difﬁcult to predict the effectiveness of a particular strategy (Mintzberg and Lampel, 1999). Models of technological change that emphasise a process-driven approach highlight the central importance of coordinating both the technical and social elements of the system for the technological change to be effective (Badham, 1995). Therefore, the focus of the paper on exploring management processes such as planning, implementation, evaluation and learning in response to technological change requires an understanding of the roles played by employees and managers at different levels and in different locations of the organisation. As the research proceeded, it became clear that the implementation experience of different parts of the organisations had not been uniform, so the project framework expanded to include the reasons for this variation. Issues relating to leadership, culture, and information ﬂows are highlighted as a result. In addition, we were able to make some links to the growing literature on organisational resilience, and to make some
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observations about the preconditions for effective learning when an organisation is subjected to unanticipated shocks. Methodology Characterising an implementation process poses considerable methodological problems, not least because change involves complex interactions between decisions (choices) and their consequences occurring simultaneously at different sites and at multiple levels in the organisation. Our ﬁrst step was to establish, in as much detail as possible, the sequence of decisions and events that characterised the change process. In order to do this, we used the “multi-level” data-gathering technique developed by Stewart and Kringas in order to compare change patterns across ﬁve public sector organisations (Stewart and Kringas, 2003). This technique rests on the assumption that, not only does change “change” as it is driven outwards and downwards in a complex organisation, but also that inevitably, reactions differ according to the position and perspective of the observer. Understanding change, therefore, requires giving as much weight to the perspectives of those at operational as at strategic levels in the organisation. Accordingly, to ascertain the “how” of the computer system implementation, we undertook semi-structured single-person and group interviews at ﬁve sites, and four levels in the organisation, as well as reviewing the agency’s own project management documentation. Interview questions covered participants’ detailed recollections of the change period, their understanding of, and reactions to, the way change was driven, and their views about what might have been done differently. Group interviews were conducted with 32 client service ofﬁcers (eight interviewees at each of four regional sites, in groups of four to ﬁve people). Team-leaders at each site were interviewed together. Single-person interviews were conducted with senior regional managers, stream leaders (middle managers) and designated change agents (coaches), and group interviews with three members of the senior executive group in charge of the project, and two senior planners. In selecting interviewees, the liaison ofﬁcer at each site was asked to include, as well as senior managers, key ﬁgures from the implementation period (i.e. those who were perceived to have been key decision-makers), as well as a broad cross-section of team-members who had been with the agency before, during and after the change. In this way, we built up a complete picture of the planning and training for the change, as well as the measures that were taken after “go-live” day to address the problems that occurred. Answering the “why” question (that is, why did problems occur) involves assessing the effectiveness of the steps that were taken. We took two approaches to doing this: ﬁrst, we compared the agency’s actions with prescriptive models derived from the literature relating to the implementation of computer systems in medium-sized organisations. Second, we undertook an in-depth investigation of the agency itself, attempting to understand what had occurred and the reasons for it. The fact that some parts of the agency were able to recover more quickly than others from the setbacks that occurred, despite being part of the same formal implementation process, suggested that factors outside the reach of that process might be signiﬁcant both for understanding what had occurred and preparing more effectively for future change.
