Saturday, March 13, 2010

Frequent Frustrations of IS Professionals in Making IS Plans

(Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USeP-IC Web Forum - Assignment 3: What are the two most frequently experienced causes of frustrations of IS professionals and users while working on an IS plan?)
IS people deal with various challenges especially when things are not going as they are planned to be. For how many times we have been stressing that a strategic plan is essential to the success of any business. Implementing it will determine how successful business can be – and this is through having clear vision, clear objectives and how to get them, and of course, clear communication tactics.

In the making and working of an information system plan, there are a lot of scenario where IS professionals find trouble in dealing not with the subject of matter but the people who are actually working with the planning process. Some superiors and subordinates and colleagues provide valid reasons why they are also treated as causes of frustrations. Frustration is an emotion that occurs in situations where a person is blocked from reaching a desired outcome. Frustration is experienced whenever the results (goals) you are expecting do not seem to fit the effort and action you are applying. Frustration will occur whenever your actions are producing less and fewer results than you think they should. Common responses to frustrations include anger, giving up, stress, depression, and other reactions. Although this is one psychological aspect, this will surely have an effect especially in doing something of high value and complexity like information systems planning. If this would not be further addressed appropriately, chances are harmonious relationships and working conditions with the human resources (these are most likely be affected), would result in failed information system plans.

When we had our industry visit last January 8, 2010 at the EMCOR Inc., Bajada, Davao City, we were given the chance to discuss with the Management Information System (MIS) Department Manager and Assistant Manager, several points regarding strategic information system planning. According to them, well, in their case, the common causes of frustration of IS professionals and users are the following: resistance to change, and the unfair treatment of employer to employees (and/or vice versa) or shall I say, underestimation of workers.

Change is inevitable. As they say, nothing is permanent in this world except change. True enough, in the corporate world, business can not survive for long without progress if the management does not learn how to embrace change in the organization. In these cases of unforeseen patterns of diversion, management must know how to make strategic decisions which can make benefits for the company in spite of slight and considerable modifications in long or short term plans being arranged. Strategic information system (IS) plans do represent a big role in this. It is significantly made for the organization to develop approaches and manage decisions necessary for the firm.

However, in the event of organizational changes there are also ups and downs. The purpose of operating new concepts and plans may be to venture into another level or scope of business, but this could be a major factor why systems fail. And one of the common reasons is, because the employees of your company are resistant to changes.

Resistance, as viewed by Folger & Skarlicki (1999), is an "employee behavior that seeks to challenge, disrupt, or invert prevailing assumptions, discourses, and power relations". Resistance to change is the action taken by individuals and groups when they perceive that a change that is occurring as a threat to them. Key words here are 'perceive' and 'threat'. The threat need not be real or large for resistance to occur. In its usual description it refers to change within organizations, although it also is found elsewhere in other forms. Resistance is the equivalent of objections in sales and disagreement in general discussions. Resistance may take many forms, including active or passive, overt or covert, individual or organized, aggressive or timid (

Our interviewees cited an experience when their company fell short because of the workers’ resistance to change. They mentioned that they had two pilot stores in which its operations failed due to the aforementioned reason. “When you do something new, it should be beneficial…” (The bosses did not mention the details of the unsuccessful incident and I dared not to ask them anything about it thinking it could be something confidential…^_^)

Reflecting on their case, I can barely say that this major factor although passively being regarded by many firms can seriously take down a company indirectly. EMCOR actually introduced a new strategy into their two pilot stores and yet the benefits are just overruled by workers who thought they could not get the full advantage of it. So to say, when there is something new, it should be studied well and have to make sure that it would both benefit the customers, the company, as well as the workforce.

Vadim Kotelnikov, founder and author of Ten3 Business eCoach from which I gathered some helpful facts about change management, enumerated the following main reasons in resistance to change in the workplace:

Fear of the unknown. Workers may feel hesitant of the new change that will happen for they do not know what may take place next. Sometimes, refusing to go along with it will reduce anxiety.

Fear of failure. In the current situation, employees may have already found or developed the skills and abilities their work required. But thinking about the change, they might be afraid to accept it for fear that it may call for new skills and abilities that they may not be able to give.

Disagreement with the need for change. This is true in the case of managers and associates. They may argue with each other that the new direction is a wrong direction.

Losing something of value. Workers sometimes determine how they would become in the future when the change will be implemented. They tend to weigh down things circumstances and as to how they will be affected. If they think they will end up losing, they will resist the change.

Leaving a comfort zone. A lot of times we tend to be scared of what awaits us in the upcoming times especially if a change requires us to leave our comfort zones. Maybe in the future if the changes will take effect it would force us to take risks.

