Planned Change and Inertia : Integrating Technology, Organization and Human Aspects

Abstract: New work organization and new computer-based tools can save costs and improve quality. A fact that often is not acknowledged is that new work organization and new computer-based tools take resources from the organization.Three empirical studies were performed in production, concerning changed work organization and managerial innovation. The aim of the companies concerned was that most employees in each studied department should be able to work more flexibly, and thereby manage most work tasks and achieve better quality. Three other studies focused on the application of new computer-based tools to product-development work, i.e. on technological innovation. The computer-based tools (for simulation) were used as a test bed for new ideas and trouble-shooting to obtain improved quality and shorter lead times. The methods employed were interviews, group discussions, questionnaires, workcontent matrices, observations, statistical quality control, and quality-assessment tests. The studies showed that the change effected was not as extensive as management had intended. Inertia was found to have an important role to play in the change process. More specifically, individuals were unwilling to learn new tasks because of the pay system, barriers between departments, the work environment, status of tasks, and the initiation and implementation processes. Information about forthcoming redundancies influenced willingness to rotate tasks and learn new ones. Roles and domains of computer-based tools and participation are other contextual variables that must be discussed in relation to change. The studies also show the importance of integrating technology, organization and human aspects in the course of change.Theoretically, the thesis discusses conceptions of resistance, inertia and restraining forces, and analyzes different theoretical models that integrate technology, organization and human aspects. Some of the subject areas touched upon are industrial and organizational psychology, ecological psychology, sociotechnology, and participatory ergonomics.The thesis shows that contextual aspects influence change/innovation, and the will of the individual to learn new tasks. Contextual aspects acquire new opinions on usability. The thesis also shows that the reasons why changes fail in companies may include difficulties in integrating technology, organization and human aspects. Treating technology, organization and human aspects as interwoven is a complex task theoretically, and is also highly relevant to research design.

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