Too often, implementing of new technology in general neglects the human factor. The latest research reports in Norway within Welfare technology points out the lack of change management to succeed in the use of welfare technology in and wider extent than today. Thus, I want to demonstrate that attention to organization development and change management in Welfare technology will resulted in a positive impact on productivity, job satisfaction, and other work attitudes, in the end, justifying the pursuit of change management effectiveness in most organizational interventions, particularly in general Welfare technology and IT initiatives that traditionally tend to turn the organization into which they are introduced upside-down.
To respond to change today, many organizations and municipalities have invested heavily in capital-intensive expenditures such as new equipment such as welfare technology and/or IT solutions (such as ERP packages like Microsoft Dynamics, SAP and Oracle) in the hope that these will reduce cost and increase productivity. Due to the elderly wave that hits Norway in 2030 and 2050 Norway need to make sure that the populations can live longer home and take in use welfare technology.
Nonetheless, much of the recent academic research has shown that it is not the “hard” welfare technology acquisitions by themselves that guide organizational success in a municipality, but the integration of these assets into organizational change management processes that elevate the importance of the human system. It is the integration that really makes the difference.
This article will attempt to demonstrate how important it is that the users and marketers of IT tools recognize that for welfare technology to make the impact that it promises, they must recognize that the users must be engaged in implementation planning at the beginning instead of as an afterthought. After all, the current technology available to business at large does not run itself; people impact and are impacted by it. It is far past time for there to be more than lip service paid to this issue.
The need for the proactive management of change within municipalities
However, the point must be made that simply purchasing advanced welfare technologies does not necessarily lead to success for Norwegian municipalities. Municipalities performance critically depends on how these technologies are implemented. Successful implementation of welfare technologies requires among other things a human resource strategy to develop the necessary worker skills and engage them in the process.
One can appreciate that the cultural and people system impacts of these changes are significant including possible role changes as people need to accommodate work processes that are no longer paper-based and require more computer literacy.
Change management consequences have been largely unconsidered and unaddressed by organizations and municipalities, by large IT consulting firms even though taking a proactive and more engaging stance in involving their clients and their employees in the implementation would likely result in a lessening of the negative impact on performance that is often seen when change is introduced. Existing academic research has paid little attention to the fact that external variables have contributed to a disjointed process of organizational reform. Nonetheless, research has suggested that there is great value in taking a more proactive stance in engaging health care personnel in the upfront decision making and action planning around how to effectively integrate new work process and the use of welfare technology into their everyday routine.
The change challenges in the municipalities
The change challenge that faces IT and other departments in the municipalities when welfare technology initiatives are introduced is to engage the health care staff most impacted, exactly those who often feel quite threatened by these kinds of initiatives. They have these emotional reactions because they often have insufficient information about the scope of the change, the training implications, and the potential impact on role changes. The information vacuum is often filled with rumours instead of integrating and engaging all employees with the technology and business process improvement activities.
Some examples of how this could be addressed are presented below:
- The engagement of all health care staff in a visioning process that encourages their participation in, understanding of, and contribution to future goals
- The creation of internal change agent groups who facilitate the communication process between staff and management
- The encouragement of the development of more participative leadership practices in traditionally hierarchically structured organizations.
The importance of managing organizational change effectively has compelled a growing number of organizations to incorporate the discipline into major initiatives of all sorts, from the introduction of IT software packages to business process and organizational structure changes. The contribution of effective change management/leadership to the achievement of positive results cannot be ignored.
A management of organizational change approach
A more systemic, engagement-oriented and process-focused approach to the management in the municipality of organizational change enables collaboration between leaders, managers and health care staff in the implementation of welfare technology and business process changes. In order to achieve this collaboration, four interdependent approaches should be undertaken:
Participative leadership: refers to a set of organizational values and leadership behaviours that can contribute to employees becoming more committed to their organization and its goals, and cultivating better labour-management relationships. It also helps bridge the typical chasm that often exists between leaders/managers and their staff, and contributes to a more adaptive, resourceful and resilient behaviour during periods of change. Participative leadership is an essential component of empowered, high-involvement organizations.
Empowerment: is defined in terms of developing the organizational conditions that support high staff involvement in change initiatives, sharing “appropriate” decision-making responsibilities among management, supervisors and staff, and sharing of power as appropriate for the circumstances.