False beliefs. Employees sometimes tend to believe into false beliefs that someday everything will work out fine that is why they avoid taking the risks that may be brought by the change and continue working their easy way.

Misunderstanding and lack of trust. In this case, the employer-employee relationship takes deep concern. When workers do not fully know and understand the proposition of the change, they may perceive that it will cost them more than they can gain. This is also true if workers do not have enough trust with their employer or the one initiating the change.

Moreover, there are some key points and common things people tell themselves justifying their actions in resisting change. Most people want to stay where they are because they think their needs are already met in the workplace or the situation where they are currently in; that they have invested heavily there, and/or they think they are in the middle of something important. A lot of times employees do not want to change because they think the destination looks worse than where they currently are; there is nothing that attracts them forward; they do not know which way to move; the journey looks painful or somehow bad or wrong; and they do not trust those who are asking them to change. People also tend to refuse to change and say to themselves that they are not going to change because they think they are able to ignore the change and have the power to obstruct it.

There are early signs of resistance one might find out especially when a change is being introduced. You would probably hear some gossips and grumbling or complaints which may be on the way to attempts for organizing resistance. They could also test the management on what happens when they resist change like not turning up to a meeting or openly challenge a decision.

Resistance may also be in cases of individual or collective action. Individually, people who have lower or lesser power can take passive refusals or action while those with more power could challenge and even criticize.

The visibility of resistance may be covert or overt. Covert resistance is being done in a manner as if workers are not resisting while overt resistance does not try to hide so they could take forms as open argument, refusal or attack.

Activity of resistance may also take in passive or active form. Passive resistance occurs where people do not take specific actions like sitting in the meeting and may appear to agree with the change. On the other hand, active resistance occurs where people are taking specific and deliberate action to resist the change. It may be overt, with such as public statements and acts of resistance, and it may be covert, such as mobilizing others to create an underground resistance movement.

Resistance should at least be addressed so not to make frustrations on the persons involved. There are various ways in which resistance can be dealt with. has identified these several steps to handle resistance:

Facilitation. Basically, this approach is the safe way to deal with your resisting workers, I could say. In this type of handling resistance, the management is making steps to work with the workers in such a way that the employees feel that they are achieving their goals that somehow also reach the goals of the project. As we know, unwilling or opposing workers think that they are exerting much effort just to adjust with the new project and this might change the usual and comfortable way they are working in the environment they have used to. Collaborating with them might help a lot since when workers feel that you are working with them, they will be happy to be working with you.

Education. Well, workers sometimes react violently (or less) when they think of something else as a consequence of the sudden change that you will impose. But they may end up supporting or coming around if they have a good knowledge and clear understanding why there is a need for a change. They might also realize the urgency of the change if they know what is that for and what is needed of them. Typically, educating them will help in eliminating doubts and fears that people have at the back of their minds.

Involvement. In whichever job you will be doing, it could best be done if your heart is at it. Similarly, workers need to feel the sense of being engaged in their work not just physically and mentally or intellectually but also emotionally. It is difficult for people to persuade them to get to work if they do not do it heartily. Getting them involved is one of the best methods to bring them in. somehow they need to justify their involvement to themselves and convince themselves that it is the best thing to do.

Negotiation. Well, this kind of dealing with resistance is something which can be done by the management when the other persons are hard to be convinced or persuaded. This may be made by sitting with the unwilling party, talk with them, and ask them what they really are looking for. Management should find out what they want and what they will never accept. Perhaps, after determining these, you can work out a possible solution which is agreed mutually, of course, and works just for them and just for you.

Manipulation. This may be a harsher kind of pace in coping with resistance. Manipulation is controlling a person’s environment such that they are shaped by what is around them. This can only be a considerable thing to do when it is necessary to change in the short term and you have tried all other possible solutions. Manipulation approach is morally questionable and might lead to a dangerous backslash if the workers sense what you are doing. Better think before acting.

Coercion. An even more intense approach than manipulation, coercion (overt) forces the opposing workers to give in. An example is that, when you sit them down and make overt (or publicly open) threats, such as if they do not abide by or conform to what they should do they will lose their jobs, possibly in a humiliating and public sacking. However, this approach should only be done when speed is of the essence or when the persons themselves have taken to public and damaging actions.

Another major cause of frustration that our interviewers identified is more on the employer - employee relationship. They said that employees are also highly aware of how they are being treated by their bosses. Definitely, workers do not like that they are being treated small even by their co-workers.

There are cases when employees have nothing to do in particular at some point in time in the office. But even if they are just sitting and appear like doing nothing, they are being paid because they are working. It does not necessarily mean that if they are not doing any work they should be treated like they are not useful. There may be times when a pilot store needs somebody in a particular job and it happens that no one in the office is available for that job, the store can request for assistance from other branches that has a worker who is available to get the job done. So we can see here that a certain employee has significance. Every person’s job has a purpose.

