Managing Technological Change: A Strategic Partnership Approach

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Carol Joyce Haddad

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    Preface

    The importance of managing the process of technological change is now well-recognized in theory and in practice. Organizations in all sectors of the economy have learned by trial and error that merely investing in new technology, without careful planning and ongoing assessment, does not necessarily result in improved business performance. As a result, the management of technology (MOT) has become a field of study in its own right—a hybrid grafted from the disciplines of engineering and business management.

    Yet existing books on technology management are generally very applied and narrow in focus, emphasizing the research and development process, the engineering process, or the innovation process in general. Little is said about the organizational dimensions of technological change, and no mention is made of strategy-based partnerships with frontline technology users or their union representatives. Most of the existing technology management literature is also limited to the manufacturing sector. This book fills a critical void by presenting an integrative, strategic, and participative approach to technology management from a multi-industry perspective. This is accomplished by

    • defining the concept of strategic partnership and presenting a rationale for its use;
    • identifying the steps involved in successful technology planning, acquisition, development, implementation, and assessment;
    • presenting an integrative framework that links aspects of systems theory, engineering design theory, adult education theory, and industrial relations theory to each of the aforementioned steps;
    • discussing the barriers to rational innovation processes, using illustrative examples from service, public, and manufacturing sector industries; and
    • offering illustrative examples of best practice from multiple industries and cross-national perspectives, especially those involving strategic partnerships.

    The book combines theory with practice. It first presents interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives such as sociotechnical integration, dynamic systems, strategic innovation, user-centered design, and participative management models. These theories undergird the applied dimensions of this book, which offers practical guidelines for “good practice” technological change. Case study examples from industrial sectors, such as education, law enforcement, health care, and manufacturing, illustrate key concepts and approaches. A number of these case studies are based on my work as an action-researcher, consultant, and evaluator. Other cases have been conveyed to me by practitioners, some of whom have also been students in my graduate courses.

    The organization of the book is as follows. Chapter 1 addresses how new workplace technology can improve performance—and how it can have the opposite effect when it is not properly planned and introduced with the participation of key stakeholders. Chapter 2 defines the concept of strategic partnership and, using illustrative examples, explains how it differs from simple labor-management cooperation and from strategic planning.

    Chapter 3 presents an overview of the steps involved in technology planning, acquisition or development, implementation and assessment. The theoretical underpinnings of each of these steps come from systems theory, concurrent engineering, and industrial relations theory. Chapter 4 lists the elements of the needs assessment process and explains how technology and business goals factor into this process. It includes a discussion of cost justification procedures, as well as methods for determining an organization's “readiness for technological change.”

    Chapter 5 addresses ways of identifying and eliminating organizational barriers to technological change, such as organizational culture, poor labor relations, and employee feelings of disenfranchisement. Results of case study and survey research performed by the author in this area are provided. Chapter 6 offers a rationale for representative “design teams” and suggests methods for selection, operation, and interaction of such teams with the rest of the organization. It further outlines methods for implementing strategy-based change, using a partnership approach.

    Chapter 7 discusses the importance of training and organizational learning to successful technology adoption and use. It offers practical guidance on training program design, draws from the theories of adult education, and highlights examples of successful training partnerships. Chapter 8 promotes the necessity for ongoing evaluation and monitoring to ensure that the technological change continues to meet organizational, business, and performance objectives. It also identifies ways of institutionalizing the strategic partnership approach to change.

    I hope that managers, engineers, union representatives, and students will derive value from this work, and that it offers a unique contribution to the fields of technology and business management.

    Acknowledgments

    The students in my graduate courses in technology management at Eastern Michigan University have served over the years as sounding boards for the concepts presented herein. Six students—Karren Johnson, Paula Martin, Gladys Howard, Lance Williams, and Dorothy McAllen—contributed research material from which five of the case studies were based; Rick Pomorski alerted me to innovative technology acquisition practices in his workplace; and alumna and health care professional Carol Fletcher offered valuable feedback on the elements contained in Table 4.2. John Santomauro, director of the Canton Department of Public Safety, contributed an illustrative example of proactive needs assessment.

    Eastern Michigan University provided me with a sabbatical leave, during which the majority of this book was written. I thank those colleagues who wrote letters in support of this competitively awarded leave—Paul Kuwik, Alphonso Bellamy, Denise Tanguay, and Timothy Doyle of Eastern Michigan University, Jeffrey Liker of the University of Michigan's Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering, and Ulrich Juergens of the Science Center Berlin for Social Research. I am also grateful to Robert Quinn of the University of Michigan Business School, whose endorsement of the book project at its inception served as a motivating vote of confidence.

    A number of academics and practitioners were willing to serve as reviewers, offering valuable feedback on a draft of the manuscript. Special thanks is owed to Jeffrey Liker of the University of Michigan; William Cooke, director of the Fraser Center for Workplace Issues at Wayne State University; Richard Badham of the University of Wollongong; Narcyz Roztocki of the State University of New York New Paltz; Robert Brewster of Visteon Automotive Systems; and Rachel Apgar of Pilot Industries, Inc.

    Throughout the writing process I was cheered on by loving family members and friends, in particular Margot I. Duley whose daily encouragement and intellectual mentoring were and are invaluable to my spirit and my psyche; George and Evelyn Haddad, George Haddad Jr., and Mary, Michael, and Alexander Raveane who have supported and encouraged this and all of my professional endeavors; and Joyce and Hy Kornbluh who provided steadfast support in the midst of Hy's terminal illness.

    I am also indebted to Marquita Flemming of Sage Publications for her faith in this project and sound advice throughout the entire product life cycle, and to editorial staff members Claudia Hoffman, Jon Preimesberger, and all members of the Sage staff who played important roles in the book production process.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Carol Haddad is a professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Technology at Eastern Michigan University, where she teaches graduate courses and conducts research on workplace technology and training partnerships. Her externally funded research projects have included a study of sector-based labor-management training partnerships in three Canadian industries (automotive parts, steel, and electrical/electronics); evaluation of an NIST-MEP-sponsored pilot program to expand union leader awareness of and involvement in industrial modernization; and evaluation with two other faculty members of a training program designed to promote integration of instructional technology in K-12 classroom curricula.

    Dr. Haddad is also a consultant to organizations on technological change, training practices, and evaluation research. Her clients have included the IAM; IBEW and AT&T; the State of Michigan; the CWA; the UAW-Chrysler, UAW-Ford, and UAW-GM joint training centers; the Canadian Steel Trade and Employment Congress; and the USWA Canada and Algoma Steel. She lectures frequently to and conducts workshops for audiences in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

    Her prior work history includes serving as a tenured faculty member in the School of Labor and Industrial Relations at Michigan State University, director of the Labor and Technology Program at the Industrial Technology Institute, senior researcher and project manager with the American Society for Training and Development, trainer for the Department of Education and Training of the American Arbitration Association, and public sector union staff member. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and an M.S. degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.


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