The Johari Window: A Tool of Incredible Proportion – Understanding a Key Psychology Tool in Call Center Relations

The Interest GridTo understand a principle takes time; to apply that principle involves experience; but to indeed change a person, the principle must be absorbed into the very fiber or essence of an individual, reaching comprehension through mental, physical, and spiritual understanding, some might even say the soul of the individual.  Freedom is one such principle; the tool for remaining free is the ability to choose, or agency.  When applied to organizations, the same path to success must be tread, but with many individuals onboarding the principles is a challenge.  Many people believing the same way is often described as a culture (Greenwald, 2008, p 192-195), or society, and when belief turns into dedicated and repetitive action, a paradigm is created (Kuhn, 1996), also called business processes and procedures.

Agency theory is a tool for understanding how organizational cultures become cultures.  Individuals apply agency, and when many make the same choices, the creation of an organizational culture occurs.  Emirbayer & Mische (1998) expand the term agency that gives reason why Tosi (2009) and Ekanayake (2004) both classify agency theory as an “economic theory” and how agency theory “… shapes social action [p 963].”  If Emirbayer and Mische (1998) are correct, placing more emphasis upon individual agency opens doors into re-shaping controls, control mechanisms, and affects the entire organization.  The power of agency to change people, organizations, and societies is immense.  Recognizing that people will always exercise agency, guiding that agency exercise is not so much a discussion of control, but of harnessing energy and momentum to develop individuals into a cohesive whole.

Johari WindowThe Johari Window is a tool for quickly assessing a situation before making a choice.  Consider the job of a call center agent; they must be technically savvy, adept at handling multiple tasks while engaging in productive conversation, and must be able to keep a caller enthusiastically engaged in reaching a solution quickly so that the agent ay meet business set metrics and production goals.  The Johari Window is suggested as a desktop guide in promoting self-knowledge in the call center agent to improve performance.  Having personally employed the Johari Window as part of logical thinking, I explicitly recommend, that before handing an agent this tool, training must be accomplished to help allow for clearer thinking that often leads to more speedy action.  The first Johari Window represented links to a .pdf that contains additional specific information for improving training in the Johari Window principles.

Open Area

Of all the locations in the window, the open area position is where the majority of people want to stay; wherein everybody and everything knows and is known. The unknown is frightening, and change in this location comes the slowest, if at all.  Each call center agent wants to, and needs to, feel confident in what is known and where they go when they do not know; hence, training as a continual process remains the catchword in this location, even though it might not be well received.

While the location is desirable, rarely will customers call in because they already know something.  Agents in a call center should leave new hire and continual employment training and start every working day from this location where they are known and know.  The open area could also be referred to as the preparation location.

Hidden Area

The hidden area is where business in a call center will occur most effectively.  The customer knows what they want, and the call center agent knows how to deliver what is wanted and through reflective communication mutual understanding is achieved to make the hidden area become known.  Imperative to understanding in this area is the power of choice, agency, to choose to reveal only pieces of what is wanted.  If the customer chooses not to disclose what is wanted, it is not poor service when the customer’s wants are not fulfilled. This point is especially important in understanding the voice of the customer (VOC) survey results and quality call review.  The only time the agent is in the wrong, in this location, is when the agent cannot choose and thereby communicates less effectively to the customer, delivering a poor performance in need of remediation.  Both the agent and the customer have something hidden and something known.  The importance of clear communication remains pre-eminent in this location.

For instance, two top call center agents were continally competing with each other for first place evaluation. The agent who routinely came in second asked why. The answer to improving performance is found in the hidden area, opportunities that guided the agent to drop AHT/ACW and increase VOC into productive communication towards a solution.  There is power in the hidden area to capture and employ. Train agents to be alert for hidden areas to gain improved performance, not through active listening, but through reflective listening where mutual understanding between the customer and the agent is reached.

