Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Review of Engaged Knowledge Management (2005) by Desouza and Awazu

A review of my book (co-authored) with Yukika Awazu has just been published in the International Journal of Information Management Volume 26, Issue 4 , August 2006, Pages 349-350. The review was conducted by J. Boyd, and can be found at the following SCIENCEDIRECT.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bureaucracy and Innovation

Over time, small, agile and successful companies grow and become large corporations, where, very often, bureaucracy becomes the organizational form. Thompson (1965) argues that bureaucratic organizational form is appropriate for improving productive efficiency, however, it results in low innovativeness. Thompson suggests changes that can improve innovativeness of organizations with bureaucratic form.

- Increased professionalismIncentive systems should be modified towards 'professional image' rewards (esteem of knowledgeable peers, professional growth). Also, to be able to innovate, employees need considerable, but not complete autonomy and self-direction and a large voice in deciding at what they will work. To stimulate creativity, certain level of problem uncertainty and high level of personal security is needed (otherwise the first possible solution that comes across is many times accepted).

- Untidy organizational structurePractical overlapping of duties / responsibilities and integrative grouping of employees, where various professionals are interdependently engaged upon an integrative tasks with a common goal, will necessitate a good deal of communication and collaborative work, which is exactly what is needed for innovation to appear.

- Project organization of work, rotation of assignmentsWith project organization, there is a chance to switch organizational structure and leadership style according to a kind of problem needed to be solved. This is line with contingency theory which argues that there is no best organization, leadership or decision-making style as they all depend upon various internal and external factors that company is faced with (c.f. (Fiedler, Chemers & Mahar, 1976; Galbraith, 1973)).

- Free communication, decentralization of powerWith growth of professionalism and project organization of work, decentralization of power and ‘freedom of speech’ will surface. Professionals will move from project to project, decreasing the power of department (and consequently, power of hierarchical superior). Thompson (1965) suggests that dispersion of power and free communication are important, as concentrated power often prevents imaginative solutions of problems.

To sum up, interpersonal communication, multiple group membership and interunit projects result in diversity of knowledge (input, diffusion), extradepartmental ties and interests, devaluation of authority and positional status, and recognized official sharing of power and influence. Such changes will result in stimulated creativity and increased level of integrative collaboration in innovative ‘bureaucratic’ organization of the future.

Fiedler, F. E., Chemers, M. M., & Mahar, L. (1976). Improving leadership effectiveness : the leader match concept. New York ; London: Wiley.
Galbraith, J. R. (1973). Designing complex organizations. Reading, Massachusetts, etc.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.
Thompson, V. A. (1965). Bureaucracy and Innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 10(1), 1-20.

[Summary Posted by: Pete]

Saturday, August 05, 2006

More Problems, but Easier Cross-Industry Collaboration: NPower Seattle

Speaking with NPower Seattle's Executive Director, Jamie Green, reinforced much of the research done for this project. With wonderful examples, Jamie highlighted issues of stability versus the need for new ideas. For instance, to maintain a high level of service, people and time must be dedicated solely to that task. However, to attract new clients and keep old clients, NPower Seattle must continually re-invent and be a technology leader. Balancing between maintaining high levels of current service and deciding when to invest in what ventures for innovation remains a challenge for all organizations.

Innovative ideas come from several sources: sometimes clients request new services, philanthropists who donate software, money, technology or time sometimes have ideas or wishes that can be innovative ideas; business partners have stepped forward with suggestions; and the affiliate network sometimes innovates a service or product that NPower Seattle then adopts. Board members and employees also make suggestions and try out new approaches.

However, being a nonprofit also contributes to some of the biggest problems NPower Seattle must face. For innovation, NPower Seattle must balance client needs with existing capabilities and overall mission. The first filter through which innovative ideas pass is whether or not they assist NPower Seattle in meeting their mission of aiding nonprofits through technology. The second is existing capabilities and resources, and some ideas and pilots (like in any business) must be shelved for a later date. Given the large range of nonprofits in Seattle (from multi-million dollar, established ones to newly formed, un-endowed ones, and social services to goods distribution to job placement to legal services), NPower Seattle must consult with each organization and meet them at their current level of technology capacity and technology readiness. Not only that, but NPower Seattle must achieve client satisfaction while charging below-market rates!

However, Jamie identified one of the biggest challenges as just to get people to admit they have an innovative idea. Perhaps employees of nonprofits are just modest, or perhaps it's a worldwide issue, but Jamie finds that often people will talk about issues or solutions they've tried and won't label them as new, innovative or different. Listeners will readily, though, so dialogue and reports of other people's solutions are a key way to access innovative ideas that wouldn't otherwise be brought forward. After all, recognizing innovation has to precede implementing it.