Ensuring reliability Because we were using interviews as sources of information with which to map the implementation process, it was important to corroborate individual recollections by cross-checking with others in a position to observe the same events. We did this by a process of iterative questions, following up on new points and logging old ones, until we were satisﬁed that we had the main sequence of events correct. In this way, we were able to construct detailed sequences of events for each ofﬁce that we investigated in depth. These sequences were then used as a basis for comparing the more resilient with the less resilient parts of the agency. The context of change In order to understand fully the pattern of events, it is important to appreciate the nature of the work performed by the agency, and the environment within which it operated. The agency was created in 1988 to administer a scheme of child support for the Australian federal government. The aim of the scheme was to ensure that separated parents shared the costs of child support in accordance with their capacity to pay. The organisation assessed, collected and transferred payment of child support. In 2001-2002 it had some 1.2 million clients and was responsible for transferring some $1.45 billion in child support payments (Agency Submission, 2002). The agency’s work of transferring child support payments from non-custodial to custodial parents was tough, demanding and extremely politically sensitive. The agency had embraced an ethos of customer service, while also putting “up front” that its prime role was to ensure that parents met their child support responsibilities, and that children received the support payments to which they were entitled. Partly for historical and political reasons, but also reﬂecting a strong management preference, the agency carried out its work on a geographically devolved basis. The agency’s 3,000 staff were employed in ﬁve major regions, with each region carrying a full suite of functions, and enjoying considerable autonomy in the way in which work was organised. Within each region, work was organised in a number of geographically separate sites, reﬂecting previous administrative linkages with the Australian Taxation Ofﬁce, and the political imperatives of being seen to be close to clients. The agency’s headquarters in Canberra (the national capital) contained planning and strategic activities, including responsibility for IT development and implementation. Within each region, the agency’s work was segmented into a number of streams, with each stream corresponding to a particular stage in the agency’s relationship with the client. Streams were headed by a stream leader responsible to the registrar in each region, with each stream leader also forming part of a national group designed to achieve national objectives relating to that stream. Within the region, each stream leader headed up a group of teams dedicated to that particular function. Teams comprised roughly 20 members, and were headed by a team-leader responsible for assigning work and monitoring performance. Each team was assigned a team coach whose role was to ensure the induction, training and appropriate management of new staff. The agency’s ability to do its work depended critically on IT. Ofﬁcers were required to make decisions about cases, based on data collected from and about the client and involving the application of complex decision rules to determine the payments to be
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made. Clients’ interactions with the agency were long term, involved many changes in status, and were characterised by long “chains” of decisions relating to principals and their dependents. The computer system held the relevant records, ran programs to determine eligibility and other key decision parameters, and was the site for the recording of decisions, which were subsequently batch-processed on the organisation’s mainframe. The planning phase At the start of our change period (2001), the agency had decided to replace its DOS-based computer system with a Windows-based, menu-driven system. The management of the project, known as “Cuba”, was entrusted to a stakeholder group, which brought together the business analysis team, the training team, the National Operations group (consisting of regional registrars and the Assistant General Manager Corporate), the AGM in charge of IT, as well as representatives of the regions chosen for their knowledge of the IT environment. The detailed work of specifying the processes to be carried out by the new system was done by the business analysis team, working closely with the agency’s IT specialists. Detailed coding was undertaken by dedicated in-house teams. Training was not neglected. A suite of e-lessons was prepared, familiarising those who would be using the new system with its basic attributes (resources were, however, insufﬁcient to build a full training database, a deﬁciency much regretted by the business analysis and training teams). A coach was assigned to each team in the two main processing streams of the organisation, and lead coaches were appointed at a number of sites, to network the ﬂow of information. The training team met with regional representatives to devise a program of both familiarisation and process training, as well as a change management strategy to identify and to overcome “blockers” to successful change. To moderate staff expectations in relation to the new computer system a “Cuba, it’s not magic!” campaign was launched. To encourage staff engagement with Cuba, management decided on a delivery strategy emphasising local level autonomy entitled “national strategy delivered through local hands” (Agency Submission, 2002). In the event, much of this preparation proved redundant. After the new system went “live”, it was discovered that, as the old data came across, it was far more corrupt than anyone had realised. The new system was far more structured than the one it replaced and it would not process additional inputs for cases with pre-existing errors (on the other hand, the system worked well with new cases, as it automated many processes). For an agency that interacted with its clients in real time, this caused considerable dislocation to its ability to handle their cases. As difﬁculties emerged, they were “escalated” up the line to the business support line (if they involved training issues), or they were referred to the IT team (if further enhancements were required to deal with them). But for several months, because data problems meant that particular procedures in the new system could not run, there was considerable confusion as to whether the system needed to be changed, or the data needed to be cleaned. Moreover, as batch processing was suspended in the worst period, the agency was, for a period of several months, caught up in a downward spiral of worsening backlogs; longer and longer waiting periods confronted anxious clients trying to contact ofﬁcers
by phone. The resulting problems took many months to surmount, and in some parts of the organisation, caused appreciable drops in morale and declines in trust. The agency conceded that “. . .many staff were still having difﬁculty using the system effectively, and were frustrated by not being able to respond to client inquiries as quickly as they had in the past” (Agency Submission, 2002). There was considerable anger among many customer service ofﬁcers that Cuba had made their jobs more stressful and labour intensive. As one Customer Service Ofﬁcer put it:
I think that’s where all the frustration came from, looking at the system with a client screaming down the line why has my case now got a $20,000 debt, and you’re the one sitting there trying to defend this new system. . .and being told, just tell the clients we’ve got a new system, you know there was only so many times you can tell someone when two or three months has gone by and their case was still reﬂecting the wrong information. . . (Customer Service Ofﬁcer, 2003).
