Agents of Change

contributing to organizational change from perspectives of three different IT roles and six images of change
- posted on December 27, 2013 by Vsevolod Geraskin in articles about leadership5 change management1 essay1

Change Ahead

Contribution to Organizational Change from Perspectives of Three Technology Roles

While organizations could deal with various changes, such as downsizing and mergers, the Information Technology professionals are deeply involved in introduction of new technologies to organizations. In order to determine contribution to such changes from various IT positions, I identified three main “classical” technological roles: System Analyst, Information Technology Manager, and Information Technology Consultant. While job descriptions might vary between organizations, each role is broadly defined in terms of its relation to other stakeholders. Also, the roles are not exclusive to each other: in flexible software organizations of today, the responsibilities of different roles overlap, and the real-world Information Technology jobs often contain the elements of all three together. However, the advantage of several viewpoints allows us to discover details which could be neglected by a single viewpoint. Therefore, in order to gain unique perspectives on the technological change process and to determine these roles’ contributions as agents of change, each role is examined separately.

The role of System Analyst primarily involves analyzing stakeholder requirements, designing systems based on those requirements, and helping various stakeholders use the systems. Thus, the two challenges in introducing new technology would be recommending technology choices to higher management and explaining them to users such as company’s staff or customers. In order to meet those challenges, the role would use two different images for managing change: navigator and interpreter. Using an image of a navigator, a system analyst would be able to sell the recommendation to their manager by logical explanation of their decision while linking the choice to the provided criteria or business plan. On the other hand, using an image of interpreter, they would assist users with the transition by providing specific guidelines and explanations on what needs to happen in order to implement this technology and what they should do in order to use the technology effectively.

The organizational position of Information Technology Manager expands the responsibilities of the previous role from recommending and sense-making of technology choices to higher management and users to creating communication strategy and reinforcing commitment to change within the Information Technology department. The communication strategy would depend on how the new technology affects staff in manager’s IT department. If the technology changes involve “new ways of doing things”, thus being transformational to staff roles and responsibilities, then an IT manager would use a coach image to engage in “underscore and explore” dialogue through two-way media, such as personal emails and face-to-face meetings. In addition, the position of an IT manager is structurally closer to the IT team than the rest of the management and, thus, the manager would be in more in-tune with their emotions. Therefore, an IT manager should fully expect to be a toxic handler and confidante where they would listen to their staff’s worries and suggest ways to proceed and cope. Their goal would be to identify and solve these concerns in order to get the buy-in among the team. On the other hand, if technological changes are incremental, such as software upgrades, then the manager would use more formal, top-down directive communications through email broadcasts and memos. The goal would then change to getting the word out in order to align their staff with with higher management initiatives and to direct their activities in ways that best support other departments. Lastly, in order to reinforce continuous commitment to changes, an IT manager would also use an image of interpreter to engage in storytelling of successes to their staff, such as, for example, improvement in performance of employees in an early adopter piloting department whom the IT staff trained and supported.

Burke-Litwin Diagnostic Model

The role of Information Technology Consultant is assumed to be external to an organization undergoing technological change and could involve creating complete change plans through collaboration with all stakeholders in that organization. A consultant would primarily use coach image of implementing change. From my years of experience leading various software upgrade initiatives, I found that the best way to overcome resistances and ensure that stakeholders accept the new technology is by identifying and training specific skills within them. Thus, I believe a consultant would follow organizational development practitioner steps consistent with the coach image in order to gather data, diagnose problems, and plan actions. They could use various models such as Burke-Litwin model for diagnosing organizational performance and change environment, and methods such as Appreciative Inquiry for determining what works well. Performing detailed organizational component diagnosis from various perspectives of different models could reveal problems in organizations which could not be solved by simply introducing new technology, but also require changes in organizational processes and culture. For example, adopting Customer Relationship Management software could involve new organizational focus on creating greater value for customers. Finally, to plan actions, a consultant could use other images of managing change as well, such as an image of director in order to create change milestones or short-term wins.

Appreciative Inquiry 4-D cycle

The above exploration of change activities and images of managing change from the perspective of the three IT roles results in several interesting revelations. First, the majority of examined change efforts are oriented towards people rather than organizational structures and processes. Thus, training intra- and inter- personal skills, a personal development often neglected by IT staff, would make a technology practitioner a much more effective change contributor. Second, the common theme emerging from all three perspectives is that the approach and the selection of image for managing change should always be specific to the situation and the stakeholder one is engaging. Therefore, selecting a correct image of managing change to suit different circumstances is another big contribution an IT specialist can make to organizational change efforts. Finally, introducing new technologies often requires re-creation of organizational processes and values in order to use these technologies effectively. What many managers consider and approach as an incremental, first-order purely technological change could actually require transformational, second-order culture change within the organization. Therefore, a complete IT professional should contribute the ability to analyze the organization from different perspectives and reveal additional factors which could be overlooked by other change managers.

