Kill the “Messenger”

Quote taken from Financial Times article by Paul Abrahams. Not sure of the year titled “Paradox revisited”.

Abrahams article was about the impact of information technology and noted criticism from automakers at a conference Bill Gates attended in Detroit in 2001. They collectively criticized Gates for the Messenger feature that they saw as a distraction to employees. The article describes how Gates goes on to organize an industry-based group and had MIT begin a study to determine or measure how productivity IT does have a positive impact on productivity.

Of course in hindsight, I would argue that whatever gains were made have been eaten up by the ubiquitous presence of cell phones and as I like to call it, “antisocial media”, whatever gains that might have been made have been significantly eroded by decreased attention spans due to constant employee surfing of ALL media.

Prior to the internet it was opined that most employees varying per industry where not as productive as one would wish so likely AI has nowhere to go but up.

I shall have to follow-up to see if anything ever became of the MIT study because, recall this was 2001 and if you have read, “The Walmart Effect”, you’ll know that America solved its productivity problem by closing manufacturing plants and headed for China. OK, not all of them but you get the idea.

The bit I’ve provided below jumped out at me given the current trend I’ve seen for Organizational Change being lead down the IT path. Software presented as the solution for what used to be called “covering your ass with paper”. If everyone clicked on it and filled in the blanks than they must now be aware of the process, or something like that.

I’ve provided a pdf image of the article and the part quoted below is noted in the article.

“This idea that technology only generates an appropriate return when accompanied by organizational change has been gaining ground. Anne Mulcahy, Zerox’s chairwomen and chief executive, warned last month: “It’s no secret that technology alone is not enough. Yet many continue to buy and sell it that way. Productivity is not embedded in software code. Business improvement does not come in a box.

“”Technology requires changes in the way humans work, yet companies continue to inject technology without making the necessary changes. Why? It’s easier to write a cheque than to rethink the way you work””

Boy that covers a lot of territory. I have my doubts about KPI’s and other Organizational Change Software panacea solutions but perhaps it is a start and if continued might produce positive change over a new generation of employees.

On the other hand my observation has always been the no matter how many heads are nodding yes for a need for change, they generally mean for everyone else and not themselves. Maintaining the status quo is paramount. In other words, as Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

A simple example of IT technology that works when used properly is CRM software, which always receives nothing but pushback from sales people when introduced. Particularly old school sales people. Culturally, unless you have been hired by Xerox or IBM (if legend is to be believed), they train you to use CRM right out of the gate.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times, there has been more written about failed change attempts then successful, and if you investigate the documented successful you will likely find that they have slid back to the business as usual, status quo unless there had been a significant change in personnel, or heaven forbid unbelievably successful outcomes that precluded ever going back again. That sounds like the ending of a Disney movie.

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