Organisational Change rather than Organisational Development

The process conducted in the EDBLF project was not that of organisational development but rather an organisational change process. Hartmark Iras, the consultancy firm involved in this project, introduced what they thought was OD vocabulary, and OD methods. They defined what they did as organisational development. Hartmark Iras made a list of recommendations suggesting how to proceed with the project. Through their recommendations and their production of a Long-term Plan, presenting how to proceed with the project, it seems clear that their role was that of organisational change, as opposed to OD in French and Bell’s sense:

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as a professional advisor, presented a plan for this project showing what the potential savings would be and how to organise this project (Interview with director at Hartmark Iras August 1995)As argued above, in the Army, the organisational culture manifests itself both through the informal system and the formal system, such as ranking of officers, obedience to orders, the application and transfer system, and the use of refreshers’ military training. Loyalty is considered extremely important. Interestingly my investigation indicates that in the area of IT, there seems to be less obedience to orders than in other military fields.

This seemed to apply especially for younger officers. They were often more familiar with the new computer technology than their older superiors and predecessors. The young officers often had a precise idea of what kind of computer technology they wanted and how it should perform. Young officers have told me that they have been listened to because use of computers is a fairly new area in the Norwegian Army. As one of them put it: This is a fairly new area for the Army. Those who have some knowledge in the field have been identified as resource personnel.

If we were dealing with a traditional Army field, it might have been different. But computers being such a new area, things are different, and there are fewer knowledgeable persons. This has made it easier for those possessing this particular knowledge to be heard (Interview with employee at HFS August 1995). We therefore seem to have a change in cultural attitude with respect to a new Army field. One might expect to detect signs of resistance to such a change, as it would challenge aspects of the existing power structures.

The next section examines whether there were signs that the organisational culture contributed to jeopardise the adoption of the new IT-system. The transfer and application system seem to have provided the management with an excuse for leaving difficult problems to their successor. This is apparent from the following quote from the director of Hartmark Iras: You might have a superior in the job for one or two years, and this means as I perceive the culture,’ after me comes the flood: What I do does not matter since the manager after me will face these problems’.

In a project such as this you will have to take unpopular decisions that will have consequences for people at all levels. You must be willing to take risks. There does not seem to be a culture for being tough and make the decisions and then admitting that you were wrong. It is easier to keep calm and only take the easy decisions. Follow the stream and you will not have a blemish on your military record An underlying assumption here is a fear of changes in managerial role. On the other hand, as shown above the organisational culture made it easy for management to avoid taking responsibility.

Clearly the culture of management affected the adoption of the new IT-system. The assigning of credit to younger low-rank personnel for their computer literacy, was above seen as a change in the traditionally strictly hierarchical power structure of the Army. The trade unions’ influence on the project was officially ensured through participation in the steering group. This is how the trade union representatives perceived of their influence: I would have preferred to look at the results and then say: ‘This is not good enough and we will not put up with it’.

When the general agreement between the trade unions and employers was made there were many trade unions that were afraid of not being heard, so they wanted to be members of steering groups, project groups and work groups. Then one became trapped by one’s ability to influence decisions. Why be a member of these groups when one is not being listen to? I would assume that a computer system which is wrong for the user would also be wrong for the employer (Interview with representative for trade union FSTL October 1995). I have looked at it, and the degree of influence was marginal in the steering group, so I was there as a sort of hostage.

To become a member of the steering group you have to sell your soul. As one member out of twenty you can oppose the decisions as much as you want it is the decision of the majority that counts (Interview with representative for trade union FSTL October 1995). The steering group was not capable of making any decisions. The steering group consisted of up to twenty members. How can you possible make any decisions in a group with so many diverging opinions? Our task as a Trade Union is to take care of the user’s interests. They are very far from the level of the discussion in the steering group.

Some of our members were afraid of the staff reduction. It was said that the aim was not reductions but to increase quality. There was no more talk about this after the project had started (Interview with representative for Trade Union NTL October 1995). It could be argued that the influence of the trade unions seems microscopic, if any. Their influence may have been reduced for two main reasons: their lack of knowledge within IT, and as a result of the organisational culture, since they were lacking influence through the groups they were appointed to. We were there as a rubber stamp (Interview with Trade Union FSTL October 1995).

There were therefore no signs of a major change in who got to decide on IT. As implied earlier in this paper the technology adopted in the EDBLF project was that of an integrated modulbased information system. This integrated system caused problems in the day-to-day functioning of the units. Using Falck’s perspective on organisational change as changes in the organisation structure a salient issue for this case becomes to examine what changes may have occurred at the local units of the Army following the introduction of information technology. The assigning of credit to young personnel was discussed above.

Some of the interviewees agreed that changes had taken place in terms of job content and changes in job procedures and routines. The changes indicated appeared to be a consequence of the new information technology. From our members we got the response that many of the tasks done manually before could now be done much simply, such as word processing and registration of personnel cards giving quicker and easier access to information (Interview with Trade Union NTL October 1995)

Because of the module I have had to learn more about the routines performed by person X.Since the Personnel module was implemented, it required knowledge of how the soldiers are handled within the module. The module causes dependence on the routines of others, since it requires others to add consistent data at regulated times (Interview with employee at HFS November 1995).

The most important thing for us was to become acquainted with the personnel module to make it work practically, and to avoid being criticised by individuals depending upon our data (Interview with employee at HFS August 1995). When the new information system was introduced, it seems that the interdependence between different jobs within the unit, increased.

A reported problem was the degree of involvement in other employees’ jobs. Whereas before there was no need to become involved in how other people did their jobs, this changed under the new information technology system. At the same time indications are that to some extent the information technology which was adopted was a success, especially the office automation package. However, when the employees were asked about the applications within the four administrative areas (personnel, material, economy and education handling), a different picture appeared.