Really. Library innovations. In 1984 Damanpour and Evan published Organizational Innovation and Performance: The Problem of "Organizational Lag." By organizational lag, they meant organizations adopt technical innovations faster than administrative ones -- even though "a balanced rate of adoption of administrative and technical innovations is more effective in helping organizations to maintain or improve their level of performance than either administrative or technical innovations alone." That is, T (technology) or O/P (organizational/people) innovations alone won't cut it -- you need to do them together. Management scholars have been aware of this since at least the late 50s (the original research was done in coal mines). In 1974, Herbst reiterates that:
..if the technological system is optimized at the expense of the social system, the results achieved will be sub-optimal. The same would be true if the social system were optimized at the expense of the technological system. The aim to be achieved would need to be the joint optimization of the technical and the social systems.
Scholars then (and now) called this approach Sociotechnical Systems Theory. Do you think that a better term would have made the ideas more sticky? Here's hoping that TOP Management can hold our attention long enough gain some value. We have some great examples of the effective management of Technology, Organizations, and People from modern organizations (here & here) as well as some poor examples (here & here). But what can we learn from libraries in the 70s & 80s? That TOP Management matters. Eighty-five public libraries participated in this extensive study. Given the narrow focus of the organization type we can get an especially clear picture of the results. High performing libraries had significantly less "lag" than did low performing libraries. That is, the administrative and technical innovations went more hand-in-hand in the high performing libraries than in the low ones. Damanpour and Evan give us further insights into the relationship between technical and administrative innovations:
Although the importance of technical innovations cannot be underestimated, the impact of administrative innovations in preparing organizations for new technical changes is all to often underappreciated.... Administrative innovations can change an organization's climate, communication, interdepartmental relations, personnel policies, and so on. In turn, they provide new opportunities for the initiation and adoption of innovations in the technical system.
Does your organization have lag? Have you seen examples where technology is implemented as a silver bullet, and then organizational practice change follows only when the expected benefits aren't realized? If your organization doesn't experience lag -- how do you avoid it?