In summary, the following appear to be the foundational elements of the approach to managing organizational change in a technology or any project:
- High staff involvement in the change initiatives
- Sharing “appropriate” decision-making responsibilities among management, supervisors and staff.
- Sharing of power as appropriate for the circumstances
Systems Thinking: takes the position that organizations and municipalities are dynamic systems whose parts impact and are impacted by both external and internal influences. Taking a “Systems Thinking” perspective is a conceptual framework that has been developed by many academics and practitioners to help understand that organizations are made up of highly interdependent processes that are also impacted by the environment. This means that the smallest intervention will have unanticipated influences on other parts of the organization in the municipality. This in turn means that there will be situations that require tools, methods and techniques that are more group-focused rather than individual-focused, e.g., a group visioning process has the impact of increasing participants’ awareness of other parts of the organization and how the parts influence one another. This would not happen if an individual intervention occurs.
The commonality of language, mental model and approach is guaranteed by ensuring that health care staff, management and leaders work in an integrated and collaborative fashion. This also ensures an understanding of the intricacies of leading and participating in a large system change effort, and contributes in a significant way to the return on investment. However, for an organization to see long-term benefit, it is necessary that it be prepared to devote on-going energy and resources to maintaining innovations, and to transform itself by adopting practices that appear to have not been previously utilized, e.g., continued development of the change agents, more consistent information exchange with all staff.
This strategy involves alignment between impacted personnel and facilitates strong partnerships among those taking responsibility for any IT initiative. This strategy is designed to shift embedded organizational beliefs, values and attitudes at every level of the organization to support the implementation of the business transformation initiatives.
The eight-step change process: This process, developed by John P. Kotter, another article where I was leading a turnaround for a Nordic Business Process Outsourcing company (http://www.dr-glennhole.org/how-we-used-kotters-eight-step-model-for-change-and-succeed-within-a-turnaround-case-of-a-nordic-bpo-suppliers/), integrates participative leadership, empowerment and systems thinking, and suggests that effective change is largely dependent on ensuring that the appropriate leadership and support processes, procedures, structures and systems are in place.
Figure 1. The Eight-Step Change Process
Change will in most cases proceed according to this eight-step process, which is described in more detail below:
ESTABLISHING A SENSE OF URGENCY
- Identifying and discussing major opportunities and being clear why they must be accomplished now
CREATING THE GUIDING COALITION
- Putting together a group with enough power to lead the change
- Getting the group to work together like a team
DEVELOPING A VISION AND STRATEGY
- Creating a vision to help direct the change effort
- Developing strategies for achieving that vision
COMMUNICATING THE CHANGE VISION
- Using every vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies
- Having the guiding coalition role model the behaviour expected of employees
EMPOWERING BROAD-BASED ACTION (empowering people to effect change)
- Getting rid of obstacles
- Changing systems or structures that undermine the change vision
- Encouraging risk taking and non-traditional ideas, activities & actions
- Engage employees as partners
- Provide people with the opportunity to plan for and take action
GENERATING SHORT-TERM WINS
- Planning for visible improvements in performance, or “wins”
- Creating those wins
- Visibly recognizing and rewarding people who made wins possible
CONSOLIDATING GAINS AND PRODUCING MORE CHANGE
- Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit together and don’t fit the vision
- Hiring, promoting, and developing people who can implement the change vision
- Develop people and projects to carry on the change vision throughout the organization
ANCHORING NEW APPROACHES IN THE CULTURE
- Creating better performance through customer- and productivity-oriented behaviour, more and better leadership, & more effective leadership
- Articulating the connections between new behaviours and organizational success
- Developing means to ensure leadership development and succession
Successful change of any magnitude will go through all eight stages, usually in the sequence shown, although it should be clearly understood that the steps can significantly overlap, and in most cases recycling through the steps will occur. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that all of the necessary resources are in place to ensure the completion of each stage. Much more is involved than a) gathering data, b) identifying options, c) analyzing, and d) choosing – the watchwords of management. Instead, leadership must be shown. Rather than focusing exclusively on planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem-solving, leadership is a set of processes that creates organizations in the first place or adapts them to significantly changing circumstances. Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite obstacles.
