I’m trying to learn for my Computer Science class and I’m stuck. Can you help?

Chapter 7 – Review the section on dealing with multiple locations and outsourcing.  Review figure 7.2 and note how virtual team communications further reiterates the importance of this model.  (Information Technology and Organizational Learning)Information Technology
and Organizational
Learning
Managing Behavioral Change
in the Digital Age
Third Edition
Information Technology
and Organizational
Learning
Managing Behavioral Change
in the Digital Age
Third Edition
Arthur M. Langer
CRC Press
Taylor & Francis Group
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Contents
xi
Fo re wo rd
Acknowledgments
xiii
xv
Author
Introduction
C h a p t e r 1 Th e “ R av e l l” C o r p o r at i o n
Introduction
A New Approach
The Blueprint for Integration
Enlisting Support 
Assessing Progress
Resistance in the Ranks
Line Management to the Rescue
IT Begins to Reflect
Defining an Identity for Information Technology
Implementing the Integration: A Move toward Trust and
Reflection
Key Lessons 
Defining Reflection and Learning for an Organization 
Working toward a Clear Goal 
Commitment to Quality 
Teaching Staff “Not to Know” 
Transformation of Culture 
Alignment with Administrative Departments
Conclusion
xvii
1
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3
5
6
7
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8
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15
15
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19
v
vi
C o n t en t s
C h a p t e r 2 Th e IT D i l e m m a
Introduction
Recent Background
IT in the Organizational Context
IT and Organizational Structure
The Role of IT in Business Strategy
Ways of Evaluating IT
Executive Knowledge and Management of IT
IT: A View from the Top
Section 1: Chief Executive Perception of the Role of IT
Section 2: Management and Strategic Issues
Section 3: Measuring IT Performance and Activities
General Results
Defining the IT Dilemma
Recent Developments in Operational Excellence
C h a p t e r 3 Te c h n o l o gy a s a Va r ia b l e
O r g a n i z at i o n a l D y n a m i s m
and
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24
24
25
27
28
29
32
34
35
36
36
38
Responsive
Introduction
Technological Dynamism
Responsive Organizational Dynamism
Strategic Integration
Summary
Cultural Assimilation
IT Organization Communications with “ Others” 
Movement of Traditional IT Staff
Summary
Technology Business Cycle
Feasibility
Measurement
Planning
Implementation
Evolution
Drivers and Supporters
Santander versus Citibank 
Information Technology Roles and Responsibilities
Replacement or Outsource
C h a p t e r 4 O r g a n i z at i o n a l L e a r n i n g Th e o r i e s
Te c h n o l o gy
Introduction
Learning Organizations
Communities of Practice
Learning Preferences and Experiential Learning
Social Discourse and the Use of Language
Identity
Skills
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and
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C o n t en t s
Emotion
Linear Development in Learning Approaches
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96
C h a p t e r 5 M a n a g i n g O r g a n i z at i o n a l L e a r n i n g
Te c h n o l o gy
and
The Role of Line Management
Line Managers
First-Line Managers
Supervisor
Management Vectors
Knowledge Management
Ch ange Management 
Change Management for IT Organizations
Social Networks and Information Technology
C h a p t e r 6 O r g a n i z at i o n a l Tr a n s f o r m at i o n
Bal an ce d S c o recard
and the
Introduction
Methods of Ongoing Evaluation
Balanced Scorecards and Discourse
Knowledge Creation, Culture, and Strategy
C h a p t e r 7 V i r t ua l Te a m s
and
Outsourcing
Introduction
Status of Virtual Teams
Management Considerations
Dealing with Multiple Locations
Externalization
Internalization
Combination
Socialization
Externalization Dynamism
Internalization Dynamism
Combination Dynamism
Socialization Dynamism
Dealing with Multiple Locations and Outsourcing
Revisiting Social Discourse
Identity
Skills
Emotion
C h a p t e r 8 S y n e r g i s t i c U n i o n o f IT a n d
O r g a n i z at i o n a l L e a r n i n g
Introduction
Siemens AG
Aftermath
ICAP
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viii
Chapter 9
C o n t en t s
Five Years Later
HTC
IT History at HTC
Interactions of the CEO
The Process
Transformation from the Transition
Five Years Later
Summary
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233
Fo rmin g
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241
241
242
a
C y b e r S e c u r i t y C u lt u r e
Introduction
History
Talking to the Board
Establishing a Security Culture
Understanding What It Means to be Compromised
Cyber Security Dynamism and Responsive Organizational
Dynamism
Cyber Strategic Integration
Cyber Cultural Assimilation
Summary
Organizational Learning and Application Development
Cyber Security Risk
Risk Responsibility
Driver /Supporter Implications
C h a p t e r 10 D i g i ta l Tr a n s f o r m at i o n
C o n s u m e r B e h av i o r
and
Changes
in
Introduction
Requirements without Users and without Input
Concepts of the S-Curve and Digital Transformation
Analysis and Design 
Organizational Learning and the S-Curve
Communities of Practice
The IT Leader in the Digital Transformation Era
How Technology Disrupts Firms and Industries
Dynamism and Digital Disruption
Critical Components of “ Digital” Organization 
Assimilating Digital Technology Operationally and Culturally
Conclusion
C h a p t e r 11 I n t e g r at i n g G e n e r at i o n Y E m p l oy e e s
A c c e l e r at e C o m p e t i t i v e A d va n ta g e
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to
Introduction
The Employment Challenge in the Digital Era
Gen Y Population Attributes
Advantages of Employing Millennials to Support Digital
Transformation
Integration of Gen Y with Baby Boomers and Gen X
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C o n t en t s
Designing the Digital Enterprise
Assimilating Gen Y Talent from Underserved and Socially
Excluded Populations
Langer Workforce Maturity Arc
Theoretical Constructs of the LWMA
The LWMA and Action Research
Implications for New Pathways for Digital Talent
Demographic Shifts in Talent Resources
Economic Sustainability
Integration and Trust
Global Implications for Sources of Talent
Conclusion
C h a p t e r 12 To wa r d B e s t P r a c t i c e s
Introduction
Chief IT Executive
Definitions of Maturity Stages and Dimension Variables in
the Chief IT Executive Best Practices Arc
Maturity Stages
Performance Dimensions
Chief Executive Officer
CIO Direct Reporting to the CEO
Outsourcing
Centralization versus Decentralization of IT
CIO Needs Advanced Degrees
Need for Standards
Risk Management
The CEO Best Practices Technology Arc
Definitions of Maturity Stages and Dimension Variables in
the CEO Technology Best Practices Arc
Maturity Stages
Performance Dimensions
Middle Management
The Middle Management Best Practices Technology Arc
Definitions of Maturity Stages and Dimension Variables in
the Middle Manager Best Practices Arc
Maturity Stages
Performance Dimensions
Summary
Ethics and Maturity
C h a p t e r 13 C o n c l u s i o n s
Introduction
G lo s sa ry
References
Index
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Foreword
Digital technologies are transforming the global economy. Increasingly,
firms and other organizations are assessing their opportunities, developing and delivering products and services, and interacting with customers and other stakeholders digitally. Established companies recognize
that digital technologies can help them operate their businesses with
greater speed and lower costs and, in many cases, offer their customers opportunities to co-design and co-produce products and services.
Many start-up companies use digital technologies to develop new products and business models that disrupt the present way of doing business, taking customers away from firms that cannot change and adapt.
In recent years, digital technology and new business models have disrupted one industry after another, and these developments are rapidly
transforming how people communicate, learn, and work.
Against this backdrop, the third edition of Arthur Langer’ s
Information Technology and Organizational Learning is most welcome.
For decades, Langer has been studying how firms adapt to new or
changing conditions by increasing their ability to incorporate and use
advanced information technologies. Most organizations do not adopt
new technology easily or readily. Organizational inertia and embedded legacy systems are powerful forces working against the adoption
of new technology, even when the advantages of improved technology
are recognized. Investing in new technology is costly, and it requires
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F o re w o rd
aligning technology with business strategies and transforming corporate cultures so that organization members use the technology to
become more productive.
Information Technology and Organizational Learning addresses these
important issues— and much more. There are four features of the new
edition that I would like to draw attention to that, I believe, make
this a valuable book. First, Langer adopts a behavioral perspective
rather than a technical perspective. Instead of simply offering normative advice about technology adoption, he shows how sound learning theory and principles can be used to incorporate technology into
the organization. His discussion ranges across the dynamic learning
organization, knowledge management, change management, communities of practice, and virtual teams. Second, he shows how an
organization can move beyond technology alignment to true technology integration. Part of this process involves redefining the traditional
support role of the IT department to a leadership role in which IT
helps to drive business strategy through a technology-based learning organization. Third, the book contains case studies that make the
material come alive. The book begins with a comprehensive real-life
case that sets the stage for the issues to be resolved, and smaller case
illustrations are sprinkled throughout the chapters, to make concepts
and techniques easily understandable. Lastly, Langer has a wealth of
experience that he brings to his book. He spent more than 25 years
as an IT consultant and is the founder of the Center for Technology
Management at Columbia University, where he directs certificate and
executive programs on various aspects of technology innovation and
management. He has organized a vast professional network of technology executives whose companies serve as learning laboratories for
his students and research. When you read the book, the knowledge
and insight gained from these experiences is readily apparent.
