Sunday, March 15, 2009

Your Corporate Culture

I am reading Manuel Castells three volume work The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. 

He points out that companies making the changes to be competitive in a networked world "...required a change of mentality rather than a change of machinery. The most important obstacle in adapting the vertical corporation to the flexibility requirements of the global economy was the rigidity of traditional corporate cultures."

Then, to my surprise, he makes the point that simply bringing in technology without having already made the change to corporate mentality "aggravated the problems of bureaucratization and rigidity. Computerized controls are even more paralyzing than traditional face to face chains of command in which there was still place for some form of implicit bargaining." " America, more often than not, new technology was viewed as a labor saving device and as an opportunity to take control of labor, not as an instrument of organizational change."

My personal experience with hundreds of corporate IT departments certainly feels familiar with this line of thinking. How many of us have not been able to do the things we wanted or needed because IT had built an empire and could not get to things in any sort of timely basis?

When I was a college student working a summer job as a dishwasher, my co-workers and I decided the Hobart dishwashing machine could be a time machine if we were able to wash all the dishes before the diners had finished eating. We decided the entire purpose of the business we worked at was to provide dirty dishes for us to wash in our attempt to go forward in time.

I have seen many IT departments and third party vendors who act as though this same logic applies to the basic reason the businesses they are employed by exist. But the truth is businesses do not exist to provide IT staff jobs. The businesses which get this and act on this will succeed far beyond those which do not. 

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