There are many factors that can act as obstacles to successful persistent change:
- Promised extrinsic rewards (such as pay and bonuses) might not be developed to accompany change
- Initial changes may provide intrinsic (e.g., psychological) rewards that create higher expectations that cannot be fulfilled, e.g., early involvement of broad stakeholders in decision-making may not continue, and so employees lose trust that the organization legitimately wants to change traditional practices
- New hires and/or newly introduced employees and management are not socialized to understand the new environment, and so act inconsistently with change expectations
- Key management supporters of the change effort might resign or be transferred with a resulting backslide
- Environmental pressures, such as decreased sales or profits, can cause management to regress to more familiar behaviours and abandon change efforts
- Some of these are controllable, but some are not. The challenge is to focus attention on those issues over which influence can be exercised. In addition, the following questions form a sample of the issues which must concurrently be considered:
- How serious is the executive/senior management about instituting a change-friendly culture?
- Is there a committed guiding coalition that “talks the talk” and “walks the walk”?
- Is the organizational culture evolving to one that is consistent with one which deals with change effectively?
- Is there a substantial budget allocated to address change issues like development of change support resources?
- Is the focus on change management only politically expedient?
- Has there been a concerted effort invested in identifying alternative performance measures as part of a broad-based scorecard?
- Have the issues of employee acceptance and resistance been integrated into an overall change plan?
- Is there a network of change resources to support organizational initiatives?
- Are the new change behaviours being integrated into all employees’ roles, and especially those of managers?
- Are change resources “sitting at the table” and their opinions/observations/recommendations listened to when important strategic and tactical decisions are made?
- Has a plan been created that will extend beyond the end of the project and address sustainability issues?
At the very broadest level, it has been discovered that attention to organization development and change management has resulted in a positive impact on productivity, job satisfaction, and other work attitudes. Thus, there is justification for the pursuit of change management effectiveness in most organizational interventions, and particularly in IT initiatives that traditionally tend to turn the organization into which they are introduced upside-down.
Success factors for any project
Based on anecdotal views, conceptual frameworks and empirical studies, it has been suggested that consulting engagements which possess the following factors will lead to more favourable project outcomes:
- an emphasis on project results vs. consultant deliverables;
- clear and well communicated expectations and outcomes;
- visible executive/senior management support;
- an adaptation to organizational readiness;
- an investment up front in learning the organizational environment;
- defined in terms of incremental successes;
- real partnership with consultants and employees
One of the most important and significant outcomes of organizational change efforts that are coupled with welfare technology implementations is the demonstration of the power of community and community action. That is, the creation of change agent roles, which are populated by organizational members, bringing all staff together to engage one another and the leadership in dialogue about the vision going forward, all bring out the pride and commitment of employees. Furthermore, it then becomes clear that everyone in the organization has great ideas about how the organization can improve itself. Employees often are just waiting for the opportunity to be invited to contribute. The creativity and innovation that is available but untapped can be an encouraging message to management because it says that they do not have to take full responsibility for the progress of the organization by themselves alone. Employees want to be able to contribute and share in that responsibility – it is their organization, too. Welfare Technology interventions are too often treated solely as technology implementations that fail to integrate the unavoidable and significant human system impacts.
Health Care employees’ expectations about their continued involvement in any intervention tend to be raised significantly by engagement efforts. However, this kind of raised expectation is a double-edged sword. While the benefit to management is a workforce that is ready to partner going forward and to use all their creativity to contribute to the improvement of the organization, there is a “bump” about which to be vigilant. That is, failure to follow through on the progress that has been achieved, or unreasonable delay has the consequence of creating cynicism or reinforcing the cynicism that already may exist. Cynicism is the enemy of trust; a cynical workforce will demonstrate either ambivalence or resistance. It will become even more difficult to overcome during subsequent projects. Management can help by:
- Continuing to focus explicitly on the change process thereby establishing it as a norm
- Identifying key individual(s) to support the change initiative, and using them to promote a combined shared organizational understanding throughout any transition
- Providing employee training on the newly developed business processes and technology
- Actively leveraging the findings of the project through leadership commitment and implementation
- Establishing an accountability framework for continuing reviews of the organizational progress on a semi-annual basis
- Establishing a way-forward process that would include employees in planning and decision making
Establishing an organizational process that would engage the employees more closely with the external contributors; together, they can identify opportunities to realize the responsiveness and efficiencies of the new technology/business process solution
The challenge for organizational leadership is to continue the momentum generated in any change initiative in establishing a highly responsive organization. It is critical that management follow through on the key change enablers: organizational structure, policies, information dissemination, training and development, performance evaluation and recognition.