In view of this, our interviewee mentioned the three (3) A’s of social needs of human. (Actually when I researched about it there were five, but I assume our interviewee had just pointed out three applicable aspects: achievement, acceptance, and affection. (The other A’s I have searched and are not mentioned are attention, appreciation, and allowing.) In the company, employees feel good when they are being recognized in their accomplishments. No matter how small or insignificant may it be to the one who said it, but oftentimes words or acts of salute can give heartwarming effects to the workers. Humans feel the need for acknowledgment of their achievements. People also need to be accepted in all their efforts. Acceptance is vital in that, workers would feel disappointed or rejected if their efforts are not accepted in a way by their boss or their co-employees. Affection also plays a great part. Harmonious relationships with the team leaders, supervisors, and co-workers would help make a better environment thus reinforcing the production. Friendliness and fondness of your colleagues would make you happy, right? It would make you feel at ease and comfortable in the office that you are liked by other people.

Employees in our interviewed company also had some share of experiences regarding this. There are some workers who felt bad because they thought their other officemates were paid with higher salary rate. They also felt unhappy when they receive no employee incentives and get jealous on those which are provided with incentives. Actually, workers are not that so hard to please. Even key chains or small tokens given or rewarded as gifts would make them any better. It would make them think that they are special and that their presence and/or efforts, no matter how big or small, are being valued. The company also holds trips which may be avenues for the employees to get along together, have bonding, and be with other colleagues in other places out from the workplace. This will promote a congenial affiliation and camaraderie between associates.

I have researched on the internet about certain things regarding employer – employee relationships. This also includes the concerns of the employees’ self-worth in the company on their jobs. Actually, the employees do not want to be looked down hence, superior – subordinate relationships should be well taken care of especially by the management. This is where we can measure also the interpersonal bonds of the workers. As there are individual differences among workers, management should also anticipate different reactions whenever cases like this (when workers react to the way they are being treated or looked down) happen.

Here is an interesting piece from a column I found in a blog… In strategic planning, a very crucial phase is the implementation of the overall strategy of the business, bringing the vision to reality. And one of the keys is to communicate with the plan to the entire organization. E-myth Business Coach says, “If an objective is to be reached and the strategic plan carried out for reaching that objective, then someone has to ‘be in charge’ and everyone needs to know the ‘game plan’.” The bulk of the leadership role in many small businesses falls upon the owner or owners. The bottom line, whether it is the owner, a manager, or a key employee, is this: someone must take the reins for seeing the strategic plan through to completion. And a large part of the accountability for that leader is implementing and orchestrating effective communications with everyone involved. Having a communications strategy is essential for the successful implementation of a strategic plan and the subsequent tactical plans.

A lot of times that information systems strategic planning do not fall into its excellent accomplishment because of some problems in miscommunication between bosses and workers and/or employers to employees relationships. Leadership and communication plays a substantial role in this part. As stated, a successful organization is one characterized by effective teamwork, and leadership rather than management.

In this scenario, the common causes as being pointed out in our industrial analysis are most likely focused on the human resources side particularly with regards to communication and relationships in work. Organizations are realizing the importance of developing teams that can work in coordinated and efficient manner in which they are also capable being involved with IS planning and laying out the plot for a more successful strategic plan for the business.

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My acknowledgment to the following resources for my references: study study study

Frustration is an Outcome Of Persistent Emotional Imbalance

Dr. Vince Berger. Frustration Psychologist: Personalized Therapy, Counseling and Coaching

Resistance To Change: Understanding and Overcoming Human and Organizational Barriers
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Albert F. Bolognese, Ed. D. 2002. Employee Resistance to Organizational Change, Winthrop University

Signs of Resistance, Changing

Dealing With Resistance, Changing
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Rationale For Resistance, Changing

Resistance To Change, Changing
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Nicolai Group, P.C. Employer-Employee Relationships, Starting Your Business: Legal Considerations

Miles, S. & Bennett, N. The Changing Employer-Employee Relationship. Businessweek
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Managing Your Boss.

lol! lol! lol!

Friday, March 12, 2010


Why does the day seem so silent yet boring? There is none even a slight ounce of energy I could feel within my reach. Sigh... But all I can think, or should I say, all I have, must, and need to think now are dozens of homeworks and projects that are yet to be done before the semester ends. Whew. Will somebody give me peace of mind? I've been yearning for a week of vacation - bowling? Movie marathon? Music rehearsals? Or just plain relaxing on the couch watching T.V. even though it doesn't seem like of any interest to me. Or maybe I could continue reading the books and review the pieces that I have been putting off for weeks. Haaisst... Looking forward for vacation is just simply motivating.