Influence of Organizational Defensive Actions on the Learning of Information and Communication Technology: An Attitude Study in Hong Kong

By Yau, Hon Keung; Cheng, Alison Lai Fong | International Journal of Management, December 2010 | Go to article overview
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Influence of Organizational Defensive Actions on the Learning of Information and Communication Technology: An Attitude Study in Hong Kong


Yau, Hon Keung, Cheng, Alison Lai Fong, International Journal of Management


The adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) can improve the organizations' competitive advantage. Learning of ICT is also essential for organizational survival. However, organizational defensive patterns, including skilled incompetence, organizational defensive routines and fancy footwork, hinder the high level learning in all organizations. This paper investigated the influence of organizational defensive patterns by means of an attitude survey of 200 engineering employees at two different Hong Kong transport companies. Each employee completed a short attitude scale which asked them to indicate the influence of three defensive actions (skilled incompetence, organizational defensive routines, and fancy footwork) on the learning of information and communication technology (ICT) in their respective organizations, in terms of whether the particular defensive action had a 'major' (4) 'moderate' (3) 'minor' (2) or 'no' (1) influence. The three mean scores (each just below 3.0) suggest that the employees felt that each action had a moderate influence on the learning of ICT. The findings show that the engineering staff in two transport corporations have the same perception of influence of skilled incompetence, defensive routines and fancy footwork on learning of ICT. The findings also indicate that skilled incompetence, defensive routines and fancy footwork are positively associated with each other in two transport corporations.

Introduction

In a rapid changing environment, organizations are under pressure to find new solutions which will maintain future competitiveness (Probst and Büchel, 1997). The adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) can improve efficiency of business process (Farrell, 2003) and the competitive advantage of an organization (King and Teo, 1996). In addition, learning quickly is the key to success in organizations (Govindarajan and Trimble, 2004) and learning at all levels is essential for organizational survival (Casey, 2005). However, organizational defensive patterns are generic to all human organizations (Argyris, 1990) and they include three mechanisms: skilled incompetence, defensive routines and fancy footwork (Argyris, 1990; Probst and Büchel, 1997). Although change is naturally resisted in all organizations (Godkin, 2008), the adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) can assist in overcoming that resistance if implemented properly organization by opening communication channels and enhancing information stocks and flows (Sammut-Bonnii and McGee, 2002; Prasad et al., 2001; Sorensen and Lundh-Snis, 2001; Smith and Blanck, 2002; Vera and Crossan, 2003). In this paper we present an in-depth quantitative case study of two Hong Kong transport companies where those companies adopted new ICT from other companies.

In this study, two transport corporations in Hong Kong, denoted as Company 1 and Company 2, were studied. As Company 1 and Company 2 tended to acquire new information and telecommunication technologies from other companies rather than to develop their own technologies, staff had to take seriously the job of continually initiating and adjusting to change (Huy and Mintzberg, 2003). In two companies, the engineering staff needed to learn the new ICT in order to maintain their daily maintenance jobs. However, the organizational defensive patterns would impede those staff to learn the new technologies from other companies. The purpose of my research is to investigate the perceptions of the influence of organizational defensive patterns on the learning of ICT in the engineering groups. Specifically, this study addresses the following questions: (1) Did the engineering staff in two transport companies have same perception of influence of the organizational defensive patterns on learning of ICT? (2) Did skilled incompetence, organizational defensive routines and fancy footwork coexist and reinforce each other in two transport companies?

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