Blind Area

Of all the locations in the Johari Window, the blind area is the most dangerous for call center agents.  When the customer has information the agent does not know, the result is lost resources, productivity, and customers.  Of course, the reverse is also true.  When the agent has information about the customer and does not voluntarily devolve the information, the customer is surprised upon becoming aware and is lost because of this blind area.  Then organizational reputation damage is complete.

For example, I was working in a credit card call center and regularly saw agents not bother to bring up account issues to save AHT/VOC and other metrics.  Hence, the customer upon learning of the negative actions would call back because opportunity in the blind area was sacrificed for potential short-term gains.  Operating blind means the agent and the customer are in danger.

Unknown Area

Chinese CrisisOf all the locations in the Johari Window, the unknown area possesses the most opportunity for delivering upon a service commitment.  Consider the Chinese character for a crisis that includes danger and opportunity as equals.  The unknown always combines danger and opportunity.  Danger is risk, risk of losing a customer, risk of saying the wrong thing and insulting, etc.  Opportunity lies in making the unknown known.  In the Johari Window, when the unknown becomes known, the unknown quadrant shrinks and the known quadrant grows.  The unknown quadrant could be considered the crisis quadrant.  Good skills in mastering the unknown to thwart a crisis, eliminate danger, and win the opportunity to create a powerful customer interaction.  The unknown area is where confidence in training overlaps with the customer’s crisis to maximize opportunities for service excellence.  If there is a single shred of doubt communicated to the customer in crisis, the opportunity is lost forever because the danger was not ameliorated. The unknown has many hidden dangers to be wary, but fear is not one of them because of excellence in training.

Working as an agent in customer retention was very lucrative.  When we could probe, dig, and investigate, generally we could save a customer and generate new business.  While the company spoke about, preached around, and dictated the use of active listening, the retention department was using reflective listening to glean details and save customers through reaching mutual understanding. In the unknown area, both parties struggle with not knowing and being unknown. Therein lies the opportunity for increasing business by becoming known and learning knowledge that is not currently possessed.

While the current Johari Window reflects proportional space for each location, reality rarely allows for such clarity.  Many times, an agent’s Johari Window will look like any one of the following, none of the following, or a mixture of all:

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The key for call center leaders is to train the call center representatives to first understand themselves and then to visualize who they are in the Johari Window in each call.  The more familiar the agent is with data gleaned from knowing themselves and the business, the more power each agent will have to handle the calls more effectively and efficiently.  In teaching the Johari Window, one of the many lessons I have learned is that people do not understand and second guess their limitations.  If a person has, or considers having, a small blind area, do they know their equally important unknown or open areas.  More than likely the answer is no; why, because of the need to invest time and other resources into improving themselves and their approach to others.

When discussing the agents understanding themselves, the call center trainer, first line supervisor, and managers will employ the eleven principles of change as discussed by Luft.  The agent will need to understand the energy lost in hiding, deceiving themselves, and the problems this causes them.  Cause and effect play a significant role in visually attuning the Johari Window to daily work activities.  The call center trainer, first line supervisors, and managers will need to be able to answer clearly and effectively “why” based questions about processes and procedures, while exemplifying the Johari Window principles.  Luft’s Point No. 5point number five is critical in this process, “Interpersonal learning means a change [is taking] place so that Quadrant 1 is larger, and one or more of the other quadrants has grown smaller.”  Do we understand what this means; as leaders, we exemplify making Quadrant 1 (Open Area) larger by learning.  Leaders are teachers, teachers are leaders, but both teachers and leaders must remain loyal to learning.

Consider Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter.  Gilderoy Lockhart considered himself highly capable, gifted, and talented, but reality proved his ineffectiveness and limitations.  His example opens a second issue when using the Johari Window tool in a call center:  personal perception versus reality.  Gilderoy Lockhart would see his Johari Window as thus:

Johari Window - GL 1

Reality would suggest the following might be truer:

Johari Window - GL 2

The disparity between a person’s perceived understanding and reality causes significant problems in interactions in all types of societies.  In the call center, the agent will interact with various kinds of personalities; hence, the need to train agents in this tool and to understand themselves, including their likes, dislikes, triggers, emotional hooks, and talents brought to each call.  For the best opportunities for your agents to interact successfully, training them in understanding themselves is just as important as training the agent in organizational policies, business products, services, and sales techniques.