If you are an IT professional, Information Technology and Organi­
zational Learning should be required reading. However, anyone who
is part of a firm or agency that wants to capitalize on the opportunities
provided by digital technology will benefit from reading the book.
Charles C. Snow
Professor Emeritus, Penn State University
Co-Editor, Journal of Organization Design
Acknowledgments
Many colleagues and clients have provided significant support during
the development of the third edition of Information Technology and
Organizational Learning.
I owe much to my colleagues at Teachers College, namely, Professor
Victoria Marsick and Lyle Yorks, who guided me on many of the theories on organizational learning, and Professor Lee Knefelkamp, for
her ongoing mentorship on adult learning and developmental theories. Professor David Thomas from the Harvard Business School also
provided valuable direction on the complex issues surrounding diversity, and its importance in workforce development.
I appreciate the corporate executives who agreed to participate
in the studies that allowed me to apply learning theories to actual
organizational practices. Stephen McDermott from ICAP provided
invaluable input on how chief executive officers (CEOs) can successfully learn to manage emerging technologies. Dana Deasy, now global
chief information officer (CIO) of JP Morgan Chase, contributed
enormous information on how corporate CIOs can integrate technology into business strategy. Lynn O’ Connor Vos, CEO of Grey
Healthcare, also showed me how technology can produce direct monetary returns, especially when the CEO is actively involved.
And, of course, thank you to my wonderful students at Columbia
University. They continue to be at the core of my inspiration and love
for writing, teaching, and scholarly research.
x iii
Author
Arthur M. Langer, EdD, is professor of professional practice
of management and the director of the Center for Technology
Management at Columbia University. He is the academic director of the Executive Masters of Science program in Technology
Management, vice chair of faculty and executive advisor to the dean
at the School of Professional Studies and is on the faculty of the
Department of Organization and Leadership at the Graduate School
of Education (Teachers College). He has also served as a member of
the Columbia University Faculty Senate. Dr. Langer is the author
of Guide to Software Development: Designing & Managing the Life
Cycle. 2nd Edition (2016), Strategic IT: Best Practices for Managers
and Executives (2013 with Lyle Yorks), Information Technology and
Organizational Learning (2011), Analysis and Design of Information
Systems (2007), Applied Ecommerce (2002), and The Art of Analysis
(1997), and has numerous published articles and papers, relating
to digital transformation, service learning for underserved populations, IT organizational integration, mentoring, and staff development. Dr. Langer consults with corporations and universities on
information technology, cyber security, staff development, management transformation, and curriculum development around the
Globe. Dr. Langer is also the chairman and founder of Workforce
Opportunity Services (www.wforce.org), a non-profit social venture
xv
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Au t h o r
that provides scholarships and careers to underserved populations
around the world.
Dr. Langer earned a BA in computer science, an MBA in
accounting/finance, and a Doctorate of Education from Columbia
University.
Introduction
Background
Information technology (IT) has become a more significant part of
workplace operations, and as a result, information systems personnel are key to the success of corporate enterprises, especially with
the recent effects of the digital revolution on every aspect of business
and social life (Bradley & Nolan, 1998; Langer, 1997, 2011; LipmanBlumen, 1996). This digital revolution is defined as a form of “ disruption.” Indeed, the big question facing many enterprises today is,
How can executives anticipate the unexpected threats brought on by
technological advances that could devastate their business? This book
focuses on the vital role that information and digital technology organizations need to play in the course of organizational development
and learning, and on the growing need to integrate technology fully
into the processes of workplace organizational learning. Technology
personnel have long been criticized for their inability to function as
part of the business, and they are often seen as a group outside the
corporate norm (Schein, 1992). This is a problem of cultural assimilation, and it represents one of the two major fronts that organizations
now face in their efforts to gain a grip on the new, growing power of
technology, and to be competitive in a global world. The other major
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In t r o d u c ti o n
front concerns the strategic integration of new digital technologies
into business line management.
Because technology continues to change at such a rapid pace, the
ability of organizations to operate within a new paradigm of dynamic
change emphasizes the need to employ action learning as a way to
build competitive learning organizations in the twenty-first century.
Information Technology and Organizational Learning integrates some
of the fundamental issues bearing on IT today with concepts from
organizational learning theory, providing comprehensive guidance,
based on real-life business experiences and concrete research.
This book also focuses on another aspect of what IT can mean to
an organization. IT represents a broadening dimension of business life
that affects everything we do inside an organization. This new reality is
shaped by the increasing and irreversible dissemination of technology.
To maximize the usefulness of its encroaching presence in everyday
business affairs, organizations will require an optimal understanding
of how to integrate technology into everything they do. To this end,
this book seeks to break new ground on how to approach and conceptualize this salient issue— that is, that the optimization of information
and digital technologies is best pursued with a synchronous implementation of organizational learning concepts. Furthermore, these
concepts cannot be implemented without utilizing theories of strategic
learning. Therefore, this book takes the position that technology literacy requires individual and group strategic learning if it is to transform
a business into a technology-based learning organization. Technologybased organizations are defined as those that have implemented a means
of successfully integrating technology into their process of organizational learning. Such organizations recognize and experience the reality of technology as part of their everyday business function. It is what
many organizations are calling “ being digital.”
This book will also examine some of the many existing organizational learning theories, and the historical problems that have
occurred with companies that have used them, or that have failed
to use them. Thus, the introduction of technology into organizations
actually provides an opportunity to reassess and reapply many of the
past concepts, theories, and practices that have been used to support
the importance of organizational learning. It is important, however,
not to confuse this message with a reason for promoting organizational
In t r o d u c ti o n
xix
learning, but rather, to understand the seamless nature of the relationship between IT and organizational learning. Each needs the other to
succeed. Indeed, technology has only served to expose problems that
have existed in organizations for decades, e.g., the inability to drive
down responsibilities to the operational levels of the organization, and
to be more agile with their consumers.
This book is designed to help businesses and individual managers understand and cope with the many issues involved in developing
organizational learning programs, and in integrating an important
component: their IT and digital organizations. It aims to provide a
combination of research case studies, together with existing theories
on organizational learning in the workplace. The goal is also to provide researchers and corporate practitioners with a book that allows
them to incorporate a growing IT infrastructure with their existing workforce culture. Professional organizations need to integrate
IT into their organizational processes to compete effectively in the
technology-driven business climate of today. This book responds to
the complex and various dilemmas faced by many human resource
managers and corporate executives regarding how to actually deal
with many marginalized technology personnel who somehow always
operate outside the normal flow of the core business.
While the history of IT, as a marginalized organization, is relatively short, in comparison to that of other professions, the problems
of IT have been consistent since its insertion into business organizations in the early 1960s. Indeed, while technology has changed, the
position and valuation of IT have continued to challenge how executives manage it, account for it, and, most important, ultimately value
its contributions to the organization. Technology personnel continue
to be criticized for their inability to function as part of the business,
and they are often seen as outside the business norm. IT employees
are frequently stereotyped as “ techies,” and are segregated in such a
way that they become isolated from the organization. This book provides a method for integrating IT, and redefining its role in organizations, especially as a partner in formulating and implementing key
business strategies that are crucial for the survival of many companies
in the new digital age. Rather than provide a long and extensive list of
common issues, I have decided it best to uncover the challenges of IT
integration and performance through the case study approach.
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In t r o d u c ti o n
IT continues to be one of the most important yet least understood
departments in an organization. It has also become one of the most
significant components for competing in the global markets of today.
IT is now an integral part of the way companies become successful,
and is now being referred to as the digital arm of the business. This
is true across all industries. The role of IT has grown enormously in
companies throughout the world, and it has a mission to provide strategic solutions that can make companies more competitive. Indeed,
the success of IT, and its ability to operate as part of the learning
organization, can mean the difference between the success and failure
of entire companies. However, IT must be careful that it is not seen as
just a factory of support personnel, and does not lose its justification
as driving competitive advantage. We see in many organizations that
other digital-based departments are being created, due to frustration
with the traditional IT culture, or because they simply do not see IT
as meeting the current needs for operating in a digital economy.
This book provides answers to other important questions that have
challenged many organizations for decades. First, how can managers master emerging digital technologies, sustain a relationship with
organizational learning, and link it to strategy and performance?
Second, what is the process by which to determine the value of using
technology, and how does it relate to traditional ways of calculating
return on investment, and establishing risk models? Third, what are
the cyber security implications of technology-based products and
services? Fourth, what are the roles and responsibilities of the IT
executive, and the department in general? To answer these questions,
managers need to focus on the following objectives:
• Address the operational weaknesses in organizations, in
terms of how to deal with new technologies, and how to better realize business benefits.
• Provide a mechanism that both enables organizations to deal
with accelerated change caused by technological innovations,
and integrates them into a new cycle of processing, and handling of change.
