Research Leadership and Organizational Change in the Context of IT - Research Paper


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This research investigates Information Technology (IT) driven organizational changes in Sri Lankan organizations by focusing on the leadership aspects. The main objective of this research is to identify which leadership styles are most effective in ensuring the success of change management processes within IT project implementations. In order to achieve this, firstly the research conducts an in-depth investigation of the relationship between leadership and change management practices within organizations. Encapsulating the findings, a model is proposed to pinpoints the most effective leadership style that should be adopted in accordance with each stage within the change management process the organization is about to undergo.

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Research Leadership and Organizational Change in the Context of IT - Research Paper

  1. 1. 1 Leadership and Organizational Change in the Context of IT *Eashani Rodrigo, Lakshitha Samarathunga, Sachith Wimalarathna, Dinidu Jayasekara, Medavi Somarathne Email: * Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology, New Kandy Road, Malabe, Sri Lanka. ABASTRACTThis research investigates Information Technology (IT) driven organizational changes in Sri Lankanorganizations by focusing on the leadership aspects. The main objective of this research is to identifywhich leadership styles are most effective in ensuring the success of change management processeswithin IT project implementations. In order to achieve this, firstly the research conducts an in-depthinvestigation of the relationship between leadership and change management practices withinorganizations. Encapsulating the findings, a model is proposed to pinpoints the most effectiveleadership style that should be adopted in accordance with each stage within the changemanagement process the organization is about to undergo.The research involved qualitative methods. Models by Goalman (2000), Kotter (1996), and Cooperand Zmud (1990) were consulted to build an initial framework surrounding leadership and changemanagement practices. Using the Case Study method, in-depth interviews and document reviewswere conducted for nine leading Sri Lankan organizations which had undergone IT change. Analysisof results revealed that organizations are increasingly realizing the value of employing changemanagement practices when introducing IT change to their organizations. The attention of leaderswas found to be more focused on the culture, behaviours and attitudes of employees who are part ofthe change process than on the steps within the change process itself which are prescribed bychange gurus. Eliminating people resistance has been treated with the highest priority based on theargument that effectiveness of change management processes is directly linked to winning over thepeople resource. Leadership styles were found to be practiced more from a public relations (PR)perspective to win the people over in the short term and thereby ensuring long term success.Key words: Leadership, Organizational Change, Information Technology, Change ManagementProcess, Leadership Styles, Sri Lankan Context, IT Driven Change INTRODUCTIONJohn P. Kotter, one of the change management gurus has said that the change is anunavoidable reality in the business world today. In such a turbulent environment if the changeis not handled properly it can drive them crazy, costs a great deal of money and will cause alot of pain [1]. Modern business organizations are turbulent and face dramatic changes such
  2. 2. 2as strategic changes, technology changes, business process changes, mergers andacquisitions. Taking these aspects in to consideration IT driven change plays a critical role inorganizations today. IT driven organizational change is considered to be the current focus inmany business organizations as they introduce or implement new IT systems nowadays togain the competitive advantage [2]. If the organization did not adapt to changes, theorganizations could not compete. Managing of change is important in order to embrace thechange and reap its benefits. Leadership plays a vital role in managing change by involvingand supporting throughout the process to make the change a success. Many studies havehighlighted the importance of leadership in change management. Leadership is very muchrelated to change and as the velocity of change increases, there is a greater need for effectiveleadership [1].There are a number of studies on importance of leadership and change management [1]-[5].However leadership styles that should be adopted for managing an effective IT changeprocess has received lesser attention. Research focus draws the attention towards theleadership styles to be adopted during change management process when organizations gothrough IT driven organizational changes.No past research has been reported on leadership and change management in Sri Lanka. Ithas been identified that for most organizations in Sri Lanka change management is a newpractice. Therefore, this study makes a valuable contribution to the field of leadership andchange management as this research carries a comprehensive study to fill the knowledge gapin that area.This paper presents the findings of a comprehensive research. It comprises of five sectionsfollowed by the introduction. In the next section literature review is presented and the resultsare given in section four. Paper ends with the discussion of research study and suggestions forfurther research.