Ongoing, regular training remains a key component to highly effective call centers and capable workforces.  Without refresher training, regular training for new products, and annual training, the capable employee gets into a rut, the rut becomes a paradigm, and the employee becomes lost to attrition and slower productivity; but most especially, lost customer interactions hamper all levels of business performance.  One employee working slow can ruin a business, and the first indicator something is wrong is the higher cost of doing business.  Win the employee through training and then treat them respectfully to reduce operational costs and increase sales through training.

In conclusion, never stop asking why, encourage learning, and never fear using the answer, “At this time, I do not know, but I will find out and report back.”  When the discovery loop is closed with the individual, everyone learns, Quadrant 1 grows, and other quadrants reduce perceptibly.  Proving once again the veracity of the axiom, “Train people well enough to leave; treat people well enough to stay; and grow together as an act of personal commitment to the team.”

References

Ekanayake, S. (2004). Agency theory, national culture, and management control systems. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 4(1), 49-54. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/222857814?accountid=35812

Emirbayer, M., & Mische, A. (1998). What is agency? The American Journal of Sociology, 103(4), 962-1023. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2782934

Greenwald, H. P. (2008). Organizations: Management without control. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. (Third ed., Vol. VIII). Chicago, ILL: The University of Chicago Press.

Tosi, H. L. (2009), Theories of organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein, obtained from the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

Customer Call Center Leader – Part 6: The Role of Technology in Creating a Culture of Adaptability

The role of technology is to act the neutral part in the human work relationship. Technology is a tool, like a hammer, designed for a specific role embodying potential for good or ill, delivering a specific role, and serving a specific function. Technology is not positive or negative and possesses no 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 leaders and organizations face daily when merging technology and people together. Yet, always in application do we find managers attempting to make technology more than what technology can ever be, the neutral variable in the human technology work relationship while thwarting culture and other organizational changes.

The automatic dishwasher is an example; if the dishes go in dirty and come out dirty, the blame is the technology instead of the human interaction in the technology work relationship. I was on a call to customer service recently and heard no less than five times in a 10-minute phone call, the “system is slow,” the “computer is not working right,” or some other similar excuse from the agent not being able to answer questions from the customer. How many times has human resources heard, “the car wouldn’t start,” “my GPS gave me wrong directions,” or my personal favorite, “the alarm clock failed.” The technology is not at fault as the neutral variable; human interaction with the technology is where the fault lies.

Application of technology to leadership and organizations 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 and non-virtual teams are connected by the specific behaviors of those being led; the attitudes of the users predict beliefs and flow into production, especially into call centers and other front-line/customer-facing positions. Technology brings leadership into possibility, but the potential cannot be realized unless the leader knows how to harness negative beliefs, core out the actual problem, address user concerns, and then redirect the negative into either neutral or positive productivity.

The answer to leaders needing to harness user beliefs is found in proper communications aided by technology, as detailed by London and Beatty (1983). Empowering the users with 360-degree feedback, empowering the leader 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 leadership 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 [combined with] the technical system, but also in the managerial system, values and norms” (Omar et al., 2012, p. 211).

360-Degree FeedbackAs the image reflects in the convergence of the three channels of 360-degree feedback, the power of communication is enhanced by the technology employed as a neutral variable in the human technology work relationship. If technology fails, the relationships in the channels remain and the relationships are not separated or closed. When discussing flexibility and adaptability in organizations, clearly understanding the roles of technology and communication empower the combined user, leader, and organization relationships.

The leader and organization need to understand and develop these principles to harness the innovative power of the human element where technology interacts with the human work relationship. If technology, especially technological improvement, is not thought through, planned, 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 need to understand and embody the differences between managers and leaders to contribute fully to the technology implementation and daily use in production. If leaders cannot lead physical teams, they will never understand virtual teams where technology must be understood more completely, and managers need not ever apply as the mindset is not conducive to creating success in the human technology work relationship.