• Provide a strategic learning framework, by which every new
technology variable adds to organizational knowledge and
can develop a risk and security culture.
In t r o d u c ti o n
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• Establish an integrated approach that ties technology accountability to other measurable outcomes, using organizational
learning techniques and theories.
To realize these objectives, organizations must be able to
• create dynamic internal processes that can deal, on a daily
basis, with understanding the potential fit of new technologies
and their overall value within the structure of the business;
• provide the discourse to bridge the gaps between IT- and nonIT-related investments, and uses, into one integrated system;
• monitor investments and determine modifications to the life
cycle;
• implement various organizational learning practices, including learning organization, knowledge management, change
management, and communities of practice, all of which help
foster strategic thinking, and learning, and can be linked to
performance (Gephardt & Marsick, 2003).
The strengths of this book are that it integrates theory and practice
and provides answers to the four common questions mentioned. Many
of the answers provided in these pages are founded on theory and
research and are supported by practical experience. Thus, evidence of
the performance of the theories is presented via case studies, which
are designed to assist the readers in determining how such theories
and proven practices can be applied to their specific organization.
A common theme in this book involves three important terms:
dynamic , unpredictable , and acceleration . Dynamic is a term that represents spontaneous and vibrant things— a motive force. Technology
behaves with such a force and requires organizations to deal with its
capabilities. Glasmeier (1997) postulates that technology evolution,
innovation, and change are dynamic processes. The force then is technology, and it carries many motives, as we shall see throughout this
book. Unpredictable suggests that we cannot plan what will happen
or will be needed. Many organizational individuals, including executives, have attempted to predict when, how, or why technology will
affect their organization. Throughout our recent history, especially
during the “ digital disruption” era, we have found that it is difficult,
if not impossible, to predict how technology will ultimately benefit or
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In t r o d u c ti o n
hurt organizational growth and competitive advantage. I believe that
technology is volatile and erratic at times. Indeed, harnessing technology is not at all an exact science; certainly not in the ways in which
it can and should be used in today’ s modern organization. Finally, I
use the term acceleration to convey the way technology is speeding up
our lives. Not only have emerging technologies created this unpredictable environment of change, but they also continue to change it
rapidly— even from the demise of the dot-com era decades ago. Thus,
what becomes important is the need to respond quickly to technology.
The inability to be responsive to change brought about by technological innovations can result in significant competitive disadvantages for
organizations.
This new edition shows why this is a fact especially when examining
the shrinking S-Curve. So, we look at these three words— dynamic,
unpredictable, and acceleration— as a way to define how technology
affects organizations; that is, technology is an accelerating motive
force that occurs irregularly. These words name the challenges that
organizations need to address if they are to manage technological
innovations and integrate them with business strategy and competitive advantage. It only makes sense that the challenge of integrating
technology into business requires us first to understand its potential
impact, determine how it occurs, and see what is likely to follow.
There are no quick remedies to dealing with emerging technologies,
just common practices and sustained processes that must be adopted
for organizations to survive in the future.
I had four goals in mind in writing this book. First, I am interested in writing about the challenges of using digital technologies
strategically. What particularly concerns me is the lack of literature
that truly addresses this issue. What is also troublesome is the lack
of reliable techniques for the evaluation of IT, especially since IT
is used in almost every aspect of business life. So, as we increase
our use and dependency on technology, we seem to understand less
about how to measure and validate its outcomes. I also want to
convey my thoughts about the importance of embracing nonmonetary methods for evaluating technology, particularly as they relate
to determining return on investment. Indeed, indirect and nonmonetary benefits need to be part of the process of assessing and
approving IT projects.
In t r o d u c ti o n
x x iii
Second, I want to apply organizational learning theory to the field
of IT and use proven learning models to help transform IT staff into
becoming better members of their organizations. Everyone seems to
know about the inability of IT people to integrate with other departments, yet no one has really created a solution to the problem. I find
that organizational learning techniques are an effective way of coaching IT staff to operate more consistently with the goals of the businesses that they support.
Third, I want to present cogent theories about IT and organizational learning; theories that establish new ways for organizations to
adapt new technologies. I want to share my experiences and those of
other professionals who have found approaches that can provide positive outcomes from technology investments.
Fourth, I have decided to express my concerns about the validity and reliability of organizational learning theories and practices as
they apply to the field of IT. I find that most of these models need to
be enhanced to better fit the unique aspects of the digital age. These
modified models enable the original learning techniques to address
IT-specific issues. In this way, the organization can develop a more
holistic approach toward a common goal for using technology.
Certainly, the balance of how technology ties in with strategy is
essential. However, there has been much debate over whether technology should drive business strategy or vice versa. We will find that
the answer to this is “ yes.” Yes, in the sense that technology can affect
the way organizations determine their missions and business strategies; but “ no” in that technology should not be the only component
for determining mission and strategy. Many managers have realized
that business is still business, meaning that technology is not a “ silver bullet.” The challenge, then, is to determine how best to fit technology into the process of creating and supporting business strategy.
Few would doubt today that technology is, indeed, the most significant variable affecting business strategy. However, the most viable
approach is to incorporate technology into the process of determining business strategy. I have found that many businesses still formulate their strategies first, and then look at technology, as a means to
efficiently implement objectives and goals. Executives need to better
understand the unique and important role that technology provides
us; it can drive business strategy, and support it, at the same time.
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In t r o d u c ti o n
Managers should not solely focus their attention on generating
breakthrough innovations that will create spectacular results. Most
good uses of technology are much subtler, and longer-lasting. For this
reason, this book discusses and defines new technology life cycles
that blend business strategy and strategic learning. Building on this
theme, I introduce the idea of responsive organizational dynamism as
the core theory of this book. Responsive organizational dynamism
defines an environment that can respond to the three important
terms (dynamic, unpredictable, and acceleration). Indeed, technology
requires organizations that can sustain a system, in which individuals can deal with dynamic, unpredictable, and accelerated change, as
part of their regular process of production. The basis of this concept
is that organizations must create and sustain such an environment to
be competitive in a global technologically-driven economy. I further
analyze responsive organizational dynamism in its two subcomponents: strategic integration and cultural assimilation, which address
how technology needs to be measured as it relates to business strategy,
and what related social– structural changes are needed, respectively.
Change is an important principle of this book. I talk about the
importance of how to change, how to manage such change, and why
emerging technologies are a significant agent of change. I support
the need for change, as an opportunity to use many of the learning
theories that have been historically difficult to implement. That is,
implementing change brought on by technological innovation is an
opportunity to make the organization more “ change ready” or, as we
define it today, more “ agile.” However, we also know that little is
known about how organizations should actually go about modifying
existing processes to adapt to new technologies and become digital
entities— and to be accustomed to doing this regularly. Managing
through such periods of change requires that we develop a model that
can deal with dynamic, unpredictable, and accelerated change. This is
what responsive organizational dynamism is designed to do.
We know that over 20% of IT projects still fail to be completed.
Another 54% fail to meet their projected completion date. We now sit
at the forefront of another technological spurt of innovations that will
necessitate major renovations to existing legacy systems, requiring that
they be linked to sophisticated e-business systems. These e-business
systems will continue to utilize the Internet, and emerging mobile
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xxv
technologies. While we tend to focus primarily on what technology
generically does, organizations need urgently to prepare themselves
for the next generation of advances, by forming structures that can
deal with continued, accelerated change, as the norm of daily operations. For this edition, I have added new sections and chapters that
address the digital transformation, ways of dealing with changing
consumer behavior, the need to form evolving cyber security cultures,
and the importance of integrating Gen Y employees to accelerate
competitive advantage.
This book provides answers to a number of dilemmas but ultimately
offers an imbricate cure for the problem of latency in performance and
quality afflicting many technologically-based projects. Traditionally,
management has attempted to improve IT performance by increasing
technical skills and project manager expertise through new processes.
While there has been an effort to educate IT managers to become
more interested and participative in business issues, their involvement
continues to be based more on service than on strategy. Yet, at the
heart of the issue is the entirety of the organization. It is my belief that
many of the programmatic efforts conducted in traditional ways and
attempting to mature and integrate IT with the rest of the organization will continue to deliver disappointing results.
My personal experience goes well beyond research; it draws from
living and breathing the IT experience for the past 35 years, and
from an understanding of the dynamics of what occurs inside and
outside the IT department in most organizations. With such experience, I can offer a path that engages the participation of the entire
management team and operations staff of the organization. While
my vision for this kind of digital transformation is different from
other approaches, it is consistent with organizational learning theories that promote the integration of individuals, communities, and
senior management to participate in more democratic and visionary forms of thinking, reflection, and learning. It is my belief that
many of the dilemmas presented by IT have existed in other parts of
organizations for years, and that the Internet revolution only served
to expose them. If we believe this to be true, then we must begin
the process of integrating technology into strategic thinking and
stop depending on IT to provide magical answers, and inappropriate
expectations of performance.
