Queen's University IRC

Research Briefs – May 2015

Queen's University IRC - Research Briefs

   Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners

May 2015   

 

 
 

In This Issue…

  1. Key Success Factors of Planned Change Projects
  2. Designing for Collaboration
  3. Flashback Feature:
    Relationships by Objectives: The Experience at Petro-Canada
 Queen's University Campus 
 

Key Success Factors of Planned Change Projects
Dr. Carol A. Beatty, Queen's IRC

The statistics about the implementation of change in organizations is dismal. For decades now, business writers from all walks of life have been bemoaning the large failure rate of change projects. For example, one study reported that 70 percent of critical change efforts fail to achieve their intended results.(1) Additionally, more executives are fired for mismanaging change than other reasons, such as ignoring customers.(2) The Gartner Group, reporting on IT change projects, stated that 28 percent were abandoned before completion, 46 percent were behind schedule or over budget, and 80 percent were not used in the way they were intended – or at all – six months after installation.(3) Too often change projects fail not because the ideas themselves were poor but because the implementations were flawed. Take the following case study as an example of the pitfalls that can doom the implementation of a new policy.

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Designing for Collaboration
Brenda Barker Scott, Queen's IRC Facilitator, 2014

Collaboration is emerging as a core organizational competence, and indeed an imperative, in today's interconnected work context. Despite the need, collaborative results often fall short of the intended ideals. A large body of research suggests that while collaboration may be necessary, it is not easy (Bryson, Crosby & Stone, Rhoten, 2003; 2006; Suddaby, Hardy, & Huy, 2011). Failed collaborative efforts have led academics to point to the many sources of collaborative inertia; organizational elements that act as barriers to collaboration. What if, instead of attempting to overcome elements of inertia, we shift our efforts to designing holistic systems that enable collaboration? Below, I argue that collaboration is a design challenge. To enable more fruitful collaboration in our organizations, we need to design for it.

If we are going to design our organizations to support collaboration, we need to know what it is. The term 'collaboration' has been adopted widely and used ubiquitously to describe multiple types of interactive forms, from simple communication, to cooperation, to full-fledged co-creation (Aboelela, Larson, Bakken, Carrasquillo, Formicola, Glied, Haas & Gebbie, 2007). Today, most academics agree that collaboration is more than communication or cooperation; it requires mutuality amongst the players, as well as joint engagement in a dynamic and evolving process, directed toward the achievement of a shared goal (Bedwell, Wildman, DiazGranados, Salzar, Kramer, and Salas, 2012). Often, deep learning exchanges amongst the players are required to facilitate the sharing and leveraging of expertise required to create novel insights (Pennington, 2008). Collaborative efforts can focus around a wide variety of outcomes including problem solving, innovation, process improvement, or enhanced quality. Those participating can take many forms including teams, networks, communities, alliances, and partnerships. Whatever the focus, collaborative efforts aim to achieve outcomes that cannot be achieved by the parties working on their own; an outcome referred to as collaborative advantage (Huxham & Vangen, 2005; Moss Kanter, 1994).

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Flashback Feature:
Relationships by Objectives: The Experience at Petro-Canada
Lydia Paulozza, 1999

If Canadian industries are to compete successfully in the new economy, unions and management must move away from their traditional adversarial relationships. This study analyzes a conflict resolution method, known as Relationships by Objectives (RBO), that directs unions and management away from conflict and towards cooperation through joint problem solving. RBO was part of the Preventive Mediation Program provided by the Ontario Ministry of Labour beginning in 1978. Although the Ontario government repealed this program in 1995, it continued to be offered in several provinces in Canada, and in the United States.

This study discusses the rationale for such programs and provides a comprehensive view of the process involved in a RBO program. The second half of the study examines the impact of RBO on the union-management relationship between the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 593, and Petro-Canada's Lubricants Centre in Mississauga, focusing on the short- and long-term impacts of the program. This case study includes extensive interviews with members of management and the union. Various industrial relations and economic indicators are also used to judge the effectiveness of the RBO program in promoting industrial peace.

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