A recent technological change was heralded, marketed, bragged, and positioned to the stakeholders in a company as akin to being better than “sliced bread.” The new system was discussed for three years before images of the new system began to be floated. Everything was prepared to have the technology play a more flexible and vital role in the organization. The problem was managers and programmers implemented the technology instead of users and leaders. User interfaces were ungainly, illogical, and made no sense in the completion of user work processes. More specifically, the impact for every single process and procedure in the current technology was not considered and revamped during the rollout of the new system. The result was chaos among users, failure to deliver the promised products and services, and a customer service disaster. Early in the rollout of the technology, managers directing the rollout were alerted that processes and procedures needed to be revamped, and the user was being left behind in how the system was “supposed to work” resulting in compounded chaos, increasing customer dissatisfaction, and further diminishing the company reputation. The managerial response was to “sit and wait” for the programmers to finish building the system and changing the technology to “fit.” Where a leader was needed, a plethora of managers existed and they actively worked to make the problems worse for the end user, the customer, and the other managers.

Creating a culture follows a basic set of principles, namely, the example of the leaders, including their words and actions, followed by repetition, and the passage of time (Tribus, n.d.). Tribus (n.d.) specifically places the core of culture in the example of the leaders regardless of whether the organizational leader is a leader or a manager as evidenced by action and word. To create a culture specific to adaptability, several other key components are required, namely, written instructions, freedom, and two-directional communication in the hierarchy (Aboelmaged, 2012; Bethencourt, 2012; Deci and Ryan, 2000; and Kuczmarski, 1996 & 2003). Two-directional communication has been warped into 360-degree communication. Regardless of name, the input from the workers and the customer is more critical than the voices of managers to organizational excellence.

Alvesson and Willmott (2002) add another component to this discussion. As the organizational culture takes hold of an individual employee, the employee begins to embody the culture, for good or ill, in their daily interactions both personally and professionally. This hold becomes an identity adding another level of control from the organization over the employee binding them to the organization. The identity control becomes a two-edged sword because the employee will form loyal opposition that can be misinterpreted to be intransigence, and the loss of that employee causes other employees to question their identity and the organizational culture. More to the point, the changed employee becomes habitualized into the current culture and then hardens into intransigency when changes are needed to help the organization survive.

Creating a culture attuned to adapting, the organizational leader needs to communicate, be seen exemplifying the organizational culture, and building that culture one employee at a time; until the changed employees can then begin to sponsor other employees into the organization’s new culture. The organizational leader must set clear goals, define the vision, and obtain employee buy-in prior to enacting change, then exemplify that vision after the change (Deci and Ryan, 1980, 1985, & 2000) while remaining open to the possibility of a need to change direction if indicated. Key to this process is Tribus’ (n.d.) [p. 3-4] “Learning Society” vs. “Knowing Society.” The distinction is crucial. The organizational culture must be learned and the process for continually learning honed and promoted to protect the culture while adapting to variables both internal and external. Learning societies know change occurs because of new thinking and inputs and remains adaptable to that change as a positive force in improvement. Knowing societies remain afraid of changes due to the fear of losing perks, benefits, or personal power and actively thwart change at every turn, usually while preaching the need to change.

To be clear, technology is a neutral force and can neither be a positive or a negative in an organization. The need for leaders cannot be overstated as the driving force in organizational change, or simply day-to-day leadership. Leaders must be seen and heard living the organizational culture. If, and when, changes are required, leaders must listen to user, customers, and the managers, but the weight and value are not the same and should never tilt in favor of the managers. Finally, if the organization needs to adapt, the organization must provide employees in front-line/customer-facing positions with freedom to act and the technology to record the actions, which are supported by back-office processes and procedures that respond to the front-line, not the other way round.