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In t r o d u c ti o n
Technology is not the responsibility of any one person or department; rather, it is part of the responsibility of every employee. Thus,
the challenge is to allow organizations to understand how to modify
their processes, and the roles and responsibilities of their employees,
to incorporate digital technologies as part of normal workplace activities. Technology then becomes more a subject and a component of
discourse. IT staff members need to emerge as specialists who participate in decision making, development, and sustained support of
business evolution. There are also technology-based topics that do
not require the typical expertise that IT personnel provide. This is
a literacy issue that requires different ways of thinking and learning
during the everyday part of operations. For example, using desktop
tools, communicating via e-mail, and saving files and data, are integral to everyday operations. These activities affect projects, yet they
are not really part of the responsibilities of IT departments. Given
the knowledge that technology is everywhere, we must change the
approach that we take to be successful. Another way of looking at this
phenomenon is to define technology more as a commodity, readily
available to all individuals. This means that the notion of technology
as organizationally segregated into separate cubes of expertise is problematic, particularly on a global front.
Thus, the overall aim of this book is to promote organizational
learning that disseminates the uses of technology throughout a business, so that IT departments are a partner in its use, as opposed to
being its sole owner. The cure to IT project failure, then, is to engage
the business in technology decisions in such a way that individuals
and business units are fundamentally involved in the process. Such
processes need to be designed to dynamically respond to technology
opportunities and thus should not be overly bureaucratic. There is a
balance between establishing organizations that can readily deal with
technology versus those that become too complex and inefficient.
This balance can only be attained using organizational learning
techniques as the method to grow and reach technology maturation.
Overview of the Chapters
Chapter 1 provides an important case study of the Ravell Corporation
(a pseudonym), where I was retained for over five years. During this
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x x vii
period, I applied numerous organizational learning methods toward
the integration of the IT department with the rest of the organization. The chapter allows readers to understand how the theories of
organizational learning can be applied in actual practice, and how
those theories are particularly beneficial to the IT community. The
chapter also shows the practical side of how learning techniques can
be linked to measurable outcomes, and ultimately related to business
strategy. This concept will become the basis of integrating learning
with strategy (i.e., “ strategic learning” ). The Ravell case study also
sets the tone of what I call the IT dilemma, which represents the
core problem faced by organizations today. Furthermore, the Ravell
case study becomes the cornerstone example throughout the book and
is used to relate many of the theories of learning and their practical
applicability in organizations. The Ravell case has also been updated
in this second edition to include recent results that support the importance of alignment with the human resources department.
Chapter 2 presents the details of the IT dilemma. This chapter
addresses issues such as isolation of IT staff, which results in their
marginalization from the rest of the organization. I explain that while
executives want technology to be an important part of business strategy, few understand how to accomplish it. In general, I show that
individuals have a lack of knowledge about how technology and business strategy can, and should, be linked, to form common business
objectives. The chapter provides the results of a three-year study of
how chief executives link the role of technology with business strategy. The study captures information relating to how chief executives
perceive the role of IT, how they manage it, and use it strategically,
and the way they measure IT performance and activities.
Chapter 3 focuses on defining how organizations need to respond
to the challenges posed by technology. I analyze technological dynamism in its core components so that readers understand the different
facets that comprise its many applications. I begin by presenting technology as a dynamic variable that is capable of affecting organizations
in a unique way. I specifically emphasize the unpredictability of technology, and its capacity to accelerate change— ultimately concluding
that technology, as an independent variable, has a dynamic effect on
organizational development. This chapter also introduces my theory
of responsive organizational dynamism, defined as a disposition in
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In t r o d u c ti o n
organizational behavior that can respond to the demands of technology as a dynamic variable. I establish two core components of
responsive organizational dynamism: strategic integration and cultural
assimilation . Each of these components is designed to tackle a specific
problem introduced by technology. Strategic integration addresses the
way in which organizations determine how to use technology as part
of business strategy. Cultural assimilation, on the other hand, seeks
to answer how the organization, both structurally and culturally, will
accommodate the actual human resources of an IT staff and department within the process of implementing new technologies. Thus,
strategic integration will require organizational changes in terms of
cultural assimilation. The chapter also provides a perspective of the
technology life cycle so that readers can see how responsive organizational dynamism is applied, on an IT project basis. Finally, I define
the driver and supporter functions of IT and how these contribute to
managing technology life cycles.
Chapter 4 introduces theories on organizational learning, and
applies them specifically to responsive organizational dynamism. I
emphasize that organizational learning must result in individual, and
organizational transformation, that leads to measurable performance
outcomes. The chapter defines a number of organizational learning
theories, such as reflective practices, learning organization, communities of practice, learning preferences and experiential learning, social
discourse, and the use of language. These techniques and approaches
to promoting organizational learning are then configured into various
models that can be used to assess individual and organizational development. Two important models are designed to be used in responsive
organizational dynamism: the applied individual learning wheel and
the technology maturity arc. These models lay the foundation for my
position that learning maturation involves a steady linear progression
from an individual focus toward a system or organizational perspective. The chapter also addresses implementation issues— political
challenges that can get in the way of successful application of the
learning theories.
Chapter 5 explores the role of management in creating and sustaining responsive organizational dynamism. I define the tiers of middle
management in relation to various theories of management participation in organizational learning. The complex issues of whether
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xxix
organizational learning needs to be managed from the top down,
bottom up, or middle-top-down are discussed and applied to a model
that operates in responsive organizational dynamism. This chapter
takes into account the common three-tier structure in which most
organizations operate: executive, middle, and operations. The executive level includes the chief executive officer (CEO), president, and
senior vice presidents. The middle is the most complex, ranging from
vice president/director to supervisory roles. Operations covers what is
commonly known as “ staff,” including clerical functions. The knowledge that I convey suggests that all of these tiers need to participate in
management, including operations personnel, via a self-development
model. The chapter also presents the notion that knowledge management is necessary to optimize competitive advantage, particularly as
it involves transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. I
view the existing theories on knowledge management, create a hybrid
model that embraces technology issues, and map them to responsive
organizational dynamism. Discussions on change management are
included as a method of addressing the unique ways that technology affects product development. Essentially, I tie together responsive organizational dynamism with organizational change theory, by
offering modifications to generally accepted theories. There is also a
specific model created for IT organizations, that maps onto organizational-level concepts. Although I have used technology as the basis
for the need for responsive organizational dynamism, I show that the
needs for its existence can be attributed to any variable that requires
dynamic change. As such, I suggest that readers begin to think about
the next “ technology” or variable that can cause the same needs to
occur inside organizations. The chapter has been extended to address
the impact of social networking and the leadership opportunities it
provides to technology executives.
Chapter 6 examines how organizational transformation occurs.
The primary focus of the chapter is to integrate transformation theory
with responsive organizational dynamism. The position taken is that
organizational learning techniques must inevitably result in organizational transformation. Discussions on transformation are often
addressed at organizational level, as opposed to focusing on individual
development. As in other sections of the book, I extend a number
of theories so that they can operate under the auspices of responsive
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In t r o d u c ti o n
organizational dynamism, specifically, the works of Yorks and Marsick
(2000) and Aldrich (2001). I expand organizational transformation
to include ongoing assessment within technology deliverables. This
is accomplished through the use of a modified Balanced Scorecard
originally developed by Kaplan and Norton (2001). The Balanced
Scorecard becomes the vehicle for establishing a strategy-focused and
technology-based organization.
Chapter 7 deals with the many business transformation projects
that require outsource arrangements and virtual team management.
This chapter provides an understanding of when and how to consider
outsourcing and the intricacies of considerations once operating with
virtual teams. I cover such issues as management considerations and
the challenges of dealing in multiple locations. The chapter extends the
models discussed in previous chapters so that they can be aligned with
operating in a virtual team environment. Specifically, this includes
communities of practice, social discourse, self-development, knowledge management, and, of course, responsive organizational dynamism and its corresponding maturity arcs. Furthermore, I expand the
conversation to include IT and non-IT personnel, and the arguments
for the further support needed to integrate all functions across the
organization.
Chapter 8 presents updated case studies that demonstrate how my
organizational learning techniques are actually applied in practice.
Three case studies are presented: Siemens AG, ICAP, and HTC.
Siemens AG is a diverse international company with 20 discrete
businesses in over 190 countries. The case study offers a perspective of how a corporate chief information officer (CIO) introduced
e-­business strategy. ICAP is a leading international money and security broker. This case study follows the activities of the electronic trading community (ETC) entity, and how the CEO transformed the
organization and used organizational learning methods to improve
competitive advantage. HTC (a pseudonym) provides an example of
why the chief IT executive should report to the CEO, and how a
CEO can champion specific projects to help transform organizational
norms and behaviors. This case study also maps the transformation of
the company to actual examples of strategic advantage.
Chapter 9 focuses on the challenges of forming a “ cyber security”
culture. The growing challenges of protecting companies from outside
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xxxi
attacks have established the need to create a cyber security culture.
This chapter addresses the ways in which information technology
organizations must further integrate with business operations, so
that their firms are better equipped to protect against outside threats.
Since the general consensus is that no system can be 100% protected,
and that most system compromises occur as a result of internal exposures, information technology leaders must educate employees on
best practices to limit cyberattacks. Furthermore, while prevention is
the objective, organizations must be internally prepared to deal with
attacks and thus have processes in place should a system become penetrated by third-party agents.
Chapter 10 explores the effects of the digital global economy on
the ways in which organizations need to respond to the consumerization of products and services. From this perspective, digital transformation involves a type of social reengineering that affects the ways in
which organizations communicate internally, and how they consider
restructuring departments. Digital transformation also affects the
risks that organizations must take in what has become an accelerated
changing consumer market.
Chapter 11 provides conclusions and focuses on Gen Y employees who are known as “ digital natives” and represent the new supply
chain of talent. Gen Y employees possess the attributes to assist companies to transform their workforce to meet the accelerated change in
the competitive landscape. Most executives across industries recognize that digital technologies are the most powerful variable to maintaining and expanding company markets. Gen Y employees provide a
natural fit for dealing with emerging digital technologies. However,
success with integrating Gen Y employees is contingent upon Baby
Boomer and Gen X management adopting new leadership philosophies and procedures suited to meet the expectations and needs of
these new workers. Ignoring the unique needs of Gen Y employees
will likely result in an incongruent organization that suffers high
turnover of young employees who will ultimately seek a more entrepreneurial environment.
Chapter 12 seeks to define best practices to implement and sustain responsive organizational dynamism. The chapter sets forth a
model that creates separate, yet linked, best practices and maturity
arcs that can be used to assess stages of the learning development
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In t r o d u c ti o n
of the chief IT executive, the CEO, and the middle management. I
discuss the concept of common threads , by which each best practices
arc links through common objectives and outcomes to the responsive
organizational dynamism maturity arc presented in Chapter 4. Thus,
these arcs represent an integrated and hierarchical view of how each
component of the organization contributes to overall best practices. A
new section has been added that links ethics to technology leadership
and maturity.
Chapter 13 summarizes the many aspects of how IT and organizational learning operate together to support the responsive organizational dynamism environment. The chapter emphasizes the specific
key themes developed in the book, such as evolution versus revolution; control and empowerment; driver and supporter operations; and
responsive organizational dynamism and self-generating organizations. Finally, I provide an overarching framework for “ organizing”
reflection and integrate it with the best practices arcs.
As a final note, I need to clarify my use of the words information
technology, digital technology, and technology. In many parts of the book,
they are used interchangeably, although there is a defined difference.
Of course, not all technology is related to information or digital; some
is based on machinery or the like. For the purposes of this book, the
reader should assume that IT and digital technology are the primary
variables that I am addressing. However, the theories and processes
that I offer can be scaled to all types of technological innovation.
1
The “R av ell” C o rp or ation
Introduction
Launching into an explanation of information technology (IT),
organizational learning, and the practical relationship into which I
propose to bring them is a challenging topic to undertake. I choose,
therefore, to begin this discussion by presenting an actual case study
that exemplifies many key issues pertaining to organizational learning, and how it can be used to improve the performance of an IT
department. Specifically, this chapter summarizes a case study of
the IT department at the Ravell Corporation (a pseudonym) in New
York City. I was retained as a consultant at the company to improve
the performance of the department and to solve a mounting political problem involving IT and its relation to other departments. The
case offers an example of how the growth of a company as a “learning ­organization”—one in which employees are constantly learning
during the normal workday (Argyris, 1993; Watkins & Marsick,
1993)—­utilized reflective practices to help it achieve the practical strategic goals it sought. Individuals in learning organizations integrate
processes of learning into their work. Therefore, a learning organization must advocate a system that allows its employees to interact, ask
questions, and provide insight to the business. The learning organization will ultimately promote systematic thinking, and the building
of organizational memory (Watkins & Marsick, 1993). A learning
organization (discussed more fully in Chapter 4) is a component of
the larger topic of organizational learning.
The Ravell Corporation is a firm with over 500 employees who,
over the years, had become dependent on the use of technology to
run its business. Its IT department, like that of many other companies, was isolated from the rest of the business and was regarded as
a peripheral entity whose purpose was simply to provide technical
support. This was accompanied by actual physical isolation—IT was
1
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IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
placed in a contained and secure location away from mainstream
operations. As a result, IT staff rarely engaged in active discourse
with other staff members unless specific meetings were called relating to a particular project. The Ravell IT department, therefore, was
not part of the community of organizational learning—it did not
have the opportunity to learn along with the rest of the organization, and it was never asked to provide guidance in matters of general relevance to the business as a whole. This marginalized status
resulted in an us-versus-them attitude on the part of IT and non-IT
personnel alike.
Much has been written about the negative impact of marginalization on individuals who are part of communities. Schlossberg
(1989) researched adults in various settings and how marginalization affected their work and self-efficacy. Her theory on marginalization and mattering is applied to this case study because of
its relevance and similarity to her prior research. For example, IT
represents similar characteristics to a separate group on a college
campus or in a workplace environment. Its physical isolation can
also be related to how marginalized groups move away from the
majority population and function without contact. The IT director, in particular, had cultivated an adversarial relationship with his
peers. The director had shaped a department that fueled his view of
separation. This had the effect of further marginalizing the position of IT within the organization. Hand in hand with this form of
separatism came a sense of actual dislike on the part of IT personnel
for other employees. IT staff members were quick to point fingers
at others and were often noncommunicative with members of other
departments within the organization. As a result of this kind of
behavior, many departments lost confidence in the ability of IT to
provide support; indeed, the quality of support that IT furnished
had begun to deteriorate. Many departments at Ravell began to hire
their own IT support personnel and were determined to create their
own information systems subdepartments. This situation eventually
became unacceptable to management, and the IT director was terminated. An initiative was begun to refocus the department and its
position within the organization. I was retained to bring about this
change and to act as the IT director until a structural transformation of the department was complete.
T he “ Rav el l” C o r p o r ati o n
3
A New Approach
My mandate at Ravell was initially unclear—I was to “fix” the
­problem; the specific solution was left up to me to design and implement. My goal became one of finding a way to integrate IT fully into
the organizational culture at Ravell. Without such integration, IT
would remain isolated, and no amount of “fixing” around this issue
would address the persistence of what was, as well, a cultural problem. Unless IT became a true part of the organization as a whole,
the entire IT staff could be replaced without any real change having
occurred from the organization’s perspective. That is, just replacing
the entire IT staff was an acceptable solution to senior management.
The fact that this was acceptable suggested to me that the knowledge
and value contained in the IT department did not exist or was misunderstood by the senior management of the firm. In my opinion,
just eliminating a marginalized group was not a solution because I
expected that such knowledge and value did exist, and that it needed
to be investigated properly. Thus, I rejected management’s option and
began to formulate a plan to better understand the contributions that
could be made by the IT department. The challenge was threefold: to
improve the work quality of the IT department (a matter of performance), to help the department begin to feel itself a part of the organization as a whole and vice versa (a matter of cultural assimilation),
and to persuade the rest of the organization to accept the IT staff as
equals who could contribute to the overall direction and growth of the
organization (a fundamental matter of strategic integration).
My first step was to gather information. On my assignment to the
position of IT director, I quickly arranged a meeting with the IT
department to determine the status and attitudes of its personnel.
The IT staff meeting included the chief financial officer (CFO), to
whom IT reported. At this meeting, I explained the reasons behind
the changes occurring in IT management. Few questions were asked;
as a result, I immediately began scheduling individual meetings with
each of the IT employees. These employees varied in terms of their
position within the corporate hierarchy, in terms of salary, and in
terms of technical expertise. The purpose of the private meetings was
to allow IT staff members to speak openly, and to enable me to hear
their concerns. I drew on the principles of action science, pioneered
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IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
by Argyris and Schö n (1996), designed to promote individual selfreflection regarding behavior patterns, and to encourage a productive exchange among individuals. Action science encompasses a range
of methods to help individuals learn how to be reflective about their
actions. By reflecting, individuals can better understand the outcomes
of their actions and, especially, how they are seen by others. This was
an important approach because I felt learning had to start at the individual level as opposed to attempting group learning activities. It was
my hope that the discussions I orchestrated would lead the IT staff to
a better understanding than they had previously shown, not only of
the learning process itself, but also of the significance of that process.
I pursued these objectives by guiding them to detect problem areas in
their work and to undertake a joint effort to correct them (Argyris,
1993; Arnett, 1992).
Important components of reflective learning are single-loop and
double-loop learning. Single-loop learning requires individuals to
reflect on a prior action or habit that needs to be changed in the future
but does not require individuals to change their operational procedures with regard to values and norms. Double-loop learning, on the
other hand, does require both change in behavior and change in operational procedures. For example, people who engage in double-loop
learning may need to adjust how they perform their job, as opposed to
just the way they communicate with others, or, as Argyris and Schö n
(1996, p. 22) state, “the correction of error requires inquiry through
which organizational values and norms themselves are modified.”
Despite my efforts and intentions, not all of the exchanges were
destined to be successful. Many of the IT staff members felt that the
IT director had been forced out, and that there was consequently
no support for the IT function in the organization. There was also
clear evidence of internal political division within the IT department;
members openly criticized each other. Still other interviews resulted
in little communication. This initial response from IT staff was disappointing, and I must admit I began to doubt whether these learning
methods would be an antidote for the department. Replacing people
began to seem more attractive, and I now understood why many managers prefer to replace staff, as opposed to investing in their transformation. However, I also knew that learning is a gradual process and
that it would take time and trust to see results.
T he “ Rav el l” C o r p o r ati o n
5
I realized that the task ahead called for nothing short of a total cultural transformation of the IT organization at Ravell. Members of the
IT staff had to become flexible and open if they were to become more
trusting of one another and more reflective as a group (Garvin, 2000;
Schein, 1992). Furthermore, they had to have an awareness of their
history, and they had to be willing to institute a vision of partnering
with the user community. An important part of the process for me
was to accept the fact that the IT staff were not habitually inclined to
be reflective. My goal then was to create an environment that would
foster reflective learning, which would in turn enable a change in
individual and organizational values and norms (Senge, 1990).
The Blueprint for Integration
Based on information drawn from the interviews, I developed a preliminary plan to begin to integrate IT into the day-to-day operations
at Ravell, and to bring IT personnel into regular contact with other
staff members. According to Senge (1990), the most productive learning occurs when skills are combined in the activities of advocacy and
inquiry. My hope was to encourage both among the staff at Ravell. The
plan for integration and assimilation involved assigning IT resources
to each department; that is, following the logic of the self-dissemination of technology, each department would have its own dedicated IT
person to support it. However, just assigning a person was not enough,
so I added the commitment to actually relocate an IT person into each
physical area. This way, rather than clustering together in an area of
their own, IT people would be embedded throughout the organization, getting first-hand exposure to what other departments did, and
learning how to make an immediate contribution to the productivity of these departments. The on-site IT person in each department
would have the opportunity to observe problems when they arose—
and hence, to seek ways to prevent them—and, significantly, to share
in the sense of accomplishment when things went well. To reinforce
their commitment to their respective areas, I specified that IT personnel were to report not only to me but also to the line manager in their
respective departments. In addition, these line managers were to have
input on the evaluation of IT staff. I saw that making IT staff officially accountable to the departments they worked with was a tangible
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IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
way to raise their level of commitment to the organization. I hoped
that putting line managers in a supervisory position, would help build
a sense of teamwork between IT and non-IT personnel. Ultimately,
the focus of this approach was to foster the creation of a tolerant and
supportive cultural climate for IT within the various departments; an
important corollary goal here was also to allow reflective reviews of
performance to flourish (Garvin, 1993).
Enlisting Support
Support for this plan had to be mustered quickly if I was to create an
environment of trust. I had to reestablish the need for the IT function within the company, show that it was critical for the company’s
business operations, and show that its integration posed a unique
challenge to the company. However, it was not enough just for me
to claim this. I also had to enlist key managers to claim it. Indeed,
employees will cooperate only if they believe that self-assessment and
critical thinking are valued by management (Garvin, 2000). I decided
to embark on a process of arranging meetings with specific line managers in the organization. I selected individuals who would represent
the day-to-day management of the key departments. If I could get
their commitment to work with IT, I felt it could provide the stimulus
we needed. Some line managers were initially suspicious of the effort
because of their prior experiences with IT. However, they generally
liked the idea of integration and assimilation that was presented to
them, and agreed to support it, at least on a trial basis.
Predictably, the IT staff were less enthusiastic about the idea. Many
of them felt threatened, fearing that they were about to lose their
independence or lose the mutual support that comes from being in a
cohesive group. I had hoped that holding a series of meetings would
help me gain support for the restructuring concept. I had to be careful to ensure that the staff members would feel that they also had an
opportunity to develop a plan, that they were confident would work.
During a number of group sessions, we discussed various scenarios of
how such a plan might work. I emphasized the concepts of integration and assimilation, and that a program of their implementation
would be experimental. Without realizing it, I had engaged IT staff
members in a process of self-governance. Thus, I empowered them
T he “ Rav el l” C o r p o r ati o n
7
to feel comfortable with voicing new ideas, without being concerned
that they might be openly criticized by me if I did not agree. This process also encouraged individuals to begin thinking more as a group.
Indeed, by directing the practice of constructive criticism among
the IT staff, I had hoped to elicit a higher degree of reflective action
among the group and to show them that they had the ability to learn
from one another as well as the ability to design their own roles in the
organization (Argyris, 1993). Their acceptance of physical integration
and, hence, cultural assimilation became a necessary condition for
the ability of the IT group, to engage in greater reflective behavior
(Argyris & Schö n, 1996).
Assessing Progress
The next issue concerned individual feedback. How was I to let each
person know how he or she was doing? I decided first, to get feedback
from the larger organizational community. This was accomplished
by meeting with the line managers and obtaining whatever feedback was available from them. I was surprised at the large quantity
of information they were willing to offer. The line managers were not
shy about participating, and their input allowed me to complete two
objectives: (1) to understand how the IT staff was being perceived in
its new assignment and (2) to create a social and reflective relationship between IT individuals and the line managers. The latter objective was significant, for if we were to be successful, the line managers
would have to assist us in the effort to integrate and assimilate IT
functions within their community.
After the discussions with managers were completed, individual
meetings were held with each IT staff member to discuss the feedback.
I chose not to attribute the feedback to specific line managers but rather
to address particular issues by conveying the general consensus about
them. Mixed feelings were also disclosed by the IT staff. After conveying the information, I listened attentively to the responses of IT staff
members. Not surprisingly, many of them responded to the feedback
negatively and defensively. Some, for example, felt that many technology
users were unreasonable in their expectations of IT. It was important for
me as facilitator not to find blame among them, particularly if I was to
be a participant in the learning organization (Argyris & Schön, 1996).
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IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
Resistance in the Ranks
Any major organizational transformation is bound to elicit resistance
from some employees. The initiative at Ravell proved to be no exception. Employees are not always sincere, and some individuals will
engage in political behavior that can be detrimental to any organizational learning effort. Simply put, they are not interested in participating, or, as Marsick (1998) states, “It would be naï ve to expect that
everyone is willing to play on an even field (i.e., fairly).” Early in the
process, the IT department became concerned that its members spent
much of their time trying to figure out how best to position themselves
for the future instead of attending to matters at hand. I heard from
other employees that the IT staff felt that they would live through my
tenure; that is, just survive until a permanent IT director was hired. It
became difficult at times to elicit the truth from some members of the
IT staff. These individuals would skirt around issues and deny making
statements that were reported by other employees rather than confront problems head on. Some IT staff members would criticize me in
front of other groups and use the criticism as proof that the plan for
a general integration was bound to fail. I realized in a most tangible
sense that pursuing change through reflective practice does not come
without resistance, and that this resistance needs to be factored into
the planning of any such organizationally transformative initiative.
Line Management to the Rescue
At the time that we were still working through the resistance within
IT, the plan to establish a relationship with line management began
to work. A number of events occurred that allowed me to be directly
involved in helping certain groups solve their IT problems. Word
spread quickly that there was a new direction in IT that could be
trusted. Line management support is critical for success in such transformational situations. First, line management is typically comprised
of people from the ranks of supervisors and middle managers, who are
responsible for the daily operations of their department. Assuming
they do their jobs, senior management will cater to their needs and
listen to their feedback. The line management of any organization, necessarily engaged to some degree in the process of learning
T he “ Rav el l” C o r p o r ati o n
9
(a “learning organization”), is key to its staff. Specifically, line managers are responsible for operations personnel; at the same time, they
must answer to senior management. Thus, they understand both executive and operations perspectives of the business (Garvin, 2000). They
are often former staff members themselves and usually have a high
level of technical knowledge. Upper management, while important
for financial support, has little effect at the day-to-day level, yet this is
the level at which the critical work of integration and the building of
a single learning community must be done.
Interestingly, the line management organization had previously
had no shortage of IT-related problems. Many of these line managers
had been committed to developing their own IT staffs; however, they
quickly realized that the exercise was beyond their expertise, and that
they needed guidance and leadership. Their participation in IT staff
meetings had begun to foster a new trust in the IT department, and
they began to see the possibilities of working closely with IT to solve
their problems. Their support began to turn toward what Watkins and
Marsick (1993, p. 117) call “creating alignment by placing the vision
in the hands of autonomous, cross-functional synergetic teams.” The
combination of IT and non-IT teams began to foster a synergy among
the communities, which established new ideas about how best to use
technology.
IT Begins to Reflect
Although it was initially difficult for some staff members to accept,
they soon realized that providing feedback opened the door to the
process of self-reflection within IT. We undertook a number of exercises, to help IT personnel understand how non-IT personnel perceived them, and how their own behavior may have contributed to
these perceptions. To foster self-reflection, I adopted a technique
developed by Argyris called “the left-hand column.” In this technique,
individuals use the right-hand column of a piece of paper to transcribe
dialogues that they felt had not resulted in effective communication.
In the left-hand column of the same page, participants are to write
what they were really thinking at the time of the dialogue but did not
say. This exercise is designed to reveal underlying assumptions that
speakers may not be aware of during their exchanges and that may be
10
IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
impeding their communication with others by giving others a wrong
impression. The exercise was extremely useful in helping IT personnel
understand how others in the organization perceived them.
Most important, the development of reflective skills, according to
Schö n (1983), starts with an individual’s ability to recognize “leaps
of abstraction”—the unconscious and often inaccurate generalizations
people make about others based on incomplete information. In the
case of Ravell, such generalizations were deeply entrenched among its
various personnel sectors. Managers tended to assume that IT staffers
were “just techies,” and that they therefore held fundamentally different values and had little interest in the organization as a whole. For
their part, the IT personnel were quick to assume that non-IT people
did not understand or appreciate the work they did. Exposing these
“leaps of abstraction” was key to removing the roadblocks that prevented Ravell from functioning as an integrated learning organization.
Defining an Identity for Information Technology
It was now time to start the process of publicly defining the identity
of IT. Who were we, and what was our purpose? Prior to this time,
IT had no explicit mission. Instead, its members had worked on an
ad hoc basis, putting out fires and never fully feeling that their work
had contributed to the growth or development of the organization as
a whole. This sense of isolation made it difficult for IT members to
begin to reflect on what their mission should or could be. I organized
a series of meetings to begin exploring the question of a mission, and I
offered support by sharing exemplary IT mission statements that were
being implemented in other organizations. The focus of the meetings
was not on convincing them to accept any particular idea but rather to
facilitate a reflective exercise with a group that was undertaking such
a task for the first time (Senge, 1990).
The identity that emerged for the IT department at Ravell was different from the one implicit in their past role. Our new mission would
be to provide technical support and technical direction to the organization. Of necessity, IT personnel would remain specialists, but they
were to be specialists who could provide guidance to other departments in addition to helping them solve and prevent problems. As
they became more intimately familiar with what different departments
T he “ Rav el l” C o r p o r ati o n
11
did—and how these departments contributed to the organization as a
whole—IT professionals would be able to make better informed recommendations. The vision was that IT people would grow from being
staff who fixed things into team members who offered their expertise
to help shape the strategic direction of the organization and, in the
process, participate fully in organizational growth and learning.
To begin to bring this vision to life, I invited line managers to
attend our meetings. I had several goals in mind with this invitation. Of course, I wanted to increase contact between IT and non-IT
people; beyond this, I wanted to give IT staff an incentive to change
by making them feel a part of the organization as a whole. I also got
a commitment from IT staff that we would not cover up our problems during the sessions, but would deal with all issues with trust
and honesty. I also believed that the line managers would reciprocate
and allow us to attend their staff meetings. A number of IT individuals were concerned that my approach would only further expose
our problems with regard to quality performance, but the group as
a whole felt compelled to stick with the beliefs that honesty would
always prevail over politics. Having gained insight into how the rest of
the organization perceived them, IT staff members had to learn how
to deal with disagreement and how to build consensus to move an
agenda forward. Only then could reflection and action be intimately
intertwined so that after-the-fact reviews could be replaced with periods of learning and doing (Garvin, 2000).
The meetings were constructive, not only in terms of content issues
handled in the discussions, but also in terms of the number of line
managers who attended them. Their attendance sent a strong message
that the IT function was important to them, and that they understood that they also had to participate in the new direction that IT
was taking. The sessions also served as a vehicle to demonstrate how
IT could become socially assimilated within all the functions of the
community while maintaining its own identity.
The meetings were also designed as a venue for group members to
be critical of themselves. The initial meetings were not successful in
this regard; at first, IT staff members spent more time blaming others than reflecting on their own behaviors and attitudes. These sessions were difficult in that I would have to raise unpopular questions
and ask whether the staff had truly “looked in the mirror” concerning
12
IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
some of the problems at hand. For example, one IT employee found
it difficult to understand why a manager from another department
was angry about the time it took to get a problem resolved with his
computer. The problem had been identified and fixed within an hour,
a time frame that most IT professionals would consider very responsive. As we looked into the reasons why the manager could have been
justified in his anger, it emerged that the manager had a tight deadline
to meet. In this situation, being without his computer for an hour was
a serious problem.
Although under normal circumstances a response time of one hour
is good, the IT employee had failed to ask about the manager’s particular circumstance. On reflection, the IT employee realized that
putting himself in the position of the people he was trying to support
would enable him to do his job better. In this particular instance, had
the IT employee only understood the position of the manager, there
were alternative ways of resolving the problem that could have been
implemented much more quickly.
Implementing the Integration: A Move toward Trust and Reflection
As communication became more open, a certain synergy began to
develop in the IT organization. Specifically, there was a palpable rise
in the level of cooperation and agreement, with regard to the overall goals set during these meetings. This is not to suggest that there
were no disagreements but rather that discussions tended to be more
constructive in helping the group realize its objective of providing
outstanding technology support to the organization. The IT staff
also felt freer to be self-reflective by openly discussing their ideas and
their mistakes. The involvement of the departmental line managers also gave IT staff members the support they needed to carry out
the change. Slowly, there developed a shift in behavior in which the
objectives of the group sharpened its focus on the transformation of
the department, on its acknowledgment of successes and failures, and
on acquiring new knowledge, to advance the integration of IT into
the core business units.
Around this time, an event presented itself that I felt would allow
the IT department to establish its new credibility and authority to
the other departments: the physical move of the organization to a
T he “ Rav el l” C o r p o r ati o n
13
new location. The move was to be a major event, not only because
it ­represented the relocation of over 500 people and the technological infrastructure they used on a day-to-day basis, but also because
the move was to include the transition of the media communications
systems of the company, to digital technology. The move required
tremendous technological work, and the organization decided to
perform a “technology acceleration,” meaning that new technology
would be introduced more quickly because of the opportunity presented by the move. The entire moving process was to take a year, and
I was immediately summoned to work with the other departments in
determining the best plan to accomplish the transition.
For me, the move became an emblematic event for the IT group at
Ravell. It would provide the means by which to test the creation of,
and the transitioning into, a learning organization. It was also to provide a catalyst for the complete integration and assimilation of IT into
the organization as a whole. The move represented the introduction
of unfamiliar processes in which “conscious reflection is … necessary
if lessons are to be learned” (Garvin, 2000, p. 100). I temporarily
reorganized IT employees into “SWAT” teams (subgroups formed
to deal with defined problems in high-pressure environments), so
that they could be eminently consumed in the needs of their community partners. Dealing with many crisis situations helped the IT
department change the existing culture by showing users how to better deal with technology issues in their everyday work environment.
Indeed, because of the importance of technology in the new location,
the core business had an opportunity to embrace our knowledge and
to learn from us.
The move presented new challenges every day, and demanded
openness and flexibility from everyone. Some problems required that
IT listen intently to understand and meet the needs of its community partners. Other situations put IT in the role of teaching; assessing needs and explaining to other departments what was technically
possible, and then helping them to work out compromises based on
technical limitations. Suggestions for IT improvement began to come
from all parts of the organization. Ideas from others were embraced
by IT, demonstrating that employees throughout the organization
were learning together. IT staff behaved assertively and without fear
of failure, suggesting that, perhaps for the first time, their role had
14
IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
extended beyond that of fixing what was broken to one of helping
to guide the organization forward into the future. Indeed, the move
established the kind of “special problem” that provided an opportunity
for growth in personal awareness through reflection (Moon, 1999).
The move had proved an ideal laboratory for implementing the
IT integration and assimilation plan. It provided real and important
opportunities for IT to work hand in hand with other departments—
all focusing on shared goals. The move fostered tremendous camaraderie within the organization and became an excellent catalyst for
teaching reflective behavior. It was, if you will, an ideal project in
which to show how reflection in action can allow an entire organization to share in the successful attainment of a common goal. Because
it was a unique event, everyone—IT and non-IT personnel alike—
made mistakes, but this time, there was virtually no finger-pointing.
People accepted responsibility collectively and cooperated in finding
solutions. When the company recommenced operations from its new
location—on time and according to schedule—no single group could
claim credit for the success; it was universally recognized that success
had been the result of an integrated effort.
Key Lessons
The experience of the reorganization of the IT department at Ravell
can teach us some key lessons with respect to the cultural transformation and change of marginalized technical departments, generally.
Defining Reflection and Learning for an Organization
IT personnel tend to view learning as a vocational event. They generally look to increase their own “technical” knowledge by attending
special training sessions and programs. However, as Kegan (1998)
reminds us, there must be more: “Training is really insufficient as a
sole diet of education—it is, in reality a subset of education.” True
education involves transformation, and transformation, according to
Kegan, is the willingness to take risks, to “get out of the bedroom of
our comfortable world.” In my work at Ravell, I tried to augment this
“diet” by embarking on a project that delivered both vocational training and education through reflection. Each IT staff person was given
T he “ Rav el l” C o r p o r ati o n
15
one week of technical training per year to provide vocational development. But beyond this, I instituted weekly learning sessions in which
IT personnel would meet without me and produce a weekly memo of
“reflection.” The goal of this practice was to promote dialogue, in the
hope that IT would develop a way to deal with its fears and mistakes
on its own. Without knowing it, I had begun the process of creating
a discursive community in which social interactions could act as instigators of reflective behavior leading to change.
Working toward a Clear Goal
The presence of clearly defined, measurable, short-term objectives
can greatly accelerate the process of developing a “learning organization” through reflective practice. At Ravell, the move into new physical quarters provided a common organizational goal toward which
all participants could work. This goal fostered cooperation among IT
and non-IT employees and provided an incentive for everyone to work
and, consequently, learn together. Like an athletic team before an
important game, or even an army before battle, the IT staff at Ravell
rallied around a cause and were able to use reflective practices to help
meet their goals. The move also represented what has been termed an
“eye-opening event,” one that can trigger a better understanding of a
culture whose differences challenge one’s presuppositions (Mezirow,
1990). It is important to note, though, that while the move accelerated
the development of the learning organization as such, the move itself
would not have been enough to guarantee the successes that followed
it. Simply setting a deadline is no substitute for undergoing the kind
of transformation necessary for a consummately reflective process.
Only as the culmination of a process of analysis, socialization, and
trust building, can an event like this speed the growth of a learning
organization.
Commitment to Quality
Apart from the social challenges it faced in merging into the core
business, the IT group also had problems with the quality of its output. Often, work was not performed in a professional manner. IT
organizations often suffer from an inability to deliver on schedule,
16
IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
and Ravell was no exception. The first step in addressing the quality problem, was to develop IT’s awareness of the importance of the
problem, not only in my estimation but in that of the entire company.
The IT staff needed to understand how technology affected the dayto-day operations of the entire company. One way to start the dialogue on quality is to first initiate one about failures. If something was
late, for instance, I asked why. Rather than addressing the problems
from a destructive perspective (Argyris & Schö n, 1996; Schein, 1992;
Senge, 1990), the focus was on encouraging IT personnel to understand the impact of their actions—or lack of action—on the company.
Through self-reflection and recognition of their important role in the
organization, the IT staff became more motivated than before to perform higher quality work.
Teaching Staff “Not to Know”
One of the most important factors that developed out of the process
of integrating IT was the willingness of the IT staff “not to know.”
The phenomenology of “not knowing” or “knowing less” became the
facilitator of listening; that is, by listening, we as individuals are better
able to reflect. This sense of not knowing also “allows the individual
to learn an important lesson: the acceptance of what is, without our
attempts to control, manipulate, or judge” (Halifax, 1999, p. 177). The
IT staff improved their learning abilities by suggesting and adopting
new solutions to problems. An example of this was the creation of a
two-shift help desk that provided user support during both day and
evening. The learning process allowed IT to contribute new ideas to
the community. More important, their contributions did not dramatically change the community; instead, they created gradual adjustments that led to the growth of a new hybrid culture. The key to
this new culture was its ability to share ideas, accept error as a reality
(Marsick, 1998), and admit to knowing less (Halifax, 1999).
Transformation of Culture
Cultural changes are often slow to develop, and they occur in small
intervals. Furthermore, small cultural changes may even go unnoticed
or may be attributed to factors other than their actual causes. This
T he “ Rav el l” C o r p o r ati o n
17
raises the issue of the importance of cultural awareness and our ability
to measure individual and group performance. The history of the IT
problems at Ravell made it easy for me to make management aware of
what we were newly attempting to accomplish and of our reasons for
creating dialogues about our successes and failures. Measurement and
evaluation of IT performance are challenging because of the intricacies involved in determining what represents success. I feel that one
form of measurement can be found in the behavioral patterns of an
organization. When it came time for employee evaluations, reviews
were held with each IT staff member. Discussions at evaluation
reviews focused on the individuals’ perceptions of their role, and how
they felt about their job as a whole. The feedback from these review
meetings suggested that the IT staff had become more devoted, and
more willing to reflect on their role in the organization, and, generally, seemed happier at their jobs than ever before. Interestingly,
and significantly, they also appeared to be having fun at their jobs.
This happiness propagated into the community and influenced other
supporting departments to create similar infrastructures that could
reproduce our type of successes. This interest was made evident by
frequent inquiries I received from other departments about how the
transformation of IT was accomplished, and how it might be translated to create similar changes in staff behavior elsewhere in the company. I also noticed that there were fewer complaints and a renewed
ability for the staff to work with our consultants.
Alignment with Administrative Departments
Ravell provided an excellent lesson about the penalties of not aligning properly with other strategic and operational partners in a firm.
Sometimes, we become insistent on forcing change, especially when
placed in positions that afford a manager power—the power to get
results quickly and through force. The example of Ravell teaches us
that an approach of power will not ultimately accomplish transformation of the organization. While senior management can authorize and
mandate change, change usually occurs much more slowly than they
wish, if it occurs at all. The management ranks can still push back
and cause problems, if not sooner, then later. While I aligned with
the line units, I failed to align with important operational partners,
18
IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
particularly human resources (HR). HR in my mind at that time
was impeding my ability to accomplish change. I was frustrated and
determined to get things done by pushing my agenda. This approach
worked early on, but I later discovered that the HR management was
bitter and devoted to stopping my efforts. The problems I encountered
at Ravell are not unusual for IT organizations. The historical issues
that affect the relationship between HR and IT are as follows:
• IT has unusual staff roles and job descriptions that can be
inconsistent with the rest of the organization.
• IT tends to have complex working hours and needs.
• IT has unique career paths that do not “fit” with HR standards.
• IT salary structures shift more dynamically and are very sensitive to market conditions.
• IT tends to operate in silos.
The challenge, then, to overcome these impediments requires IT to




reduce silos and IT staff marginalization
achieve better organization-wide alignment
develop shared leadership
define and create an HR/IT governance model
The success of IT/HR alignment should follow practices similar
to those I instituted with the line managers at Ravell, specifically the
following:
• Successful HR/IT integration requires organizational learning techniques.
• Alignment requires an understanding of the relationship
between IT investments and business strategy.
• An integration of IT can create new organizational cultures
and structures.
• HR/IT alignment will likely continue to be dynamic in
nature, and evolve at an accelerated pace.
The oversight of not integrating better with HR cost IT dearly at
Ravell. HR became an undisclosed enemy—that is, a negative force
against the entire integration. I discovered this problem only later, and
was never able to bring the HR department into the fold. Without
HR being part of the learning organization, IT staff continued to
T he “ Rav el l” C o r p o r ati o n
19
struggle with aligning their professional positions with those of the
other departments. Fortunately, within two years the HR vice president retired, which inevitably opened the doors for a new start.
In large IT organizations, it is not unusual to have an HR member
assigned to focus specifically on IT needs. Typically, it is a joint position
in which the HR individual in essence works for the IT executive. This
is an effective alternative in that the HR person becomes versed in IT
needs and can properly represent IT in the area of head count needs and
specific titles. Furthermore, the unique aspect of IT organizations is in
the hybrid nature of their staff. Typically, a number of IT staff members
are consultants, a situation that presents problems similar to the one I
encountered at Ravell—that is, the resentment of not really being part
of the organization. Another issue is that many IT staff members are
outsourced across the globe, a situation that brings its own set of challenges. In addition, the role of HR usually involves ensuring compliance
with various regulations. For example, in many organizations, a consultant is permitted to work on site for only one year before U.S. government regulations force the company to hire them as employees. The
HR function must work closely with IT to enforce these regulations.
Yet another important component of IT and HR collaboration is talent
management. That is, HR must work closely with IT to understand new
roles and responsibilities as they develop in the organization. Another
challenge is the integration of technology into the day-to-day business
of a company, and the question of where IT talent should be dispersed
throughout the organization. Given this complex set of challenges, IT
alone cannot facilitate or properly represent itself, unless it aligns with
the HR departments. This becomes further complex with the proliferation of IT virtual teams across the globe that create complex structures
that often have different HR ramifications, both legally and culturally.
Virtual team management is discussed further in the book.
Conclusion
This case study shows that strategic integration of technical resources
into core business units can be accomplished, by using those aspects of
organizational learning that promote reflection in action. This kind of
integration also requires something of a concomitant form of assimilation, on the cultural level (see Chapter 3). Reflective thinking fosters the
20
IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
development of a learning organization, which in turn allows for the
integration of the “other” in its various organizational manifestations.
The experience of this case study also shows that the success of organizational learning will depend on the degree of cross fertilization achievable in terms of individual values and on the ability of the community
to combine new concepts and beliefs, to form a hybrid culture. Such a
new culture prospers with the use of organizational learning strategies
to enable it to share ideas, accept mistakes, and learn to know less as a
regular part their di…
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