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Essay Samples > Research > IS Methodologies and Organizational Transformation
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IS Methodologies and Organizational Transformation

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Discuss the view that SSM-based activity models are simply conceptual devices to ask good questions about a real-world situation but offer little practical help to IS developers.  Your answer should include a detailed consideration of the various stages and techniques of SSM and be illustrated using a case study with which you are familiar.

The soft systems (SSM) are better suited for project management especially when dealing with social or people based project situations. This approach focuses on the social process of managing in complex situations and trying to deal with a dynamic flux of messy situations and complex issues. Over the years SSM based model has gained credibility because of its focus on learning what needs to be done instead of trying to solve a particular problem (Steyn, Belle & Mansilla, 2010).

The SSM based approach offers little help to developers because it is based on problem situations rather than well defined problems, different worldviews, models as devices for learning rather than prediction and consciously organised inquiry (Steyn, Belle & Mansilla, 2010). IS developer's relying mostly on defined problems but the method requires new activities to be included in the model.

There are several case studies that were undertaken through the SSM approach in Vietnam, Laos and Sri Lanka. Steyn, Belle & Mansilla (2010) says that "the cases involved a combination of retrospective and live studies of real world projects" (p. 275). For this particular study the focus is on VTE (Vocational and Technical Education) Vietnam case study. The approach and logic to the case study analyses the findings into four main steps.

Step1: Finding out about the VTE project.

At this stage SSM approach sought to understand the real world problem situation revolving around the project process. SSM based analyses were carried out to gain insight into the problem processes within Vietnam. The analyses included a rich picture based analysis of the situation surrounding each project intervention (Steyn, Belle & Mansilla, 2010).  The second analyses included project intervention process itself which is historic and takes the form of modified of the first analysis. Steyn, Belle & Mansilla (2010) also noted that the third included the analysis of the social background of the project extracted in the form of an analysis two.

At this step the case study indicates that a further analysis framework an intervention analysis was developed in order to have a more detailed learning about the project. Steyn, Belle & Mansilla (2010) argues that "the major outcome of the finding out step of the SSM project was to conceptualize the project as a project intervention process" (p. 276).

Step2: Purposeful activity models of the VTE project

This was the second step used in the SSM approach. It was essential for problem structuring of the entire project processes and it also dealt with the development of a relevant purposeful activity model and undertaking a comparison to generate structured debate about the entire process. Steyn, Belle & Mansilla (2010) noted that this step is crucial and involves the actors in the SSM modelling activities due to the political and resources dynamics of the project.

Also each member of the project team had a specific term of references
(TOR) to undertake their relevant activity. Steyn, Belle & Mansilla (2010) says that the emphasis of each member and the project was one of conformance besides meeting specific criteria in the project design. They continue to indicate that the preferred model of the project team was formulated through conceptual models of activities.

Step 3: Purposeful models of VTE conceptualised project (SSMp2)

Steyn, Belle & Mansilla (2010) says that the third step to the problem structuring of the project processes dealt with a comparison of findings across cases both within Vietnam and across other countries for a generalization of findings. Actions were commissioned to address the perceived problem situation. Steyn, Belle & Mansilla (2010) further says that the action SSM based approach organizes action as a set of initiatives in a project which was temporary and staffed by local and international experts and officials from relevant government agencies to effect the desired changes to VTE. At this stage relevant SSM models (RDs and CMs) are developed of the conceptualized process of managing the project in which it was recommended that the project was politically and socially feasible.

Step 4: Learning

The fourth step of this approach dealt with learning that rises from the findings presented in the first stage or step of the VTE capacity building project. The learning here acts as a process of project initiation and managing. Steyn, Belle & Mansilla (2010) commented that the learning emerged as a result of the debate from the cross case findings, comparing the models of the conceptualized project managing process with the actual process that takes place.

In contrast to standard software development, Eric Raymond suggests that open source software development is akin to a "babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches" unlikely to produce coherent and stable organizational systems. Critically discuss this statement with reference to the underpinning values, the OS development process and associated development methods.