With the “.dot com” bubble burst in 2000, the world of business changed dramatically. As more baby-boomers leave the workforce and are replaced with millennial workers, the business culture is going to change more. To adapt, the engaged and determined business leader needs to embody a spirit of freedom and adaptability into the business culture, into the processes and procedures that define “work,” and into the customer relationship (internally and externally) or the business will continue to fail, struggle, and breed chaos.

References

Aboelmaged, M. (2012). Harvesting organizational knowledge and innovation practices: An empirical examination of their effects on operations strategy. Business Process Management Journal, 18(5), 712-734.

Alvesson M, & Willmott H. (2002, July) Identity regulation as organizational control: Producing the appropriate individual. Journal Of Management Studies 39(5):619-644. Available from: Business Source Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 27, 2014.

Bethencourt, L. A. (2012). Employee engagement and self-determination theory. (Order No. 3552273, Northern Illinois University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 121. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1294580434?accountid=458. (prod.academic_MSTAR_1294580434).

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

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1980). The empirical exploration of intrinsic motivational processes. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 13, pp. 39–80). New York: Academic Press.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227–268.

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

Kuczmarski, T. (1996). What is innovation? The art of welcoming risk. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 13(5), 7-11.

Kuczmarski, T. (2003). What is innovation? And why aren’t companies doing more of it? What Is Innovation? And Why Aren’t Companies Doing More of It?” 20(6), 536-541.

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)

Tribus, M. (n.d.). Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools. Retrieved from: Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools Web site: http://deming.eng.clemson.edu/den/change_cult.pdf

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

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

 

Technology Integration: An Evaluation – Understanding Technology

Please note:  The following is Part II of the conversation on technology and the workplace.  While written from an academic perspective, the author hopes to launch a conversation on integrating technology and shifting the current paradigm into a more holistic and practical approach to technology.  Please comment.  – –  Thank you!

Currently many organizations have a problem with technology integration. A new operating system, new legacy systems for employees, and new support systems for employees and customers have all been launched, but the resulting chaos needs to be addressed. Even while the legacy systems and previous technology, had problems, the new is not trusted and a culture of distrust is representing Dandira’s (2012) leadership dysfunction causing organizational cancer. The organizational leadership disconnection to the problems of both the external and internal customers reflects poor technology integration. The following evaluation aims to both highlight the problem and offer best practices to correct the problem, not from a distant point in the future, but from where the organization is now. The purpose of this document is to positively affect the technology integration, bringing forth a new culture while correcting inherent problems in the current organizational design and culture.

Problem Statement

Ropohl (1999) defines the problem advocating that all technology comes with social change. The ideal technological integration would include aspects of Ropohl (1999) to both alert organizational leaders to the change, while also supporting the new culture with leadership presence. The reality is that current front-line thinking reflects organizational leadership as never considering the problems with integration such as, the problems experienced in learning curves to learn the new technology, processes disconnected from legacy systems to the new support technology, SOP’s not current or plain wrong, and never planned for the cultural or technological shift, only the technology was important. The consequence as detailed by Dandira (2012), exasperated current problems with employee and customer frustration including more regionalism, less collaboration, higher stress, and, most disruptive, political culture growing and separating the organizational leaders more from the front-line employees and external customers. The growing feelings of disconnection are the main target of this research. Since technology disrupted an already exasperated problem, the solution can, and should, include the new technology integration. Measuring the technology integration and providing empirical evidence in where to pour resources is the aim of this document.

A Technology Integration Model

Using the core business combined with the disparate duties of each region in the business model, it remains of premier import to not ruin the business model, but restrain regionalism and political games. Thus, Wixom and Todd (2005) provide sound guidance. By focusing resources, as suggested by Wixom and Todd (2005) on both “User Satisfaction” and “Technology Acceptance” the organizational leaders may begin to gather the much needed data to empower decisions. The Wixom and Todd (2005) model is as follows:

