Please Note:  The following is an academic assignment for UoPX.  I have published this work to launch a conversation about how technology is seen and understood.  I have several other pieces on this topic to share as part of understanding the role of technology in an organization.  Enjoy, comment, and even if you disagree, let’s discuss this topic.  – –  Thank you!

The role of technology is always the same, to act the neutral part as a force multiplier, not possessing the power to hold valuation as “positive or negative.” Technology is a tool, like a hammer, designed for a specific role, embodying potential, delivering a specific purpose, and serving a specific function. To repeat, technology is not positive or negative, cannot possess a value matrix beyond addressing the concern, “does technology fill the role it was designed for or not” (Budworth and Cox, 2005; Ertmer, 1999; and Ropohl, 1999). Technological philosophy, detailed by Ropohl (1999), provides greater details into the underlying core issues eLeaders, virtual teams, and organizations face daily when merging technology and people together.

Application of technology to eLeadership and virtual teams may be summed by Wixom and Todd (2005) as they quote Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) for the specific principle espoused by Trist (1981) and applicable here, “For accurate prediction, beliefs and attitudes, must be specified in a manner consistent in time, target, and context with behavior of interest” (Wixom and Todd, 2005, p. 89).  Virtual teams are connected by the specific behaviors of those being led; the attitudes of the users predict beliefs and flow into production. Technology brings eLeadership into possibility, but the potential cannot be realized unless the eLeaders know how to harness negative beliefs, core out the actual problem, address the user concerns, and then redirect the negative into either neutral or positive productivity. The answer to eLeaders needing to harness user beliefs is found in a non-technological advancement, but can be enhanced through new technology, 360-degree feedback communication loops as detailed by London and Beatty (1983). Empowering the users with 360-degree feedback, empowering the eLeader with another channel for 360-degree feedback, and operating a third channel for the organization in 360-degree feedback places the user in the driver seat to improve their technology beliefs and attitudes. Ropohl (1999) and Omar, Takim, and Nawawi (2012) combine to complete the puzzle in addressing how technology applies to eLeadership and virtual teams, by underscoring the people element in the technological equation. Omar, et al. (2012) claim,

“…Technological capability refers to an organisation’s [sic] capacity to deploy, develop and utilise [sic] technological resources and integrate them with other complementary resources to supply the differentiated products and services. Technological capability is embodied not only in the employees’ knowledge and skills and the technical system, but also in the managerial system, values and norms” (Omar et al., 2012, p. 211).

The eLeader and organization need to understand and develop these principles to harness the innovative power of the human element. If this is not thought through, discussed, and elevated, Dandira (2012) claims the result is ‘Organizational Cancer.’ The power of technology as a force multiplier to unleash the power of humans cannot be understated, but the flip side of the technological coin is that as a force multiplier, if technology is not handled correctly, the negative aspects are as large as the positive aspects. Toor and Ofori (2008) detail how leaders, especially eLeaders, need to understand and embody the differences between managers and leaders, to contribute fully to the technology implementation and daily use in production. If eLeaders cannot lead physical teams, they will never understand virtual teams, and managers need not apply. The case for leadership in virtual teams cannot be understated; user beliefs and attitudes are multiplied by the technology and through the technological interface. Virtual teams need to know, trust, and rely upon the organizational systems more so than physical teams, thus the eLeader has more to do and be, not less, than their physical team counterparts in leading well.

References

Budworth, N., & Cox, S. (2005). Trusting tools. The Safety & Health Practitioner, 23(7), 46-48. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/201021810?accountid=458

Dandira, M. (2012). Dysfunctional leadership: Organizational cancer. Business Strategy Series, 13(4), 187-192. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17515631211246267

Ertmer, P. A. (1999). Addressing first- and second-order barriers to change: Strategies for technology integration. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 47(4), 47. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/218016186?accountid=458

London, M., & Beatty, R. W. (1993). 360-degree feedback as a competitive advantage. Human Resource Management (1986-1998), 32(2-3), 353. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224341530?accountid=458

Omar, R., Takim, R., & Nawawi, A. H. (2012). Measuring of technological capabilities in technology transfer (TT) projects. Asian Social Science, 8(15), 211-221. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1338249931?accountid=458

Ropohl, G. (1999). Philosophy of Socio-Technical Systems. Society for Philosophy and Technology, 4. Retrieved June 29, 2014, from: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/SPT/v4_n3html/ROPOHL.html

Toor, S., & Ofori, G. (2008). Leadership versus Management: How They Are Different, and Why. Leadership & Management in Engineering, 8(2), 61-71. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)1532-6748(2008)8:2(61)

Trist, E. (1981). The evolution of socio-technical systems: A conceptual framework and an action program. Occasional Paper. Retrieved June 29, 2014, from: http://www.sociotech.net/wiki/images/9/94/Evolution_of_socio_technical_systems.pdf

© 2014 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

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