Exploratory Research to Apply Leadership Theory to the Implementation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

By Johnson, Gary G.; Yip, Eliza | Journal of Management Information and Decision Sciences, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Exploratory Research to Apply Leadership Theory to the Implementation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)


Johnson, Gary G., Yip, Eliza, Journal of Management Information and Decision Sciences


INTRODUCTION

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) represents the next generation of supply chain management technology. An RFID system typically includes tags, tag readers, antenna, middleware, and application software, providing a much more efficient way to track, locate, and manage objects than bar coding. This technology presents certain risks to companies and the general public, such as consumer privacy invasion, lack of regulations and legislation on data sharing, system failures, loss of data, and tag or reader malfunction (Higgins and Cairney, 2006).

Company managers adopting, or planning to adopt, this innovative technology must decide upon a level of communication with current and potential investors and the general public. Common channels of communication include annual reports and website messages in the form of news releases. Researches have examined the role of company leaders in managing the risks associated with the adoption of innovative technologies, primarily through company performance. Company leaders take specific actions to facilitate innovations and exhibit specific behaviors to make possible the adoption in the face of external threats (Yuki and Lepsinger, 2006). According to Pfeffer (1981), language is one of the important elements in sharing beliefs and values.

The purpose of this paper is to apply leadership theory to how USA public companies communicate their involvement with RFID. For purposes of this paper RFID is identified as an innovative technology.

BACKGROUND--LEADERSHIP AND THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bar coding replaced the manual processing of inventory-related data collection and significantly reduced the time and increased the accuracy of the data entry process. This mature technology has been constantly compared to RFID because they both belong to the automatic identification (Auto ID) group. Certain features of bar coding still outperform RFID, yet RFID systems provide information that bar coding systems do not. Table 1 shows a comparison of bar coding and RFID (Brown, 2007, Murray, 2006, and Wyld, 2006).

Logistically, a RFID system can capture, integrate, and utilize data. Although data is not a physical component of the system, it is the most essential element. When a load of cargo passes through readers, tags attached to boxes respond to the signal broadcasted from the readers. The information captured by a reader forms a database. This database is then managed and filtered by the middleware to generate accurate, reliable, and timely information for later use in ordering, warehousing, and customer service.

In the competing values framework constructed by Quinn, et.al (2003), a successful leader at any level must be socially and skillfully competitive. The leader must be capable of foreseeing changes and always looking for innovative ways to make things better. He or she is also able to communicate their ideas to stakeholders effectively. If stakeholders cannot see the benefit of adopting the ideas, they may reject them when risks shield the potential advantages. These organizational leadership skills are also applicable in the internal organization context. RFID is an innovative technology. It is new and risky. Not many companies are willing to assume the risk of fully adopting the technology, even though the benefit is calculable, at least theoretically.

Quinn, et.al (2003) points out that a successful leader must also be an innovator who must be flexible, risk-taking, and able to respond to changes in the external environment. In this information technology century, technology innovations are vital to the growth and survival of companies. Although companies may survive in the short term without adopting the new technology, they will eventually lose. For example, because of the mandate of major retailers, many manufacturers fulfilled the requirement by adopting the "tag-and-ship" application method of RFID. Although it is the fastest way of putting RFID technology in place, the true benefits of RFID in the business process are not obtained. …

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Exploratory Research to Apply Leadership Theory to the Implementation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
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