In his milestone study of the development of open source and of Linux, Eric Raymond a leading open source campaigner sees the process of logically harnessing open development and decentralized peer review and contribution to software advancement as akin to the activity of a bazaar (Dobson, Starkey & Richards, 2004). The reason why Eric Raymond says that it is an activity of a bazaar was based on the fact that Linux for example is subversive meaning that it is a world class operating system which could coalesce as if by magic out of part time hacking by several thousand developers around the world connected by the internet.  Dobson, Starkey & Richards (2004) says that the approach of developing open source is based on giving a early release and delegating everything one can, and at the same time be open to the point of promiscuity.

Unlike other methods used in OS development, the Linux OS community looks like a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches. Dobson, Starkey & Richards (2004) thus says that this aptly was symbolized by the Linux archive sites which would take submissions from anyone out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles. Therefore the development of open source operating systems is quite different from others because it gives its customers control over the technologies they use, instead of enabling vendors to control their customers through restricting access to the code behind the technologies (Dobson, Starkey & Richards, 2004).

Dobson, Starkey & Richards (2004) says that Raymond identified a number of core processes that make the Linux community work unlike other OS development processes. One of the core processes was the leadership style and a set of co-operative customs that allowed a developer and other core developers who joined the community get a maximum leverage out of their interactions in the process. This in turn produced a self correcting spontaneous order more elaborate and efficient than any amount of central planning used by other software development company's could have achieved (Dobson, Starkey & Richards, 2004). The open source development of the OS acts as a motivating involvement and the contribution of time and brainpower which was intellectual interest. Unlike other associated development methods the open source OS development approach is primordially a community of interest whose members deeply enjoy what they do. The Linux community is itself a gift culture in which your standing is determined by what one freely gives away.

Dobson, Starkey & Richards (2004) say that the open source movement has created OS that many including a growing a number of corporate think is as good as or better than anything Microsoft has developed. As a result Linux one of the most renowned open source OS's has been embraced as a significant business opportunity by firms such as Red Hat and Oracle. Dobson, Starkey & Richards (2004) argued that "Oracle the world's leading enterprise software company and Red hat collaborate on the implementation of office systems powered by Linux because Linux is the best means of helping customers to implement the lowest cost hardware and operating system infrastructure" (p. 185).

The open source approach of OS development has opened the door to unprecedented innovation in the software industry. Dobson, Starkey & Richards (2004) says that in contrast to the computer hardware industry where no one firm exercises the degree of control of a Microsoft, competition reigns, and customers benefit from a profusion of choice and unparalleled innovation in product and customer value. Dobson, Starkey & Richards (2004) says that today 1000 people devote their spare time to developing the Linux kernel with contributions from thousands of others on an ad hoc basis.

One of the earliest organisational transformation theories is the Lewin Change Model. Critically discuss how could this model be applied in managing organisational transformation?

Lewin Change Model is one of earliest models of planned changes that was provided by Kurt Lewin (Cummings & Worley, 2008). According to Lewin change can be viewed as a modification of those forces keeping system behaviour stable within an organization. This model can achieved by one increasing those forces pushing for change and at the same time decrease those forces maintaining the current state (Cummings & Worley, 2008). Lewin change model is made up of three steps which include unfreezing, moving and refreezing.

The first step unfreezing involves reducing those forces maintain the organizations behaviour at its present level. Cummings & Worley (2008) says that "this step is accomplished through a process of psychological disconfirmation" (p. 24). Through introducing information that shows discrepancies between behaviours desired by organization members they can be motivated to engage in change activities (Cummings & Worley, 2008).

The second step is known as moving that shifts the behaviour of the organization, department or individual to a new level. Cummings & Worley (2008) says that this step involves intervening in the system to develop new behaviours, values, attitudes through changes in organizational structures and processes.

The third step known as refreezing stabilizes the organization at a new state of equilibrium. Cummings & Worley (2008) says that it is frequently accomplished through the use of supporting mechanisms that reinforce the new organizational state such as culture, rewards and structures. 

The model is also known for its drawbacks. Describe three criticisms of the model

One of the major drawbacks of the Lewin Change Model is that people within the organization may resist change in general. Some people feel that this model brings about change as a peril to the security of individual advantages connected with the status quo and also from the result of expected disadvantages that go along with change. The Lewin Change Model is associated with displeasure with the present balance and conflicts in the organization.

