The Manager's Toolkit -- Information Technology

We Are In Evolution Rather Than Revolution

Introduction... Mgrs. Meditations... Vision... Skills... ToolKit Ideas...
Process Language... Project Management... Thoughts on Deming...
Job Descriptions

Copyright Lark Ritchie 1995. 1996.

A manager’s toolkit can contain more than tools and technique; it can contain ideas. Consider adding these thoughts to yours.

Things are changing. They always have, and I assume they most always will. We’ve had the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and are in the computer revolution. In the Information Technology (IT) arena, we speak of the information revolution.

Is what history presents us truly a revolution, or is it been unfairly mislabeled as such because of the paradigm we hold?

Revolution implies revolt, usually of a violent nature, and usually as a result of some undesirable state of affairs – an offensive action, or a renouncing of an allegiance. Is this what we truly mean by an agricultural, industrial or computer revolution? Or, more to fact, is what we have seen more akin to evolution?

Evolution is a process of change in a certain direction, continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state. Certainly the move from the prehistoric hunter-gatherer existence to that of today’s better living through technology state is preferred by the majority. Not many of us would feel comfortable charged with the task of finding tonight’s dinner armed only with a rock and a three foot stick.

We have evolved - there was no revolt, no violence, no offensive. Only continuous improvement towards a better state.

So to with our social, civil, and business organizational systems; or at least those are what we hope to achieve. It is our hope, our dream, and our achievable future. And we pursue those targets with the belief that these are far better things than those we had.

Our state has been evolving since the days of the slime mold, and it evolves still. We are entering a new stage of evolution, and because this new stage has many unknowns, we are somewhat apprehensive.

Toffler, author of Future Shock, and The Third Wave, illustrates these ideas quite well with an analogy of waves, a more gentler approach than that of revolution. He envisioned the future from his 1970’s and 1980’s vantage point quite accurately. Read him again; the scenarios he describes are with us today; new technologies, new forms of organizations, new working orders, and with the changes, a certain confusion.

We hear of downsizing, restructuring, re-engineering, new paradigms, and new solutions. And because we are experiencing these changes at what we consider a rapid rate, we feel uncomfortable. We don’t like it.

But in this constant change, there are the seeds of improvement: we recognize and reap the benefits of this uncomfortable change. New jobs and opportunities abound; not in the old ways, but in the new ways. Jobs are becoming interesting, dynamic and exciting. Our children, properly prepared, have such unimaginable futures! And it is to them, and our younger brethren to whom we look with some quiet envy.

In the IT arena, the turmoil is gradually settling, even as the new frontiers are unfolding in their apparent chaos.

A objective look at business process as supported by IT discovers a quieting in the data processing applications. Payroll systems are becoming commodities; so to are, accounting, and invoicing systems.

Materials management systems are soon to follow, and after them, maintenance systems, and process control systems. The dust is settling, the alternatives are being minimized; the best are surviving. We experience a slow, progressive evolution, and with some order and pattern. And what we perceived as chaos; and in looking back from the fifties to the nineties, in those application areas, in hindsight, we see that we have survived. We are different now, but we have survived and have adapted. We have evolved.

The new frontiers seem to be the Internet, video games, virtual reality, and quietly in the background, new forms of business systems and facilities; we are evolving, and we improve.

For entrepreneur and manager, the new ways are intriguing. Managing with IT moves to a realm of possibility, and in that realm lies the seeds of a new way of working with people, organizations, processes, and projects for improvement and effectiveness. I predict we’ll make it.

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