Purpose – Seeks to raise the question of why large‐scale technochange is difficult and often failure‐prone and to attempt to answer this question by viewing technochange as an instance of institutional change and design in which self‐destructive mechanisms are inherently embedded. Design/methodology/approach – In order to explore the complex institutional dynamics of large‐scale technochange the paper uses the exploration/exploitation framework originally developed by March and extended by Lanzara to the study of institution‐building processes in the political domain. The argument is that problems in implementing large‐scale technochange stem from learning dilemmas in the inter‐temporal and inter‐group allocation of material and cognitive resources. The paper uses a case of large‐scale technology in a major US university system to illustrate the institutional perspective on technochange. Findings – It is argued and illustrated that the development and redesign of large‐scale information systems involve both the exploration of alternative institutional arrangements and the exploitation of pre‐existing ones, such that a delicate balance must be struck to overcome incoherences and dilemmas between the two activities. Research limitations/implications – The proposed framework to understand large‐scale technochange is not examined empirically. The illustration of the framework relies on a single large‐scale system project of a non‐profit organization in the USA. Further empirical work and comparative research on multiple cases are needed. Practical implications – The paper discusses some sources of the failures of large‐scale technochange and offers three interrelated mechanisms to counteract such failure sources, namely focal points, increasing returns, and bricolage. These counteracting mechanisms may help organizations to effectively deal with the dilemmas of exploration and exploitation in technochange. Originality/value – This paper fills the gap in understanding the nature of large‐scale technochange, providing an explanation of why it is difficult and failure‐prone and offering some modest proposals for intervention in large‐scale system projects.
Information Technology & People – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 1, 2006
Keywords: Change management; Organizational change; Organizational culture; Information systems; Design and development; United States of America
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