As a nonprofit, NPower Seattle enjoys one main advantage over business: cross-industry collaboration. Jamie told us that people are eager to collaborate and offer advice or expertise to NPower Seattle, giving her a resource base that doesn't exist for most consulting firms due to the competitiveness of the industry. Having a mission for the greater good bypasses that competition and many people are then willing to collaborate.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Agile Information Systems - New Book - Prof. Desouza

My new book, Agile Information Systems, is going to be released shortly. This book presents cutting-edge research and thinking on agile information systems. The concept of agile information systems has gained strength over the last 3 years, coming into the MIS world from manufacturing, where agile manufacturing systems has been an important concept for several years now. The idea of agility is powerful: with competition so fierce today and the speed of business so fast, a company’s ability to move with their customers and support constant changing business needs is more important than ever. Agile information systems: have the ability to add, remove, modify, or extend functionalities with minimal penalties in terms of time, cost, and effort have the ability to process information in a flexible manner have the ability to accommodate and adjust to the changing needs of the end-users. This is the first book to bring together academic experts, researchers, and practitioners to discuss how companies can create and deploy agile information systems. Contributors are well-regarded academics known to be on the cutting-edge of their fields.

I have organized the chapters under three categories: discussion of the concept of agile information systems (i.e. defining agile information management, its attributes, antecedents, consequences, etc.) discussion of information systems within the context of agility (i.e., descriptions of agile information systems and their attributes, how to build agile information systems, etc.) discussion of organizational management issues in the context of agile information systems (i.e., how to prepare the organization for agile information systems, management of agile information systems for improved organizational performance, etc.)

Here are two reviews:

"In today's information intensive global economy, large organizations face a wealth of challenges as they wrestle with resolving the tensions between coordinating globally and responding locally. As a result, a prime consideration of major enterprises is to find an organizational design that enables them to accommodate these joint goals. Not surprisingly, given the volume of information that organizations need to process to synchronize globally and react locally, information systems play a key role in enabling pursuit of this dual goal. The acceleration of the shifting plates of social, economic, political, and competitive forces magnifies the need for effective information systems. Thus, the search for organizational agility is intricately linked to and highly dependent on an enterprises ability to build agile information systems that support nimble managers and employees in adapting to and foreseeing changing circumstances Humans are the critical success factor of agility. No organizational design or information system can overcome rigid, closed thinking. The agile mind is the determining driver. This book is food for nurturing an agile mind. It stimulates thinking about agility and galvanizes the neurons that need to be engaged to build agile organizations and information systems."
--Richard T. Watson, J. Rex Fuqua Distinguished Chair for Internet Strategy, Director, Center for Information System Leadership, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia

"This book makes an explosive break from the past. It takes you from the Old World to the New World; from the clanking Industrial Age of the mid-50s to the New Age and 21st Century; from adaptive response to preemptive initiatives. You know about "just in time" inventory control, yes? This book develops the idea of "agile information organizations" doing just in time strategy and organizing. Agile organizing means just in time: sensing of signals from the environment; data and information processing; mobilization of resources; learning; doing all of this in quick time with minimal cost and effort. This kind of thinking and organizing allows firms to switch from adapting post-hoc to their changing environment to preemptive changes that put them in the driver's seat of industry evolution. It's about getting there first rather than following along behind. Collectively, its 20 chapters uncover drastic changes facing managers: Information is fleeting and emergent. Databases are obsolete. Work has shifted from stable routines to ephemeral global complexity. Basic artifacts of technology are open source and distributed between firm and customers.

Managers and researchers are used to a world of dinosaurs. No more! This book pulls them into a world of socioeconomic viruses and bacteria fast changing, hard to grab hold of, and dangerous if ignored. This change is fundamental, profound, and upon us. Desouza's is the best book on fast moving organizing that I have seen."
-- Bill McKelvey, Professor of Strategic Organizing, Anderson Graduate School of Management, University of California at Los Angeles

Here is a partial list of the distinguished scholars that have authored chapters in the book -
• Robert D. Galliers, Bentley College
• William B. Rouse, Georgia Tech
• William E. Halal, George Washington University
• Anders Martensson, Stockholm School of Economics
• Eric van Heck, Rotterdam School of Management
• Philip Yetton, Australian Graduate School of Management
• John G Mooney, Pepperdine University
• Silvia Gherardi , Università di Trento
• Gabriele Piccoli, Cornell University
• Sue Newell, Bentley College
• Carsten Sorensen, London School of Economics
• Omar El Sawy, University of Southern California
• Mark E. Nissen, Naval Postgraduate School
• Brian Fitzgerald, University of Limerick

For more details, please see - Elsevier