notes on information organizations

February 27, 2011

Understanding your iceberg

Filed under: information technology, innovation, organizational change — Frank Cervone @ 1:21 pm

Last week, I was at the 15th Annual International IT Management Conference. The final session was about what the conference attendees should do first thing on Monday once they got back to the office. One of the points made during the session was that people in IT need to “understand their iceberg” meaning that they need to understand the invisible issues that are creating problems in moving forward. According to research by Pink Elephant, these issues constitute the top 10 causes of resistance to improvement efforts.

What was  interesting about these points is that it most of them also apply to libraries. The same basic attitudes, behaviors, and cultural elements that impede IT also are present in librarianship and are getting in the way and impeding progress there too.

These issues are:

  1. The belief that a tool solves all problems. Consider how often we implement a new tool, piece of software, or hardware and expect it to completely solve a problem without any effort on the part of the organization to change or adapt. Clearly, that is not a strategy for success.
  2. Never mind procedures, just do what we normally do. We put new procedures in place to effect change or improve processes but then abandon them at the first sign of difficulty or when under stress rather than working through the change effort.
  3. Throwing solutions over the wall and just hoping people will follow them. A consistent lack of follow up during implementation guarantees change will be ineffective.
  4. Saying yes but meaning no. Passive aggressive behavior or conflict avoidance, either way it promotes a culture of ineffectiveness.
  5. Plan, do, stop is an approach that is indicative of no real commitment to an improvement culture.
  6. No management commitment. If management does demonstrate consistent support, then management is not committed.
  7. Underestimating the difficulty in implementation. This is complex because there are many factors that contribute to this. Two of these include not critically evaluating what a vendor tells you and a misplaced desire to speed up implementation. Whatever the reason, a flawed implementation of a new software or service has a pervasively negative effect not just on the implementation itself but the entire organization.
  8. Implementation is the objective, not what is to be achieved. This is related to point 3. For example, the point of implementing a new piece of software, such as an integrated search engine or resource discovery tool, is not implementing the tools but rather implementing the improved service.
  9. No understanding of organizational impact and priority. This is rather simple, does the larger organization care about what you’re doing? How does what you’re doing relate to their priorities and issues? If there is not demonstrable relationship, what you’re doing is irrelevant.
  10. And finally, the solution the customer sees isn’t the one that your organization (IT or library) sees. Again, if there isn’t alignment here, what you’re doing is irrelevant and doesn’t matter.

Addressing these issues isn’t something that is going to happen in a month or even a year. However, the first step is acknowledging which of these issues are prevalent in your organization and beginning to work on solutions to address them today. That’s the first thing I’m doing tomorrow.

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2 Comments

  1. Actually, the research comes from GamingWorks and their “ABC of ICT”, which Pink are now using. Paul Wilkinson who presented the data is from GamingWorks, in the Netherlands.

    Comment by The IT Skeptic — February 27, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    • Thanks for the clarification, I don’t remember that being mentioned at the conference. More information about GamingWorks “ABC of ICT” can be found at http://www.gamingworks.nl/

      Comment by Frank Cervone — February 28, 2011 @ 11:10 am


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