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The fact that technology is dynamic and fast changing should not be a surprise to anyone.  As soon as a new technology or technology-based system has been implemented it is ready to be bypassed by newer and often better technology.  “digital first”, “everything on-demand”, “blockchain revolution”, “open by default”, “platform economics”, “datafication”, are some of the buzzwords currently used to generate momentum for the adoption of wide-scale technology-driven organizational transformation.  To what extent, though, will these ideas lead to real transformation in the way organizations actually function?  Today’s buzzwords are no different from other buzzwords in the previous eras.  They hold out the promise of radical transformation that fail to materialize in reality.  Organizations face a dilemma.  How can they keep up with this rapid churn of technology while ensuring that the prior investments made are delivering the value sought?  An equally important question is, how can they ensure that they don’t get left behind by some technological advance because they failed to recognize the importance and impact of the new technology or technological process?  Many IT and organizational leaders respond to the challenge of technological progress by chasing almost every new advance.  They are up-to-date with the latest shift in the technological landscape and can spout all the right buzzwords.  But this could lead executives and line managers to resorting to managing by sloganeering.

True transformation comes not from sloganeering but from doing the hard work of building organizations that are receptive of and responsive to new ideas and approaches.  The Luddites in England in the 1800s were given a bad rap for resisting technological change.  However, what they resisted more was bad management forcing new technology into the workplace without the concern for the overall well-being of those who would be affected by such massive changes.  The Saga continues today.  Executives are forcing technology-enabled change in organizations without regard for the social contract between those affected by the change and the organization. We seem to have learnt little about the social dynamics of organizations and how the develop, adapt, and grow.  Many years ago, Lynne Markus and Robert Benjamin wrote a paper entitled “The magic-bullet theory in IT-enabled transformation”[1]. In this theory, technology is viewed as a “magic bullet” that can solve entrenched organizational and institutional problems. People are seen as “sitting duck” targets which they clearly are not – they can dodge bullets!  To Markus and Benjamin, executives and line managers hold a variety of failure-promoting beliefs that depend on magic or luck.  They conclude that rather than believing in magic, executives and line managers must relentlessly focus on the messy and hard work of bringing about IT-enabled transformational change by getting everyone to move outside their individual silos to cross boundaries that will ensure that gaps in design or execution, when they develop, are covered by the active engagement of all parties.  If everyone only does the job they are assigned, transformation can only happen by magic or luck.  Digital transformation works when all hands are on deck. It requires intense collaboration and coordination, not just in words but in practice.[2] It is not “magic” but tough and sustained hard work.  Chasing the “technological wind” will only exhaust the human and financial capacity of the organization.

[1] Markus, M. L. and Benjamin, R. I. (1997) The Magic bullet theory in IT-enabled transformation, Sloan Management Review, accessed at

[2] Newton, R. (2017) Five ways to drive collaborative change in your organization, LSE Blogs  accessed at