What happens when technology conversions or implementations go wild? You get social patterns in your organization that look like cross-talk, territorial disputes, fear of technology, open and subtle resistance, running faster and harder (but going nowhere), wasted energy and resources.
Over the years I’ve observed executives and senior leaders get so excited about adopting a new application like PeopleSoft, only to be mystified a few months later because they can’t understand why things are taking so long, people are complaining and/or resisting and everyone feels overworked. What’s going on?
Technology facilitates convergence and integration to achieve better, faster results. Executives and leaders nod and buy-in. They look to technology to drive work process redesign. After all, they’ve been making heavy financial investments in technology for years now.
Yet, for many, the expected results don’t materialize. The reality is often unintended outcomes that sound like “…we can’t execute well on what we have now…” “…there’s enough technology to hold us for the next 10 years…” “…the focus needs to start with the business or end user and how to execute well, not more bells and whistles…” “…trying to do too much at once is a big mistake…” “…there is too much change, it’s overwhelming…”
Here’s the problem
Executives have been sold a partially valid proposition. What’s missing is the causal relation. It should read: technology facilitates convergence and integration to achieve better, faster results if organizations can align their people and work processes to deliver on technology’s promise.
The emphasis has been on what technology will do for the organization. Little time is spent examining what technology is doing to your organization. It’s changing what you do (work process) and who you work with (relationships), not just how you work.
Making technology’s promise come true is hard. It requires rolling up your sleeves, plunging deep into the inner workings of how your organization functions. Effective leaders understand that technology fundamentally alters the implicit social patterns of interaction in the organization. In other words, the data might converge and integrate, but it will not become intelligence until your people and processes converge and integrate.
Don’t automate the dysfunction
When technology goes wild, often the dysfunction gets automated. What I mean is any dysfunctional behavior (email warfare, withholding information, passive-aggressive fighting, etc.) gets imbedded into how you do business. Successful technology implementation builds into the roll-out plan a mechanism to ensure helpful, productive relationships. Time is allocated for relationship management, for key relationships to be examined and perhaps reworked. If left to happenstance, you run the huge risk of automating dysfunctional social patterns that currently exist or will erupt as you move necessarily deeper into your organization to reach technology’s promise of faster and better.
A final thought…
You’re bound to experience many technology conversions in your life. For example, today is the end of analog TV. Realize that technology conversions, integrations, (whatever else it’s called) are painful for the most part. It’s like going to the dentist, a necessary evil. Don’t use it as an excuse to fall into the trap of whining and complaining about it. Instead, pay attention to your relationship management skills at work – who you interact with (or don’t), how communication happens (or doesn’t), who needs to be in the know to make your job go smoothly, etc.