  3. 3. 3LITERATURE REVIEWAs a background to the study this section briefs on the leadership and leadership styles, ITimplementation process and change management processes and IT driven changemanagement. The relevance of leadership and management of IT driven organizationalchange is examined here.Information Technology plays a significant role in organizations‟ business processes today.IT has triggered many changes forcing organizations to embrace changes which happen dueto IT implementations. Many researchers have introduced different IT implementationprocess models such Rogers, Kwon and Zmud, and Gerwin [6], [7]. Basically all models arebased on three main processes namely: initiation, implementation and naturalization [6].These researchers have identified that implementation of IT changes should be well planedand should be carry out systematically in order to gain the real benefits of change. Failing tomanage the change effectively will end up in poor implementations [4].Researchers argue that proper framework should be adopted to carry out the ITimplementation as well as to manage the IT driven change simultaneously. Past researchershave developed a number of models to explore as change management processes. Three stepLewin‟s (1951) change model , Kotter‟s (1995) eight steps model and Prosci‟s (1996)ADKAR model can be cited as examples [8]. All these models address the changemanagement in general, and still no comprehensive model has been developed to depict ITdriven change management process. Kotter‟s (1996) eight steps model targets large scaleorganizational change and gives a comprehensive elaboration about the change managementprocess and as it directly establishes a relationship with the leadership and organizational
  4. 4. 4change process, which is the underlying concept of this study [1][3]. Hence, Kotter‟s changemodel is used as the base of study in the research.Number of researchers have highlighted that leaders should manage the change in order toachieve effective organizational change [1],[9],[2]. In the context of change managementKotter [1] defines leadership as: What the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles (Kotter) [1].This research focuses on leadership styles. Studies have highlighted that leadership stylesplay a vital role in organizational change. Goleman [9] have mentioned that organizationalclimate is influenced by leadership style. Number of leadership styles are experimented,researched and have found by the contributors such as Lewin [8], Likert [8] and Goleman [9].These contributors argue that leaders do not rely on just one leadership but it can changeaccording to the scenario [9].ConceptualizationA high level conceptual view of relationship between leadership and IT driven change isshown in Fig.1.
  5. 5. 5As shown in Fig.1 the change management process need to be practised inside the ITimplementation process. The effectiveness of this practice is directly affected by leadershipstyles. To examine this framework, models as shown in Table 1 are used.In summary, the following inferences have been made from the literature review:  Leadership is critical for an effective change management.  From leadership aspect, leadership styles will have a higher influence on the effectiveness of the change management.  Steps follows in change management process will become critical success factors for the IT change process.  Organizations must give all the three aspects (IT implementation, Change management and leadership styles) their focus when IT driven change is taking place.  The final framework for the research can be built as in Fig.1.  Organizations should follow change management process within their IT change process. (As shown in Fig1 )
  6. 6. 6  Further it has found Steps follows in change management process will become critical success factors for the IT change process.  For the real world case scenario analysis purpose three models namely, Kotter (1996) eight step model [1][3], Cooper and Zmud (1900) IT Diffusion model [10] and Goleman (2000) Six leadership Styles model [9] can be adopted to the research framework. Summary of the models which has used to develop the research framework is shown below. METHODOLOGYThis study focuses on real-life scenarios and explores “How” and “Why” questions. Hence,we adopted the case study approach. Case study approach is a method used to narrow down avery broad field of research into one easily researchable topic. According toShuttleworth[11], case study method attempts to test a theory with a typical case or a specifictopic. Thereby using the case studies we will be able to develop and practically test theresearch findings from literature as well as see the practical aspects of the scenario.
  7. 7. 7In this study, the framework which was synthesised from the literature survey is used todevelop interview protocols and for the case analysis. Semi-structured and unstructuredinterviews in nine organizations were conducted which has undergone IT changes. Casestudy data was collected by our research authors using interviews of approximately one hourduration and based on the same interview protocol. Top IT executives in leading Sri Lankanorganizations were interviewed including who have contributed in large IT implementations.Table 2 presents profiles of the cases which have been studied in this research. Table 2 Case Profiles Case Background of Respondent Major IT Time Success/Failu company implementat re of -ions implementati- on* Case A One of the top Head of IT ERP system 5 years Successful diversified department ago conglomerates in Sri Lanka Case B Multinational Project Inquiry Few Successful financial institute manager system years ago which has been HR system operating for over 100 years in Sri Lanka. Case C Leading financial System Internet Few Successful institute in Sri Lanka Development banking years ago Manager system E-link system Case D Financial institute IT manager Intranet Few Partially years ago successful Case E Leading financial Head of Core banking Few Successful institute in Sri Lanka Network system years ago Relations Case F Multinational apparel Head of SAP SAP ERP 10 years Successful manufacturing system ago company and the largest in Sri Lanka. Case G Leading financial Acting CIO Core banking Few In general it is institute in Sri Lanka system years ago a success. But there are small failures.