Another drawback of this change model is that not everyone will come to a consensus with the entire process in the Lewin Change Model. The Lewin Change Model in turn results to opening up the reforms to a wide variety of opinions and personal agenda and at some point decision must be made that may not satisfy the views and needs of everyone in the organization. At the same time Lewin Change Model does not give one the ability to reflect on the present and take an objective view of current events within the organization.

The Technology Camel Framework (see the following figure has been widely used by information systems change agents in managing organisational change. Critically describe how this framework could be used in understanding resistance to change in organisations.

The Camel Technology Framework can be used to explain and help us understand resistance to change in organizations. Wood &Li (2005) says that moving from left to right one sixthy of the curve represents early markets who are innovators and visionaries. Each group in The Camel Technology Framework is identified by their relative acceptance of or aversion to technology and to risk. Within the five groups in the framework, Wood &Li (2005) says that innovators are technology enthusiast because they are the first to try every cool new gadget. Visionaries are eager to obtain and accept new technologies to gain strategic advantage. They will also pay huge amounts of money to try new things that they believe will help them solve their problems.

Wood &Li (2005) says that the early majority are pragmatists who do not like the risk of being pioneers but at the same time they are ready to observe the advantages of the tested technologies. People or organizations in the late majority are the conservatives who only expect mature technology at commodity prices. Wood &Li (2005) says that the laggard segments are sceptics and do not willingly engage or use technology products. The laggards buy technology only when it is buried so deep in a product that they do not know it is there.

Ghaffari and McNurlin noted that the adoption curve can shift to the left, with fewer individuals and companies belonging to the technically adverse group. Results from their studies indicate that individuals are ahead of organizations in the adoption of new technologies and males are more willing to adopt new technologies than females. Wood &Li (2005) says that The Camel Technology Framework represents how resistance occurs in the implementation and acceptance of new technologies and that it is dependent on other factors such as the type of the groups, individuals, companies and industries.                                                                  

A change agent should be able not just to minimise but also promote (maximise) organisational resistance to change.

Discuss 4 strategies which a change agent can employ in minimising user resistance to change.

Empirical rational strategy

The first strategy that can be used to reduce resistance to change according to Pathak (2009) is the empirical rational strategy. Pathak (2009) says that change agents should have the belief that people are rational and if they understand that the change to be introduced will benefit them then it possible that their self interest will guide them to accept the change. Pathak (2009) says that if a change agent explains the benefits of change to the employees and then introduces it, it is likely to be successful.

Normative reductive strategy

The second strategy is known as normative reductive strategy. Pathak (2009) says that this belief is based on belief that people are guided by the socio-cultural norms. This strategy works on the basis that changes become acceptable because they are keeping with the personal values and belief. Pathak (2009) noted that in this context changes appeal to the socio-cultural norms of individuals affected by the change and are likely to be successfully adopted.

Power-coercive strategy

The third strategy is known as the power-coercive strategy. This strategy is used by change agents who belief that people with less power will comply with the changes brought about by those with more power in the system. Pathak (2009) indicated that this strategy uses legitimate authority, rewards, and punishments as the means to enforce change within the organization.

Use of informal leaders

The fourth strategy is the use of informal leaders. Pathak (2009) says that since informal leaders have a lot of power in the group the change agent can co-opt them in the change processes and through them changes can be introduced with least resistance from employees.

Discuss 4 strategies that a system developer could employ in promoting system developers' resistance to change.

The first strategy that system developers can use to reduce resistance to change is good communication. Perry (2008) says that all the implications of implementing the new system should be communicated to, agreed upon and supported by the organization managers. In system development communication is described as the lubricant for change.

The second strategy that system developers can employ is participation and involvement. Perry (2008) says that this strategy increases the probability that people will be committed to implementing the change and if their opinions are taken into account. This in turn increases the effectiveness of the system being developed.

The third strategy of reducing resistance to change is through facilitation and support.  Perry (2008) says that this strategy involves the use of techniques such as training and group discussions that the developers can use to reduce fear and anxiety. Perry (2008) also says that this strategy is more appropriate where the major reason for resistance is based on insecurity and adjustment problems of the new information system.