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It was not only staff on the phones who were adversely affected by the data integrity problems affecting the Cuba project; it also had a negative impact on the work of managers and coaches in regional ofﬁces in the immediate aftermath of the launch of Cuba:
It’s probably the worst experience I’ve ever had as a leader; I would say the toughest time. It was because it was just out of control, you had no control over Cuba, you couldn’t stop the clients calling. It was very difﬁcult to support the staff because they couldn’t use Cuba; they had difﬁculties with Cuba and the clients just kept calling (Stream Leader, 2003). [. . .] there was an expectation that as a coach of a team you would have more clues than other people. But the phone coaches didn’t get trained anymore than the CSOs [Customer Service Ofﬁcers] on Cuba, so you were just in the same position as them. . .people are going help because you’re the one ﬂoating around, well I couldn’t help because I hadn’t been trained (Cuba Coach, 2003).
Over time, the agency outlined a coordinated central response to the problems with data integrity following the launch of Cuba in March, 2002. Management developed a six point plan aimed at communicating the beneﬁts and functions inherent in the new system as well as noting problems that were emerging; they also developed information guides for staff referred to as “Cuba handy hints”; addressed errors with data integrity; and developed regional plans to manage staff workloads and work allocation under the new computer system (Agency Submission, 2002). While the agency ultimately emerged stronger for the experience (and once the initial problems had been overcome, the new system was universally well-regarded) its conﬁdence in its ability to manage change successfully was shaken. What had gone wrong? Analysis Our agency’s implementation, matched against Carlopio’s criteria (see Table I) highlights deﬁciencies in risk analysis and management. The proximate reason for the crisis related to the complexity of the decision-making undertaken by the agency, which had led to many “work-arounds” under the old mainframe system. The new system was more structured, and would not process additional inputs for cases with pre-existing errors. Limited testing of the new system before roll-out compounded the problem. A second deﬁciency (linked to the ﬁrst) related to training. With insufﬁcient
resources to build a training database, the lack of familiarity of staff with the new system in its “live” form (as distinct from stylised training modules) slowed processing of problematic cases. With the advantages of hindsight, a better understanding of the risks inherent in the automation of some processes would have enabled the agency at the very least to warn staff of the problems that were about to occur. However, even extensive testing would not have revealed the full extent of the problem, because of the intricate nature of the records held by the agency. There was little alternative to ﬁxing cases as they came up – which was essentially what the agency’s client service ofﬁcers were called upon to do after “go live” day. Given these factors, was it inevitable that the agency struggled the way it did, or were there, possibly, other problems that had been laid bare by the stressful events of the implementation period? Comparing responses to change We selected three regions for further investigation – one in which recovery (as measured by average response times experienced by clients telephoning the organisation) had been rapid, and two in which it had been much slower. The measured performance variable (average telephone response times), while it did not reﬂect qualitative performance issues, is a reasonable proxy for relative speed of adaptation to change. While they were subjected to similar levels of stress and were structured similarly, we found clear differences in the ways in which each of these regions had responded to the crisis. Region 1. A moderate performer before the change, region 1 experienced the most marked drop in performance, and even two years after the events, there was evident bitterness in the memories of many of the staff we interviewed. This region was considered by its senior management to have an innovative culture, but appeared to be “king-hit” by the magnitude of the problems it encountered. In February 2002 some 85.1 per cent of calls in the region were answered within 30 seconds. This had declined to 73.5 per cent by April and 37.5 per cent by May, 2002 (Agency Submission, 2002). Relative to the most resilient region, region 1 was slow to implement a decisive work-management strategy, and in this environment, its previous strengths (its closely-knit workforce, and their pride in their work), became weaknesses, as staff became convinced that they had been let down by their managers. Senior managers in
