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The Implementation of Technology and Culture Change

One of the by-products of implementing technologies that connect the top and shop floor is the influences on the enterprise culture. In a post on his blog, Irving Wladawsky-Berger discusses the organizational challenges of embracing disruptive technologies. (Wladawsky-Berger, who worked for IBM for 37 years before retiring, is visiting lecturer at MIT's Sloan School of Management and Engineering Systems Division, executive-in-residence at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, senior fellow at the Levin Institute of the State University of New York, and adjunct professor in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the Imperial College Business School.) The key points he makes regarding technology and organizational culture are worth revisiting:

  • The need for a clear, compelling strategy that the whole organization can rally around.
  • The management of innovation initiatives
  • The importance of top-down leadership and support

The first point speaks to the fact that technology not only impacts markets and operations, but also individuals and groups within an organization. In general, change is often painful as well as positive, and this is no different with technological change. It’s important that an organization be given a target to shoot for, “a kind of promised land everyone can aim for instead of wandering in the desert without a clear path forward.”

The next point underscores a subtle conundrum organizations face: the management skills leveraged for sustaining success systematically are often at odds with those that incorporate the growth resulting from the disruptive technologies. “In particular, managers have to make the transition from managing in the present to managing both the present and future—that is, they have to be good at both operations and strategy. Easier said than done.” The delicate balance here: managing for near-term results at the same time one manages for ongoing relevance and competitive standing in the future.

Finally, top-down leadership and support are essential in overcoming the resistance of individuals or groups to new technologies that are changing the way they work and jostling their comfort zones. “Visible top-management support is very helpful in tempering sibling rivalries and getting everyone to work together as part of one company-wide team.”

This discussion calls to mind a comment of another great thinker, Isaac Asimov: “It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” This is true for truly disruptive technologies such as the Internet, as well as the residual technology changes that follow in their wake. Basically, technological change begets cultural change; organizations that understand this are more likely to implement change successfully.

Posted by Epicor Social Media Team

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