  1. Focus early design on user interface. This includes “how work is done” and “why work processes flow the way they do.” Organizations invest many resources into the user interfaces, but the common perception is that broken processes will remain broken.  The process is how the use will interface with the technology to do the work of the organization.  Even small shifts in technology will change the processes and they will need reviewing.
  2. Practical utility. This is not a job for marketing, or a role to be onboarded by a single department or entity. The question to focus upon remains, “Will the user be able to utilize efficiently the new technology?” Other questions branch from this question, pointing to how work is accomplished, why, where, when, and a dream list of users for the new technology.
  3. Attitudes and beliefs influence behavior. Employ “object-based beliefs and attitudes” to positively affect “behavioral-based beliefs and attitudes” (Wixom and Todd, 2005, p. 86). This simply means dispelling the beliefs that one legacy is inherently bad because of a lack of training or another employee’s personal opinion, and another piece of technology is inherently good for the same ambiguous reasons. Currently on the production floor, there are thousands of these beliefs and attitudes hampering productivity. Omar, Takim, and Nawawi (2012) discuss the principles contained here, in-depth referring to this as technological capability (TC). TC is more than the sum total of training, experience, technology, and access to technology; TC is the inherent momentum building motivation into an organizational culture.  Note, motivation is more than desire and capturing motivation, including negative motivation requires leadership interfacing with front-line employees directly, not through command edicts and measuring adherence through statistics.

Trist (1981) employs similar methodology in coal mining as suggested by Wixom and Todd (2005), in improving technology, by focusing on end users, making the processes and procedures easier to adopt, decluttering screens, moving buttons and links to a more natural position on screens, defining terms, etc. practical usability increases and the attitudes and beliefs change dramatically. Ropohl (1999) extends this discussion in reminding organizational leaders of the social aspect to work, especially when work involves high-level technology to accomplish social interactions. Wixom and Todd (2005) 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). Specificity of connections between actual instances and timely response remains one of the steps missed. For example, why three legacy systems that all customer service facing employees should be knowledgeable in; when 50% of the front-line employees have no access to one legacy system due to work design. One system is only used for a single process infrequently employed to complete work; yet all three systems are not trained, necessitating desk guides, QA controls, and more resource investment for no appreciable gain. These long-term employees, considered as subject-matter experts, receive tasking’s to train new hires, but the long-term employee spends more time passing on genetic knowledge, assumption, bias, and opinion, than actually training to a specific standard.

London and Beatty (1993) offer sound counsel for the remedy in suggesting 360-degree feedback loops tailed to the end of each tasking. These feedback loops should be end user controlled, so if additional questions, comments, and concerns arise, the problem does not sit in a manager’s workload, but becomes part of the directors tasking to complete to the satisfaction of the front-line employee, not the director. Wixom and Todd’s (2005) model specifies both a need for practical utility and employing technology to change end used behaviors and attitudes. Integrating technology requires building trust. Trist (1981) discusses this topic obliquely when discussing how employees treated researchers until trust and relationships of trust were established. The same trust issues arise in Wixom and Todd (2005) and Ertmer (1999) capitulates that end user trust is a critical building block in socio-technical systems (STS), without this element, all the specialized technology in the world cannot overcome the inherent mistrust and thus lack of usage of technological solutions.

While discussing safety in the workplace, Budworth and Cox (2005) provide sound guidance applicable to technology integration by insisting that trust involves four elements: “Commitment throughout the organisation [sic] (especially from the top); Competence at all levels of the organisation [sic], through directors, managers, advisors and employees; A structure; and A high level of involvement” (Budworth and Cox, 2005, 46). These elements form the bedrock of any relationship in an organization requiring trust and receive reference in Trist (1981) when discussing the organizational changes required when performing STS successfully.

Scoring the Integration

London and Beatty (1993) demonstrate a valuable insight by describing many “360-Degree Feedback” loops as only “270-Degree” (p. 353). Thus, the first effort in scoring technological integration is ‘360-Degree’s’ of feedback. Those initiating the technological shift, regardless of the technology or lack thereof need to understand the social implications of the change.  A simple scorecard is an effortless tracking system and should be made available to all parties involved in the change. Budworth and Cox (2005) expound upon trust, developing trust, and keeping trust, this is a day-to-day action an organizational leader initiates to followers.