Guideline Relate implementation objectives to business objectives Plan for feedback and re-design Establish a speciﬁc migration plan Do not oversell the change Develop a plan for realistic risk analysis Form a partnership with your technology vendor Pilot-test and prototype Align change style to the degree of change required Address cultural change obstacles Source: Carlopio (1998) Agency performance Yes Some user testing done in earlier phases Not possible Excessive expectations addressed No formal risk analysis (?) Project in-sourced Not possible for budgetary and technical reasons Yes Yes; extensive “change planning”
Table I. Agency implementation planning relative to Carlopio’s implementation guidelines
turn, were strongly critical of what they saw as a botched implementation that had been done too quickly and without adequate prior testing. Region 2. This region had been one of the best performers under the old system, and prided itself on its ﬁrm leadership, and close attention to performance data. The culture in this part of the organisation was noted for being hard-driving and performance-oriented – not normally the sort of environment associated with ﬂexibility and adaptation. The percentage of calls answered within 30 seconds was 91.9 per cent in February 2002, declining to 73.1 per cent by April but returning to 90.1 per cent by May 2002 (Agency Submission, 2002). The major ofﬁce within the region showed much less disaffection with “management” than we had found in the major ofﬁces from the two other regions. Compared with ofﬁces in the other two regions, there was evidence of a much more resolute response to sharing information between teams, as problems were encountered, and solutions discovered or devised, although at least in part, this difference seemed to derive from a few key individuals, rather than a deliberate plan. Somewhat to our surprise, we found that staff turnover in this ofﬁce was relatively high. Far from creating problems, however, this seemed to produce a much more conﬁdent attitude to the new technology than in ofﬁces where staff had been much longer established, had developed particular expectations of the agency, only to see them (as they saw it) disappointed by change. Region 3. Region 3 went into the implementation phase performing slightly less well than region 1. While its performance statistics did not “crash” to the extent observed in region 1, region 3 experienced a more prolonged period of disarray, and unlike region 1, which ﬁnally bounced back to exceed its previous level, region 3 was performing at about the same level at the end of the transition period as it had at the outset. Like region 1, the senior management of region 3 believed that too much had been expected of the organisation in an overly-rushed implementation. The percentage of calls answered n the ﬁrst 30 seconds in this region declined from 77.7 per cent in February, 2002 to 52.9 per cent in April and 53.2 per cent in May, 2002 (Agency Submission, 2002). As in region 1, staff in region 3 felt they had been let down by management – senior managers reﬂected adversely on those in headquarters, and ordinary team members expressed disappointment both in managers at headquarters, and also those in their region. While its overall culture was less hard-driving than in region 2, region 3 seemed more set in its ways, and there was evidence of considerably less innovation in the way key leaders were able to respond to the challenge of the crisis. Relative to region 2, it appeared to lack the same ﬂexibility of response, and we were unable to ﬁnd evidence of the same degree of information-sharing between teams and between sites. Discussion: explaining differences in resilience Clearly, some parts of the agency displayed higher levels of organisational resilience than others. Resilience is the term used to describe an organisation’s capacity to respond positively, or at least, adaptively to disruptive change. Resilience implies, not just the ability to withstand external shocks, but also suggests a capacity for adaptation and learning. This capacity is likely to be particularly important where processes involving knowledge management and knowledge creation are concerned. In turn, these processes are both constrained and sustained by information technologies.