The fourth strategy that system developers can use to reduce resistance to change is explicit and implicit coercion. Perry (2008) says that this strategy involves the use of force or the threat of force to enforce implementation of change. This strategy is critical if the parties involved are operating from fixed positions and there are fundamental disagreements over objectives and methods used by the system developers.

"Inclusivity" is one of the bywords of the day in most modern organisations. Applied to organisational transformation decision making, it means involving as many people as possible in the process - keeping employees (stakeholders) informed, soliciting their input, making sure everyone has a fair shot at expressing an opinion. The goal is to increase the likelihood of a decision's acceptance, and in many cases, this approach is a sound one. There are at least three reasons for ineffective downloading: Critically discuss these reasons of ineffective downloading

Disconnect between the two sides

This means misunderstanding between the top management and the subordinates. Komives, Lucas & McMahon (2009) says that "these results when the management does not realize how different groups or individuals might approach issues from different perspectives or frames while maintain the attitudes that respect differences and valuing equity and involvement" (p. 120).

Disconnect between the two sides implies that one side does not embrace having the skills to develop the talent of members so that they can be readily involved. Komives, Lucas & McMahon (2009) says that "how individuals talk about the others in the organization, how they refer to them for example colleagues, subordinates or participants and followers are indicators of inclusive environments" (p. 125). The most important element in eliminating the disconnect is to find other ways of communicating and consulting with people besides exploring options of including diverse interests in group decision making.

Failure to clarify responsibilities

Mandal (2010) says that failure to clarify responsibilities leads to lack of accountability. This implies that organizations should clarify and make roles and responsibilities of the employees and management publicly known in order to provide a level of accountability. Komives, Lucas & McMahon (2009) on the other hand says that organizations which expect to learn and seek new solutions should clarify the responsibilities of its employees.

Failure to clarify responsibilities promotes fear and humiliation within different groups and does not operate on trust and inclusivity. Clearly  stated responsibilities promotes self-empowerment by building competencies, networks or attributes to let one make essential contribution in decision making.

Interest in protecting employees

Organizations should be aware that they have the permissible and moral obligations to its employees and therefore they should devise policies, procedures and rules to govern the business affairs and at the same protect the interest of those employees. This should include ensuring good working environment (Mandal, 2010). Mandal (2010) further says that organizations should develop employees code of conduct to promote ethical and responsible decision making systems.

The rights and interests of individuals should be intricately joined with the duties. Mandal (2010) says that individuals in organizations have the right to be protected as long as they perform their duties to the best of their abilities. It is fundamental to note that employees at all levels are obliged to the company to behave ethically so that organizations can balance in reciprocal rights and duties (Mandal, 2010). This will essentially promote inclusivity and decision and employees will feel to be part of decision making.

Many researchers have argued that the Technological Acceptance Model can be used in facilitating the rate of technology adoption in an organisation. Describe the two main features of Technological Acceptance Model a project managers could utilise in guiding them to accomplish this aim.

The Technology Acceptance model examines the perception of adopters in relation to the technology usefulness and its ease of use (Gretzel, Law & Fuchs, 2010). The model expounds that external factors combined with the adopters perceptions of usefulness and ease of use establishes the adopter's attitude towards using the examined technology. Gretzel, Law & Fuchs (2010) noted that the attitude developed by the user will possibly determine his/her behavioural intentions to use the system. Both the perceptions are frequently used to measure the various constructs pertaining to technology adoption.

Perceived usefulness

This is the first feature which refers to the extent to which an individual believes that his or her performance will improve by adopting a particular technology. Gretzel, Law & Fuchs (2010) established that perceived usefulness unlike perceived social pressure is the main motivator for technology adoption.

Perceived ease of use

This is the second feature of the Technology Acceptance Model. Gretzel, Law & Fuchs (2010) says that "perceived ease of use represents the individual perception of the amount of effort required to adopt an innovation" (p. 41). This implies that the actual use and adoption of technology requires a level of technological know-how (Gretzel, Law & Fuchs, 2010).

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