Coombs and Bierly (2006) provide the next items for measurement in scoring technology and the integration process is as follows, “The following six measures of performance are used as dependent variables: return on assets, return on equity, return on sales, market value, market value added, and economic value added” (Coombs and Bierly, 2006, p. 421). Several of these ‘six measures of performance’ include human elements to which McKinnon (2003) and Ropohl (1999) both espouse as critical to technology and integrating technology into an organization. For example, a return on assets for computers purchased to interact with server and intranet technology requires end users. If the end user is unable to effectively use the tool, maximum return on assets remains unachievable, linking back to Wixom and Todd (2005) placing premier emphasis upon “Practical Utility” (p. 86). The same process remains traceable from each of the ‘six measures’ (Coombs and Bierly, 2006, p. 421) to the model espoused and delineated by Wixom and Todd (2005) mentioned above. The same pattern then expanded to each of the items on the scorecard. Leadership, inferred from Robinson (1999) and Toor and Ofori (2008), requires action, differentiation, and risk, along with active empathic listening, to build committed followers. The leader must be a follower and their actions transparent to build the committed trust advocated by London and Beatty (1993).

Suggestions from Research for Best Practices

Ropohl (1999) advocates, Trist (1981) implies, Coombs and Bierly (2006) infer, yet Omar, Takim and Nawawi (2012) emphatically state, a holistic approach to technology integration in STS remains a primary goal.

“…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).

More simply summarized, get everyone involved, allow for suggestions from outside the core group of developers and programmers, and keep the three main principles expounded upon by Wixom and Todd (2005) to be the focal point of energy. Technology must first focus on how work is done currently and designed for how work ‘will be done’ eventually. Include the SOP’s in the design; operating procedures develop from both technology and human element exposure. By not including upgrades and revisions to operating procedures while designing and integrating critical design steps, opportunities will be missed and greater expense incurred.

Discussed extensively has been some manner of ‘360-Degree Feedback’ loop in communication. Organizational leaders need to face the fact that they do not have all the answers and feedback is valuable to building the type of trust needed in a constantly changing atmosphere. While feedback loops are part of best practices, the importance of these types of communication requires realization and action. Consider the external customer, as a valuable stakeholder, stop presuming organizational leaders know what is required in every process, procedure, and organizational action taken by every employee at every organizational level, obtain feedback and then market who suggested it e.g. the actual customer gets credit, to build trust and affection for the leadership and the organization by all outside the organization. The same principle applies to internal customers or employees; when a suggestion warrants inclusion, advertise who made the suggestion, when, and display how this is an improvement. 360-Degree Feedback loops also include policies, procedures, work processes, etc. Wixom and Todd (2005) along with Omar et al., (2012) advocate this action as initially prescribed by Toor and Ofori (2008).

Omar et al., (2012) provides the concluding and paramount best practice in technological integration into an STS model, “keep it simple.” Many times an axiom a useful to remember this principle is ‘KISS’ or ‘Keep It Supremely Simple.’ Trist (1981) exemplified this principle by keeping the pieces small, the approach simple, and allowing as much holistic growth from inside the organization as possible. Organizational leaders do not need to ‘dumb down’ the message, but simplify. The difference is vast; the approach declares the difference between ‘dumbing down’ and simplified communications. Consider a ‘dumbed down’ message originates from the position of, “I am better than you, you are too stupid to bother with, and I must talk to you in small terms for your benefit;” whereas, a simple message originates from a position of equality with a desire to be understood primarily. Dandira (2012) places the responsibility for simplicity at the feet of the CEO. When the entire organization, led by the CEO, is engaged in simplification, less political games occur, less regionalism, lowered stress, and higher productivity result. Dandira (2012) calls this approach a cure for organizational cancer, discovery of an organizational cancer cure and a best practice renders itself bench-marketable.