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In general terms, the agency appeared to exhibit many of the characteristics described earlier in this paper as being conducive to organisational learning. In particular, work teams encouraged sharing of information, and in response to the highly complex nature of the work, the agency had made a conscious decision to empower its staff as much as possible as they engaged directly with clients. Staff were expected to acquire and to use the skills needed for adaptation and problem-solving. This design worked well when conditions were reasonably stable, but it broke down to some extent under the stress of the unanticipated problems encountered in the early days of the IT implementations. Why this should have happened represents something of a paradox, as it would seem reasonable to expect that well-functioning teams, under the leadership of the stream leader, would generate and share information on how best to cope with the change. Leadership factors The implementation was not straightforward but involved substantial amounts of organisational learning. In fact, the agency had to display innovative characteristics to implement the new system. While the agency had sufﬁcient ﬂexibility to produce innovative responses, it did not, when the chips were down, have the capacity to distribute this innovative power quickly enough to proﬁt from it. The fact that one of its regions proved much more capable than the others, underscores the importance of the leadership factor at this level. The most adaptable region was able to make better use of the information that was available from the centre of the agency, and was also able to share information more effectively internally, because it had clear and determined leadership, not only at the regional level, but within individual teams as well. This innovative capacity requires, not simply devolution, but leadership behaviours that combine a detailed analysis of the situation, with a keen understanding of where and how to communicate across the organisation (Ellinger et al., 1999). To return to Mintzberg’s point about the importance of strategy encompassing emergent change, we would argue that distributed leadership provides the mechanism for this to occur, when rapid organizational learning is required. Conclusions The paper has explored the problems that arose within a public sector agency during the implementation of a new IT system. “Implementation” has been identiﬁed as a key problem for those wishing to design and employ new information technologies in organisations, particularly in the public sector (Berry et al., 1998). Implementation covers not just issues relating to the tactics of change management, but also the planning and design of new systems, as well as their actual “roll-out” in the organisation. The case study was analysed in line with a planned and emergent model of technological change (Mintzberg and Lampel, 1999; Dawson, 2003), which facilitated an understanding of the roles played by managers and employees at each stage in the process within three different regional locations of the agency. Our work suggests that in IT implementation, a well-designed system is a necessary but not a sufﬁcient ingredient for success. The case study pointed to problems with inadequate staff training: the e-learning modules developed for staff did not provide sufﬁcient “real time” exposure to the new working environment. In addition, problems
with data integrity were not sufﬁciently anticipated prior to the new system going “live”. Many staff perceived that such deﬁciencies could be linked to a lack of testing and employee involvement prior to the system’s introduction. This highlights that integrating the “human factor” into IT implementation planning is crucial for success (Levine, 2001). The study therefore reafﬁrms one of Carlopio’s (1998) central messages that alongside a centrally planned and top-down strategy for change, signiﬁcant attention needs to be paid to improving channels of communication between those undertaking project planning and those implementing the new IT system at the local level. Our study also addresses one of the key conundrums in change management, as highlighted by Mintzberg – how to plan for the unexpected. The paper highlights that the strategy formation process involves both management planning and design and the need to allow for emergent learning to occur, with organisational learning becoming increasingly important in periods of major organisational change (Mintzberg and Lampel, 1999). The problems precipitated by the IT implementation enabled us to shine a spotlight on how the agency responded to rapid, emergent change. In detailing these processes, we were able to suggest important links between resilient responses and distributed forms of leadership. In our organisation, managers did the best they could with limited resources and an exigent time frame. While they could (and perhaps should) have done better in predicting the problems that occurred, it is difﬁcult to see how they could have done other than to rely on the adaptive capacity they assumed their organisation possessed. While this capacity was undoubtedly present, it could not be actualised without strong leadership from the middle levels of the organisation. Resilience came from an ability to improvise, which was in turn buttressed by a sense that the problems could be overcome. Particular individuals in the main regional site took responsibility for managing problems, for quickly disseminating ways of using the new system to move cases forward, and taking decisive steps to set priorities in response to the crisis. Leadership both facilitated and helped to structure these responses. The connection to forms of organisational learning is clear. When a new technology is integral to an organisation’s task (as was the situation in our case study) it requires the organisation to adapt (learn) rapidly, because the organisation has to keep functioning while the change is worked through. In other words, when implementing technology-based change, managers must be prepared to assess the likely response of their organisation to emergent as well as planned change, particularly where there is no way that the organisation can predict the innumerable ways in which the new system might interact with the old. The study therefore suggests that building capacity is the most appropriate way of reconciling planned and emergent change within an overall change strategy.