  8. 8. 8 Case H Leading financial CIO Core banking Few Successful institute in Sri Lanka system years ago Case I Financial institute IT manager System Few Successful upgrades- years ago core banking system. *This is based on individual perception of the interviewee RESULTSTable 3 presents the summery of the findings.Table 3Summary of findings (Focused steps of Kotter’s model and the leadership Styles)Case Use of Most focused steps Leadership Styles used Existence of formal (focusing on Kotter‟s during the change people change (1996) model) resistance managemen during change t approachCase A No Steps 4, 5, 7 and 8 Authoritative, Yes Affiliative, DemocraticCase B Yes Steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8 Authoritative, No Affiliative, Democratic, CoerciveCase C No Steps 2, 4, 7and 8 Affiliative, Democratic YesCase D No Steps 4, 6 and 8 Authoritative, Yes Affiliative, Coercive.Case E No Steps 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 Affiliative, Democratic YesCase F No Steps 1, 4, 7 and 8 Authoritative, Yes Affiliative, Democratic, CoerciveCase G No Step 1, 4, 7 and 8 Authoritative, Yes Affiliative, Democratic, CoerciveCase H No Steps 4, 7 and 8 Affiliative, Democratic YesCase I No Steps 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8 Authoritative, No Affiliative, Democratic
  9. 9. 9From the case study investigation it is evident that most organizations do not use a formalapproach towards change management. However they have adopted certain processesassociated with change management, without a conscious application of them.The complex IT changes in most organizations were associated with implementing EnterpriseResource Planning (ERP) systems. When the IT change had been triggered by ERP system ithas lead them to realise the importance of managing the change. According to a top ITexecutive many organizations in Sri Lanka are not aware of change management. Unfortunately I doubt that they know not John P. Kotter but the area he contributed (Case C).Most IT changes the case study organizations went through were successful according totheir own judgement. However it was evident from the investigation that most of the projectshave taken longer time than they planned for. Certain organizations suffer from the problemof not utilizing their system fully. However without practicing a formal change managementapproach, these organizations managed to be successful in there change may be merely due toa proper leadership. Generally these organizations highly focussed on Step 1,4,6,7 and 8.These steps require complete support from the leader. Therefore leadership involvement andthe support to the change can be considered as high.According to nine cases generally they followed Affiliative style, Authoritative style andDemocratic style out of all six leadership styles during the change. These leadership styleswere identified from the characteristics Goleman‟s Six Leadership style model [9] theypossessed. Choosing the leadership style was situation oriented. In general during theinitiation of change they practised Authoritative then Democratic and in the latter part ofchange the focus was towards Affiliative style.
  10. 10. 10In exceptional cases organizations had used Coercive Style apart from those styles.According to an IT executive during the ERP implementation their motto was: SAP able or Sack able (Case B).Facing an ERP implementation was the common situation to those organizations which usedCoercive. This situation caused them go through dramatic changes for the first time and facehigher people resistance. According to the IT executives‟ perceptions, lack of a properorganizational culture was the cause for people resistance. Therefore the situation have forcedthese organizations adopt Coercive style but they shifted to Affiliative style ones people gotadapted to the change. According to the Case F and Case E they follow people orientedleadership style: We do not insist people to do it instead we ask shall we do it (Case F). I think people are more part of the organization than earlier (Case E.)Therefore from the case study analysis it is evident that leadership style strongly effected onorgnization to be successful in change. Without any formal approch to change managemnetcase organizations leadership was the force to drive the change. Therefore during the changeprocess they followed people oriented leadership styles such as Authoritaive, Democratic,Affiliative styles. Use of this people oriented leadership approach made them successful inthier change. DISCUSSIONThis research revealed another dimention of change mangement other than changemanagemnet process and leadership. Cases revealed „people resistance‟ is another dimentionthat should be foucsed during change management.
  11. 11. 11 People resist. It is not a very simple thing. The change is very tuff for people (Case A).Dramtetic change lead them to face remarkable situations of people resistance. In some casesproblem of people resistance lead them to adopt rigid methods to avoid it which lead tounsatisfaction of emplyees. However in these situations change have been accepeted byemplyees for the fear of losing thier jobs.Not having a proper people focussed change management approach and lack of a changesupprotive culture must have lead to people resistance. However these organizations haveused several methods to deal with people resistance. Proper communication of change ,higher support and invlovement from leadership, adopting people oriented leadership styles,use of feedback mechanism and proper trainning are some of methods used.In the effort of eliminating people resistance case organizations have focused on recreatingtheir culture. Having a change suppritive culture is considered to be the key element foravoiding people resistance.Finally going through the literature survey as well as the case study we were able to developa model related to the most appropriate leadership and managing the IT change process. It isevident that as from the success cases scenarios as well as from the interviewees‟recommendations people oriented leadership style(s) is the most appropriate leadership styleto be adopted.Analysing all nine cases it was revealed that in general they followed mainly three leadershipstyles out of all six leadership styles during the change in order to make the change a success.Namely they are: Affiliative style, Authoritative style and Democratic style.
