Embracing information age change

Dramatic, and often disturbing, changes are transforming many
organizations as they attempt to prosper in the new information age. Be aware of
what is happening. Sooner or later you will likely be involved. To enter the
dynamic, post-industrial "New Information Age,' many firms will be forced to
depart from their reliance on the traditional hierarchical organization forms of
the past 100 years. Increasing global competition and the acceleration of
technological change are the forces behind such changes. Solutions must enable
the firm to produce high-quality products at competitive prices, on shorter time
scales, while responding to customer needs-all in a global environment.

Challenge of change. Making the transition will pose problems. It requires companies to adopt new methods. In an analogous situation, when computers were first introduced, most organizations basically automated their manual processes. Although this expedited the old manual processes, it did not change their fundamental nature. More recently, many firms have developed new computer systems to meet the organization's objectives, while taking full advantage of the available new technology. They are not content with simply improving the old processes.

For example, in the 1980's most firms sent specifications and purchase orders by mail. Later on, they installed 800 numbers to do the same thing by phone and a mailing followed up. Later, they started sending this information by fax. With every change, the customer ordering process was not fundamentally changed. However, it was speeded up, and costs dropped incrementally. Today, many firms send specifications and orders via modems directly into their vendor's computer systems. This basically eliminates order process time, order entry errors, and shipping errors to zero.

Upgrade tests. The real change in organization mindset began when computers were hooked to one another to transfer information seamlessly between departments, functions, and companies. To accomplish this change, companies must upgrade the tasks that people perform. They must directly involve workers in achieving the company's goals in terms of schedule, costs, quality, and response to customers.

Many firms cannot rely only on making incremental changes without changing the fundamental nature of their organization--if they expect to survive and prosper in the growing dynamic global competitive environment.

Convincing people and organizations that change is needed is the most difficult problem. Too many people believe "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." As a member of an organization, it is not easy to change something in the desired direction without eventually reverting to the old way, or facing unanticipated negative consequences. This is especially true in the beginning when those involved perceive that the change will lead to negative consequences.

Over the past several years, firms have experimented with various solutions, such as total quality management, process innovation, re-engineering, concurrent engineering, business process redesign, the virtual corporation, process redesign, the learning organization, self-managing teams, and the horizontal corporation. Other concepts are also being explored.

Ask the Manager

Q: Upper management at our facility feels our two-dimensional CAD system is inferior to other two-dimensional systems on the market and would like to change. Myself and other users, who have had experience on other systems,

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