The MisManagement of Change

In our previous article we argue that IT silver bullets will work. The real problem is that IT and general management shooters are planning to win the development battle but failing to gear up to win the war on deployment and overall organizational change brought about by a new or upgraded system. And resistance to change can be systematic, subtle, and very much yes-saying but no-doing by key players who in any way feel threatened by an IT system.

For example, how many readers have walked out of a development planning meeting thinking “we have consensus and committment on what to do next”. However, the next few hours and days they find that some of the players read more or maybe a lot less into what they see the system doing. Or reservations and changes not raised at the planning meeting suddenly start popping up out of the woodwork such that issues ostensibly closed are once again returned to the negotiation table. Or the other players committed to contribute suddenly are adjusting when, how much and even what they are going to be doing for the project. It is this “institutional friction” transforming into subtle sabotage on repeated occurrence that indicates that developers and the project in general may have a problem of MisManagement of Change.

In the paper An Empirical Investigation of Implementation as a Change Process, the authors, Ram Narasimhan and Roger G. Schroder, point out that trends/events cited above are are some of the danger signs of problems in a projects implementation. The paper was written in Management Science magazine in January 1979. I could have easily gone back another 10-15 years and found excellent articles and books on the management of change. Here are some of my favorites:
Overcoming Organizational Defenses by Chris Argyris – 1990
Change Master by Rosabeth Moss Kanter – 1986
Better Change by PriceWaterhouse Team – 1994
But let me assure you there are dozens of good books with the 1970s turning out some critical works like Everrett Rogers Diffusion of Innovation and Chris Argyris Organizational Learning tomes. Now the reason we raise this point is to establish the fact that at least from the the early 1970s there was a solid theory of change available to management, consultants and executives. Somehow that theory of change did not get uniformly or consistently applied to one of the major change agents effecting organizations from the 1960s onward – Computing and Information Technology. This may go some distance to explaining the nature of The MisManagement of Change .