References Agency Submission (2002), Agency Submission to the Prime Minister’s 2002 Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management. Canberra. Badham, R. (1995), “Managing socio-technical change: a conﬁgurations approach to technology implementation”, in Benders, J., de Haan, J. and Bennett, D. (Eds), The Symbiosis of Work and Technology, Taylor & Francis, London.
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Berry, F., Berry, W. and Foster, S. (1998), “The determinants of success in implementing an expert system in state government”, Public Administration Review, Vol. 58 No. 4, pp. 293-305. Carlopio, J. (1998), Implementation: Making Workplace Innovation and Technical Change Happen, McGraw-Hill, Sydney. Dawson, P. (2003), Reshaping Change: A Processual Perspective, Routledge, London. DiBella, A.J., Nevis, E.C. and Gould, J.M. (1996), “Understanding organisational learning capability”, Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 33 No. 3, pp. 361-79. Ellinger, A.D., Watkins, K.E. and Bostrom, R.P. (1999), “Managers as facilitators of learning in learning organisations”, Human Resource Development Quarterly, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 105-25. Genus, A., Rigakis, A. and Dickson, K. (2003), “Managing large-scale IT projects: the case of National Air Trafﬁce Services’ new en route centre at Swanwick”, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 491-503. Harland, L., Harrison, W., Jones, J.R. and Reiter-Palmon, R. (2005), “Leadership behaviors and subordinate resilience”, Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 2-14. Legge, K. (1995), Human Resource Management: Rhetorics and Realities, Macmillan, Basingstoke. Leonard-Barton, D. (1992), “The factory as learning laboratory”, Sloan Management Review, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 23-8. Levine, L. (2001), “Integrating knowledge and processes in a learning organization”, Information Systems Management, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 21-33. McGill, M.E. and Slocum, J.W. Jr (1993), “Unlearning the organization. Special issue: the learning organization”, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 67-79. Mintzberg, H. (1978), “Patterns in strategy formation”, Management Science, Vol. 24 No. 9, pp. 934-48. Mintzberg, H. (1990), “The design school: reconsidering the basic premises of strategic management”, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 171-95. Mintzberg, H. (1996), “Learning 1, planning 0”, California Management Review, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 92-3. Mintzberg, H. and Lampel, J. (1999), “Reﬂecting on the strategy process”, Sloan Management Review, Vol. 40 No. 3, pp. 21-30. Stake, R.E. (1994), “Case studies”, in Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA. Stewart, J. and Kringas, P. (2003), “Change management strategy and values in six agencies from the Australian public service”, Public Administration Review, Vol. 63 No. 6, pp. 662-74. Tidd, J., Besant, J. and Pavitt, K. (1997), Managing Innovation: Integrating Technological, Market and Organisational Change, Wiley, Chichester. Further reading Arcelius, F. and Wright, P. (1994), “Implementation of computer-integrated manufacturing in small manufacturing ﬁrms”, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 411-21. Buchanan, D. and Badham, R. (1999), Power, Politics and Organisational Change, Sage, London. Coutu, D.L. (2002), “How resilience works”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 80 No. 5, pp. 46-51.
Fjermestad, J.L. and Chakrabarti, A.K. (1993), “Survey of the computer-integrated manufacturing literature: a framework of strategy, implementation and innovation”, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 251-71. Harper, G.E. and Uttley, D.R. (2001), “Organizational culture and successful information technology implementation”, Engineering Management Journal, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 11-15. Leonard-Barton, D. (1995), Wellsprings of Knowledge, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. Vickers, M.H. and Kouzmin, A. (2001), “Resilience in organizational actors and rearticulating ‘voice’: towards a humanistic critique of new public management”, Public Management Review, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 95-119. Corresponding author Jenny Stewart can be contacted at: Jenny.Stewart@ canberra.edu.au
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