Conclusion

            This document has presented a STS integration model designed by Wixom and Todd (2005) as a preferred set of principles to launch STS. Many organizations are currently engaged upon a major or minor technology shift, thus some of the early design work has been done on the technology, but none of the processes control work have been revamped and new SOP’s published. This woeful lapse will continue to hamper STS until rectified and while this primarily will rest upon organizational leaders, purchasing buy-in from employees and other major stakeholders remains an advocated best practice. By calling upon other IT integration researchers, namely Omar et al., (2012), Wixom and Todd (2005), along with Ertmer (1999), other factors discussed include measurement tools and additional principles for design, implementation, and ultimately integration. The author advocates a holistic approach as supported by the research to embolden employees, value customers, and enhance the brand experience, regardless of position or role in the organization.

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

Coombs, J. E., & Bierly, P. E. (2006). Measuring technological capability and performance. R&D Management, 36(4), 421-438. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9310.2006.00444.x

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

Robinson, G. (1999). Leadership vs management. The British Journal of Administrative Management, 20-21. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224620071?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

Wixom, B. H., & Todd, P. A. (2005). A theoretical integration of user satisfaction and technology acceptance. Information Systems Research, 16(1), 85-102. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/208159952?accountid=458

© 2014 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Technology and People – Shifting the Paradigm in Understanding Technology

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

The Technology Control – Revealing the 800lb Gorrilla

Nielson as quoted by Olsen, Pederson, and Hendricks (2009) in an amazing fit of alacrity, makes several points where technology and workers interact. Namely, technology allows for employee control and the disparity between developed societies and developing societies being able to see the same information via the Internet, but remaining disparate. Regarding the former point, the current employee/employer model hinges upon a small few controlling the masses employing tacit and explicit knowledge, combined with technology, and enforced by rigid discipline. More importantly and in connection to the control of employees is the lack of knowledge in developing worlds to advance.

Technology is available, the information to employ that technology, and centuries of knowledge is now at the fingertips of millions across the globe. Yet, the same environment from the early days of the Industrial Revolution remains in every nation and society across the globe; namely, agrarian subsistence living where technological innovation has not spurned an improved society. Lin-Hua and Nielson still quoted from Olsen, Pederson, and Hendricks (2009) brings the keys to the problem and hint at the solution. The key to the problem is not more technology, but training in using that technology. Before training can occur and be effective, two things must transpire value in the technology must both be seen and be personal. Second, governmental controls must reduce to increase individual freedom. Like the employer using technology to control masses of employees, governments employ technology to control citizens, stripping them of dignity, worth, and in many cases actively showing hostility towards their citizens for personal power. Lin-Hua from Olsen, Pederson, and Hendricks (2009) implies organization is also required to bridge the gap between possessing access to knowledge and technology and effectively employing knowledge and technology to improve society. Several times China receives mention in Olsen, Pederson, and Hendricks (2009) as examples of technology, organization, and knowledge. China remains a wonderful example as thief’s of technology and knowledge (Clarke, 2012), totalitarian governmental system (Christian, 2013), absolute control exercised over citizenry through common fear and high technology (Christian, 2013), along with a culture breeding “Middle Kingdom Complex (Kennedy, 2011).” Clearly, the solution is not more government, but less. The solution is not more technology, but experience and time to explore current technology. Knowledge, both tacit and explicit, requires familiarity. Familiarity breeds from both time and exposure, mixed with training and desire.

References

Christian, R. (2013, November 21). China’s positive reforms and it’s enduring totalitarian tendencies. Millennial. Retrieved from: http://millennialjournal.com/2013/11/21/chinas-positive-reforms-and-its-enduring-totalitarian-tendencies/

Clarke, R. A. (2012, April 2). How china steals our secrets. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/opinion/how-china-steals-our-secrets.html

Kennedy, S. (2011). Beyond the Middle Kingdom: Comparative Perspectives on China’s Capitalist Transformation. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press.

Olsen, J. K., Pederson, S. A., & Hendricks, V. F. (2009). A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology. West Sussex, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

© 2014 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved