Types of Technological Changes

At a former article, I have discussed the change management theories and practices through reading various research papers that discussed the change management in the organization. Change management is everywhere when there is a new project, new process, new improvements, starting a new business, or even a change of career or joining a new company. As you may know that Change management is a systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation of an organization’s goals, processes or technologies. 

Nowadays, these transitions happen every day, new technologies, new job roles, new projects, new strategies, new challenges, and new opportunities are introduced. These transitions need a change framework to ensure proper management of this change for the benefit of the organization and the people.

In this article, I would like to discuss the types of changes to have a better understanding of the change behavior and pattern.

The major types of change

Radical Change

The radical change refers to a significant shift behind the fundamentals of a company’s practices, products, culture, norms, and so on. Radical change is known as transformation change, quantum change, revolutionary change, or fundamental change.  Involves a re-imagining of an organization’s vision, organizing principles, processes, way of working, products & services. 

This change is initiated mainly by creating new industries, inventions, it happens rarely and outside mainly the boundaries of the firm while this type of change can disrupt the companies to perform radical changes in their practices, products, or how they operate their businesses.

For example, the rise of cloud computing and Artificial intelligence in the new age. Uber is another example of how it changed the taxi & transportation industry.

Episodical Change

The episodic change is used to group together organizational changes that tend to be infrequent, discontinuous, and intentional. The presumption is that episodic change occurs during periods of divergence when organizations are moving away from their equilibrium conditions. Divergence is the result of growing misalignment between an inertial deep structure and perceived environmental demands. This form of change is episodic because it tends to occur in distinct periods during which shifts are precipitated by external events such as technology change or internal events such as a change in key personnel.

Episodical change can lead to radical change if necessary. Its scope affects the macro levels and global organization as short-run adaptation. It happens mainly when the organization on the edge of chaos, for example, its system instability, negative and positive feedback loops.

Simply, the behavior of back and forth between stability and instability and negative and positive feedback cannot be stabilized to internal issues may be in organization structure, processes, technology in use that will need episodic change to have a new status quo.

This type of change can be initiated by new strategies, introducing new technologies for business improvement, re-engineering of old unsatisfactory processes. Also, it can be initiated by introducing a new role, new capability, restructure, downsizing of the organization.

Continuous Change

The continuous change is used to group together organizational changes that tend to be ongoing, evolving, and cumulative. A common presumption is that change is emergent, meaning that it is the realization of a new pattern of organizing in the absence of explicit a priori intentions.

The view of organization associated with continuous change is built around recurrent interactions as the feedstock of organizing, authority tied to tasks rather than positions, shifts in authority as tasks shift, continuing development of response repertoires, systems that are self-organizing rather than fixed, ongoing redefinition of job descriptions, mindful construction of responses in the moment rather than mindless application of past responses embedded in routines, and acceptance of change as a constant.

The scope mainly is local and on micro-level as long-run adaptation, for example, continuing modification of work practices by slight improvements by time.

One of the metaphors for continuous change is based on the idea of learning what this adds to the understanding of continuous change is the idea that it is a range of skills and knowledge that is altered rather than a specific action, as well as the idea that a change is not just substitution but could also include strengthening existing skills.

Types of Technological Changes

Orlikowski & Hofman in their research paper about the technological changes they have defined three types of Technological changes assuming that the change is associated with technology implementation as an on-going process (continues change) not based on a specific event to initiate the change. They assumed that predefining technology changes to be implemented and accurately predicting their impact on the organization is infeasible.

Personally, I do not agree with this opinion while it was the base of their research to have an iterative model of change that reflects the complex, uncertain, and flexible nature of the technology.

So, I will discuss my opinion after discussing the three types of technological changes

(Orlikowski & Hofman, 1997)

The technological change types can also categorized:

  • Planned change
    • Anticipated change
  • Entrepreneurial change
    • Emergent change
    • Opportunity-based change

Anticipated Change

These are changes that are planned ahead of time and occur as intended

Emergent Change

These are the changes that arise spontaneously from local innovation and not originally anticipated or intended.

Opportunity-based Change

These are the changes that are not anticipated ahead of time but are introduced purposefully and intentionally during the change process in response to an unexpected opportunity, event, or breakdown.

Example

Imagine that you are at a retail company that deals with direct consumers to sell its good and services, for example, electrical machines factory.

The company planned the implementation of a customer relationship management system to manage its customers’ database, the purchased items, and the maintenance activities.

We can categorize this activity as anticipated change ahead of time due to a specific challenge that the company is facing currently to keep in touch with the customer.

After the implementation of the customer relationship management system, they are now having a better understanding of their customer portfolio but the customers are still unsatisfied from the services. The system actually added value to the company but still, the customers’ requests are delayed.

They used the same system to track requests and establish service level agreements according to the request severity to better satisfy the customer as well as they assigned the field engineers who will work on the request to fix the customer issue. This change was not anticipated but it introduced due to the new technology in use, for that, we call this change as opportunity-based change.

Moreover, as a part of this change new capabilities in the organization has been established, for example, cross-selling and up-selling. Also, they learned that they can use the same system to manage their partners, suppliers, and shops. Now, the company can manage the relationship with their suppliers and understand more about its strategic suppliers. Moreover, the company can manage its partners and which activities each partner is involved in to deliver the final value for its customers. We can relate that to emergent change.

Discussion

My personal opinion that any change started with a need, pain, or concern that initiate the need for a new change (You can review the motives for change in this article). Regardless, this change is radical, episodic, or continuous, it was anticipated and planned initially.

That’s why I do not agree with the researchers that “the models of planned change that often inform the implementation of new technologies are less than effective” what if we did not manage and plan the change properly, then we can have consequences and implications that was not anticipated. The main objective of planning to do things right from the first time and to minimize the risk.

Some technological change may need trial and error while others are mature enough with the lesson learned to make a successful change.

The company becomes more mature with time if they reused this anticipated change to create and build new emergent and opportunity-based changes as an entrepreneurial change.

References

Orlikowski, W. J., & Hofman, J. D. (1997). An Improvisational Model for Change Management: The Case of Groupware Technologies. Sloan Management Review, 11–21.

Weick, K., & Quinn, R. (1999). ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE AND DEVELOPMENT. Annual Review Of Psychology50(1), 361-386. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.50.1.361

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Types of Technological Changes
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