Have you ever been in a situation, where you were completely convinced and enthusiastic about “something”? A “something” that would solve multiple problems at once leading to overall improvements and profits that everybody would benefit from. A “something” where the necessity was crystal clear to you and was supported by valid arguments and profound research that supported all your assumptions scientifically. A solution that all stakeholders would benefit from as soon as everybody was on board. There was no doubt that you will receive endless glory and a life-size statue of yourself for your inspiring and world-changing solution. You first introduce your “something” to a friend… “Yes, great… you should absolutely do that”. Then, you explain to your peers…“Hmmm… but this “something” would interrupt another already existing “something” (actually a “something” the peers had once received a live-size statue for) which still works fine after several years and, unfortunately, you need to realize that a third “something” already needs our full attention at the moment; and, by the way, Mr. Somebody (a very important somebody you never met) once said something about that this kind of “something” you mention does not work”.
Still interested in managing change? It is a rough road with twists and turns; full of emotions and challenges, but crucial for building up organizations and necessary when learning about how organizational development works (or does not work).
Organizations face serious challenges when implementing change on a large scale in complex environments. As a precondition, Change Management (CM) requires thorough planning and an execution attitude that consists of positivity and endurance, especially, within organizational development that is closely intertwined with CM. Change within organizations starts with diverse initiatives to enforce strategical, tactical, and operative measures to achieve the desired change goals. In cost-driven markets, organizations often express their change intentions, but they also need to mobilize dedicated and shared resources to conduct the change successfully (Beer and Nohria 2000; Creasey 2016).
A very prominent example of organizational development and organizational change is illustrated by the approach of Atos with their target of abolishing email from internal communication.
“We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives. At Atos we are taking action now to reverse this trend, just as organisations took measures to reduce environmental pollution after the industrial revolution”—Thierry Breton, 2011 (Atos 2017b).
With this statement, Atos Chairman and CEO Thierry Breton announced the so-called Zero Email initiative in 2011 with the ambitious goal of eliminating all internal emails at Atos within the next 3 years (Atos 2013).
Atos introduced an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) as the central element of this profound organizational change target. ESNs are social platforms that support knowledge workers to communicate with colleagues, to identify potential communication partners, to create, publish, or edit their own contributions, and also to access content created by other users (boyd and Ellison 2007; Leonardi et al. 2013). Thereby, users are required to take an active and open part within the ESN by sharing their thoughts, knowledge, and capabilities (e.g., in discussions or by voicing criticism). The existence of personalized user profiles is a key characteristic of ESNs. These profiles link authors to content and label ESNs as social platforms (boyd and Ellison 2007).
ESNs evolvement can be traced back to the need of organizations to efficiently create, develop, and distribute business relevant information within today’s dynamic, decentralized, virtual, and project-driven work environments (Strother et al. 2012). Especially, as most information and communication solutions today (email, intranet, wiki, instant messaging…) rather lead to information overload than to efficient processing of business relevant information (Verdot et al. 2011; Sobotta and Hummel 2015). Socio-technical solutions, such as ESNs, are discussed to increase the flexibility and the effectiveness of communication and collaboration in organizations to the necessary level (Moser et al. 2002).
ESNs determine the productivity improvement of knowledge workers compared to existent technological solutions (mostly email) today (Treem and Leonardi 2013). ESNs receive increasing attention and are widely used especially in multinational organizations (Ellison et al. 2015; Leonardi et al. 2013). Business analysts found out that “companies could raise the productivity of knowledge workers by 20–25%” with the use of ESNs (Bughin et al. 2012).
However, even if ESNs are introduced in organizations, the value of their contributions seems unclear and 80% of projects do not fulfill expectations (Mann et al. 2012). The typical ROI of any social technology becomes positive when 15–25% of employees use such technology extensively and companies should not assume that “If we build it, they will come” (Bughin 2013).
“Atos SE (Societas Europaea) is a leader in digital transformation with circa 100,000 employees in 72 countries and pro forma annual revenue of circa €12 billion. Serving a global client base, the group is the European leader in big data, cybersecurity, and digital workplace, and provides cloud services, infrastructure and data management, business and platform solutions, as well as transactional services through Worldline, the European leader in the payment industry” (Atos 2016, p. 4). Furthermore, Atos owns several sub-brands, such as Worldline, Unify, or Atos Codex. As a leading information technology services company, Atos focuses on business technology that powers progress and helps organizations to form their future (Atos 2017a).
This teaching case depicts how Atos coordinated and managed two large change processes to adapt their organizational speed to the fast digital working pace in today’s markets. This case is based on the data of seven expert interviews with key stakeholders (change manager, product owner, and change agents) of the introduced changes as well as company documentation and official product descriptions. It profoundly outlines all the complex and energetic factors of Change Management. The power of Change Management to construct and deconstruct opportunities for organizational development is thereby emphasized. In lively discussions and debates, you are invited to learn more about factors of good Change Management and to experience the challenging dilemmas and hurdles that need to be solved throughout the Change Management process.