Why Change Programmes Don't Produce Change: The Case of IT-Enabled Change in Public Service Organisations

Why Change Programmes Don't Produce Change: The Case of IT-Enabled Change in Public Service Organisations

Joe McDonagh (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7473-8.ch014
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Abstract

Since the 1950s, the problems associated with the introduction IT in work organisations have proved to be of an enduring nature. Why do so many IT-enabled change initiatives fail to deliver on their promised outcomes? Having considered the nature of this dilemma with IT and related explanations from the literature in management and organisation studies, this chapter draws into sharp focus a range of institutional, organisational, and group pathologies that impede the effective delivery of IT-enabled change initiatives. Habitual organisational responses to these pathologies are highlighted as are the limitations of programme and project management when seeking to address pathologies that are predominantly of a behavioural nature. Implications for professional practice are outlined. The chapter draws to a close by reiterating the propensity for fragmentation and the role of good organisation development and change practices in fostering an integrated approach to IT-enabled change.
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Patterns Of Underperformance And Failure

Since the 1950s the process of introducing IT systems into work organisations has been fraught with difficulty (Loonam et.al. 2014; McDonagh & Coghlan, 2006, 2010). Both the literature in the academic field of management and organisation studies along with the literature relating to professional management practice provide strong evidence of the persistent nature of this dilemma (Bloch et.al. 2012; Griffith, 2001; Nelson, 2007). Over the decades the difficulty has manifested itself in persistent patterns of failure (Dempsey & McDonagh, 2014; McDonagh, 2014, 2014a).

While the language relating to IT has evolved across the decades, it matters little in terms of the related narrative of failure. Whether it was electronic data processing (EDP) systems in the 1950s, data processing (DP) systems in the 1960s, management information systems (MIS) systems in the 1970s, strategic information systems (SIS) in the 1980s, enterprise systems (ES) in the 1990s, extended enterprise systems (EES) in the 2000s, digital government systems (DGS) in the 2010s, all of these decades offer a consistent and solid stream of evidence pointing to the difficulties associated with the introduction and exploitation of IT systems. A review of academic and professional practice literature across the decades confirms that EDP, DP, MIS, SIS, ES, EES, and DGS are all subject to the same dynamics of change and the same outcomes. The particular manifestation of IT matters little, the pattern of failure is persistent and consistent (McDonagh & Coghlan, 2006, 2010).

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