Outflanking with information technology: a dialectic model of organizational transformation
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
The information systems (IS) literature conveys two opposing narratives of how to create radical organizational transformation (OT) with information technology (IT): “Iron fist” scholars argue that such OT is best achieved by resolute leaders capable of driving episodic change by fiat, while “velvet glove” scholars posit that OT is best induced incrementally by compassionate leaders who nurture shared vision and minimize conflict. These narratives portray implicitly gendered management stereotypes and promote accounts of heroism. Built to celebrate deliberate managerial action, they also brush aside back-stage work necessary for successful IS strategy implementation and cast IT in the marginal role of a trigger for or enabler of OT. To address these shortcomings, we advance a dialectic model of OT that views IT as a material change agent. To synthesize insights from these opposing narratives of change, our dialectic model also interrogates dominant assumptions in received OT theory. The model is motivated by an unexpected and intriguing case of OT in a Swedish municipality where initially peripheral actors used IT to gradually bring about a much-contested radical change to the organization’s service logics. These actions resembled the military tactics founded on stealth and surprise that military leaders use to overcome overwhelming enemies; therefore, we term the new OT narrative “outflanking.” The narrative foregrounds three tactical IT uses—shielding, priming, and enrolling—that the actors deployed to overcome the opposition. As a result, we theorize that the role of novel IT uses is a necessary component of contemporary OT. Following a call for analyses of OT that recognize material effects of IT, the article concludes with a discussion of how managers can strike alliances with peripheral actors to render their organizations more dynamic, and how researchers need better articulate the complexity of the current IT-based OT.
Organizational transformation, IT use, Digital materiality, Outflanking, Dialectics, Institutional entrepreneurship, Socio-political change.
Information Systems, Social aspects
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-109759OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-109759DiVA: diva2:858982