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Android Socket Options Tester

exploring properties of TCP/IP connection specific to Android over WIFI (exciting stuff!)
- posted on November 28, 2013 by Vsevolod Geraskin in projects about android3 java4 c5 linux3 tcp/ip3 802.111

Problem Statement

What do all those TCP options do and when to use them?

Project Description

TCP Socket Android Performance Tester is an Android application I wrote while studying at BCIT. The goal of this project was to understand Android TCP/IP socket options and analyze potential scenarios when each option should be used. For some of the socket options, we also evaluated the impact on TCP connection. For the above purposes, each TCP socket option was independently set and tested in Android client / Linux server environment on 802.11 wireless network. At the same time, TCP packets were captured and analyzed in Wireshark.

Software used for testing:

  • Fedora Release 15 32-bit
  • Multiprocess socket server written in C
  • Wireshark Packet Capture Analyzing Tool
  • Android 4.2.2
  • Android socket client written in Java

Hardware used:

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0
  • Compaq Laptop Intel Pentium Dual CPU, 1.86 GHz x 2, 3 Gigs of RAM

Both server and client were connected to 802.11n/g/b wireless network provided by Dlink DIR-615 router.

Project Outcomes

Linux people who hack C will not find anything new here. Still, its nice for Android to expose some fairly low level socket API. Stuff like finding optimal buffers for uploading files is a potential challenge you might face when building scalable client/server systems. If you are curious when to use this, in all unlikelihood, here’s some bedtime reading material

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The Power of Expertise

why the most common leadership model is NOT broken

Expertise

Armchair critic

After reading the article by Mike Myatt The Most Common Leadership Model - And Why It’s Broken published by Forbes on March 28, 2013, I could not resist offering a few comments.

Personally, I highly value competency and disagree with the premise that when organizations hire, develop, and promote leaders using a competency-based model, they’re unwittingly incubating failure. While I believe that technical competency alone does not make you a great leader, it is still a necessary element of performing well at any leadership position. However, I acknowledge that I might harbour a bias coming from a highly technical information technology industry.

Myatt’s arguments

Myatt’s article states that organizations tend to overvalue technical competency of individuals rather than their soft skills and reward technical competency over aggregate contribution. Thus, he reasons that the individuals who get rewarded in the present organizations are the ones who display highest level of technical competence. To the contrary, the author believes that the most important thing is not our knowledge, but rather how we use the knowledge to inspire others. In order to support his point, the author further states that competency should be expected and assumed instead of measured and rewarded.

Furthermore, Myatt believes that companies which use practices such as competency-based interviews, models, and performance reviews are long overdue for a change to instead consider things such as character, passion, EQ, creativity, etc. He states that, while the job of a leader is to close gaps, competency-based models create alignment gaps at every level - organizational gaps, talent gaps, leadership gaps, cultural gaps, diversity gaps, positional gaps, value gaps, operational gaps, execution gaps, and the list could go on. Thus, to get the job done, organizations need to reward soft skills first.

And yet…

There are two main weaknesses in Myatt’s argument: insistence on assuming competence and disregard of respect, which is an important soft skill.

From my experience, to assume competence without measuring it is not a reasonable thing to do. I observed too many people in information technology who are sorely lacking in technical skills to do their job effectively. Myatt states in his article that it is easy to measure technical competency, so why not measure it to ensure individuals can perform and succeed? If we look at most successful leaders of Information Technology, we see highly technically competent people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. While they all possess excellent leadership skills, technical competence is no less important to their success. For example, Steve Jobs meticulously inspected and put finishing touches on all Apple products before their release to the public, which led to their dominance in the smartphone and tablet markets.

While the aforementioned leaders were not the nicest or the most pleasant people to work with, the reason programmers followed them and remained motivated is respect. Myatt did not consider this soft skill in his article. However, in general, programmers, or any other scientific and engineering people have trouble staying motivated when they are led by someone who they do not respect. In Information Technology and, possibly, other engineering industries, respect is earned based on technical competence, and leaders who master their trade have easier time leading and getting the most out of their subordinates.

Last words

In summary, it helps to view Mike Myatt’s article as not a one-fit-all advise, but rather a useful perspective specific to the industry you work in. Perhaps, his conclusions are more appropriate for some industries rather than others. Undoubtedly, technical competence is a part of the equation to leadership success, but the question to consider is whether the competence is small part of the equation as Myatt states, or something much bigger and more important than that.

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WinMMR Module

enabling pharmacists to perform electronic medication reviews
- posted on February 22, 2013 by Vsevolod Geraskin in projects about .net6 sql server2 active reports1

WinMMR screenshot

Problem Statement

In an effort to provide a more accurate medical record, BC government initiated a program which allowed pharmacists to bill for reviewing patient’s medication history. Initially, many pharmacists performed a medication review with a patient manually and inefficiently.

Project Description

The module is developed in .NET, and consists of the following components:

  • data exchange with SQL server and WinRx software,
  • .NET user interface,
  • and Active Reports.

Project Outcomes

WinMMR software is currently deployed at hundreds of customer sites where pharmacists use it daily to perform electronic medication reviews.

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