  12. 12. 12All these three stages were used all together within all stages. Therefore according to thesituation they focussed more on one of these leadership styles. But from the analysis itshowed that in early steps of the model they focussed more on Authoritative style and in themiddle steps their attention was drawn to Democratic style and the in final stages their focuswas more towards the Affiliative style.Therefore by analysing these case studies, generalizing the findings the final model can bepresented as in Fig. 2.Fig. 2: Proposed Model: Most appropriate leadership styles and IT change managing processThis proposed model suggests that:
  13. 13. 13  During an large IT driven change along with IT change process organizations should follow a formal change managemnet process.  Organizations should follow change managemnet process steps within the IT change process‟ three stages as proposed by the model.  Each step in change managemnet process become the critical factors which affctes IT change implemenation.  The highlighted steps are the most critical steps in change managemnet process which should be given a high priority.  Above mentioned three leadership styles are the most effective leadership styles to be followed in order to do an effective change mangement.  During this process they should follow the relevant leadership styles giving more focus on highlighted leadership style in particular stage. (Authoritaive in first stages, Democratic in middle stages and Affiliative in last stages).As limitations of the model it can be argued that as this is a generalized model there is apossibility to change when consider different countires, organzatioanl type (eg: mulitnationalcomapnies) and the type of the IT change.In summary, this research has focussed on leadership and change management aspect in an ITdriven organizational change in the context of Sri Lanka. This research confirms thatleadership plays a critical role in change management. It is evident that a proper leadershipcan lead the change to a success and use of people oriented leadership styles can avoid peopleresistance. Finally this research have identified Authoritative, Democratic and Affiliativeleadership styles are the considered to be best leadership style to be adopted during thechange management process to making a change a success. However this study suggests thatthe organizations should follow a formal change management process when dealing with IT –
  14. 14. 14driven change and they should use people oriented leadership styles to make the change asuccess. Therefore this study proposes a model to be used during IT-driven changes toeffectively manage change.The knowledge gap in the area of change management in the Sri Lankan context should befilled as the proper awareness and knowledge on this area carries a higher value for thebusiness organizations. This research focussed on identifying the appropriate leadershipstyles and the process to be used in managing the change. Still there is a knowledge gap inthe cultural aspect of change management area. Therefore investigating on the proper culturewhich is supportive to change could be another area for future research. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTThe authors wish to thank Dr. Theekshana Suraweera who has been the supervisor of thisresearch. Also authors wish to thank case study organizations and the IT executives whokindly provided information to carry out this research. Due to the confidential nature thesedetails are not disclosed. The support of Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology,Malabe is sincerely acknowledged. REFERENCES[1] John P. Kotter. Leading Change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996.[2] Esther Cameron, Mike Green. (2004). Making Sense of Change Management: a completeguide to the models, tools and Techniques of organizationalchange. [on-line] [Dec 29, 2009].[3] John P. Kotter. The Heart of Change:Real-life Stories How People Change TheirOrganizations. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.[4] R. A. Patson, J. McCalman. Change Management: A Guide to Effective Effectiveimplementation. London: SAGA Publications Ltd,2000. [5]Annabel Beerel. (2009). Leadership and Change Managemnet. [on-line] [Feb 20, 2010].
  15. 15. 15[6] M.A. Quaddus. Diffusion of information technology: an exploration of the stage modelsand facilitating the users choice by system approach. Curtin University of Technology,Australia.[7] Wang, Mo Winnie Lee, One-Ki (Daniel) Lim, Kai H. (n.d). Knowledge managementSystems Diffusion in Chinese Enterprises: A Multi-Stage Approach with the Technology-Organization-Environment Framework. City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.[8] Esther Cameron, M. G. A complete guide to the Models, Tools and Techniques oforganizational change. London: Kogan Page Limited,2004.[9] Daniel Goleman, Leadership That Gets Results,, Harvard Business SchoolPublishing Corporation, March-April 2000.[PDF]. Available: [Accessed: Dec21, 2009].[10] R.B Cooper, R.W Zmud, “Information Technology Implementation Research: ATechnology Diffusion Approach”, Management Science, 1990, pp. 123-139.[11] Martyn Shuttleworth, Case study research design," Experiment Resources, 2008[online]. Available:[Accessed: Mar. 30, 2010].[12] E.K. Foreman, Survey Sampling Principles, 120 Vol. New York: Marcel Dekker, 1991,pp.4.[13] Arlene Fink, Conducting research literature, 3rd ed. California: SAGA Publications,2010, pp. 3.[14] Change Management. Internet: management, Feb.28, 2010 [Feb 28, 2010].©All Right Reserved - 2010