The imperatives on contemporary organizations to adapt to an uncertain and turbulent environment are intense. Resilience refers to the ability to cope with change through a continuous process of renewal. The pace of change is at least as great in the public as the private sector, with technology being integral to the UK government’s modernization agenda. This represents a stiff challenge for the traditional, technically oriented IT department. Here we recount the history of one such department in a local government institution as it sought to reinvent itself to respond to these new demands. The development of an IS methodology, embodying a business and customer-centered approach, was seen as key to generating the required capacity to support strategic change in the wider organization. Although methodological innovation can be problematic, here it was brought off successfully. This was attributed to several factors, including the adoption of a participative action research approach and the commitment of senior IT management. Above all, the sense of crisis prevailing at the outset of the initiative was decisive. Crises present a major challenge to organizational sense-making; here the impending threat was interpreted positively as a proactive opportunity to develop a new strategic identity. A resilient “discourse of renewal” was kindled, with the need to build new technical capabilities through methodological innovation playing a central part.


Organizational resilience public sector modernization methodological innovation action research discourse of renewal organizational crisis micro-politics 


  1. Avison, D., Wood-Harper, A., Vidgen R. T., and Wood, J. R. G. “A Further Exploration in to Information Systems Development: The Evolution of Multiview 2,” Information Technology & People (11), 2998, pp. 124–139Google Scholar
  2. Barnett, C. K., and Pratt, M. “From Threat-Rigidity to Flexibility: Toward a Learning Model of Autogenic Crisis on Organizations,” Journal of Organizational Change (13), 2000, pp. 74–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baskerville, R., and Wood-Harper, A. T. “Diversity of Information Systems Action Research Methods,” European Journal of Information Systems (7), 1998, pp. 90–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bass, B. M. Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations, New York: Free Press, 1985.Google Scholar
  5. Boyne, G., Day P., and Walker R. “The Evaluation of Public Service Inspection: A Theoretical Framework,” Urban Studies (39), 2002, pp. 1197–1212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Borins, S. “Leadership and Innovation in the Public Sector,” Learning and Organizational Development Journal (23), 2002, pp. 467–476Google Scholar
  7. Cabinet Office. “Modernising Government,” Stationary Office, Great Britain, 1999.Google Scholar
  8. Cabinet Office. “Transformation Government Enabled by Technology,” Norwich, UK: HMSO, 2005.Google Scholar
  9. City of Salford. “People Not Technology,” Internal Policy Paper, Salford City Council, 1999.Google Scholar
  10. Davenport, T. Process Innovation: Reengineering Work Through Information Technology, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1992.Google Scholar
  11. Davis, F. D., Bagozzi, R., and Warshaw, P. “User Acceptance of Technology: A Comparison of Two Theoretical Models,” Management Science (35), 1989, pp. 35, 982–1003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davison, R. “GSS and Action Research in the Hong Kong Police,” Information Technology & People (14), 2001, pp. 60–77.Google Scholar
  13. Fitzgerald, B. “An Empirical Investigation into the Adoption of Systems Development Methodologies,” Information and Management (34), 1998, pp. 317–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fitzgerald, B., Russo, N., and Stolterman, E. Information Systems Development: Methods in Action, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.Google Scholar
  15. Gersick, C. “Revolutionary Change Theories: A Multi-Level Exploration of the Punctuated Equilibrium Paradigm,” Academy of Management Review (16), 1991, pp. 10–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Greenwood, D. J., and Levin, M. Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change, London: Sage Publications, 1998.Google Scholar
  17. Hammer, M. “Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 1990, pp. 104–112.Google Scholar
  18. Hardgrave, B. C, Davis, F., and Riemenschneider, C. K. “Investigating Determinants of Software Developers’ Intentions to Follow Methodologies,” Journal of Management Information Systems (20), 2003, pp. 123–151.Google Scholar
  19. Huisman, M., and Iivari, J. “Deployment of Systems Development Methodologies: Perceptual Congruence between IS Managers and Systems Developers,” Information and Management (43), 2006, pp. 29–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hyde, L. Trickster Makes this World, New York: North Point Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  21. Iivari, J. “Why Are CASE Tools Not Used?,” Communications of the ACM (39), 1996, pp. 94–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kautz, K., Kawalek, P., Willets, M., McMaster, T. Wastell, D., and Williams, C. “Using CASE to Enhance Service Performance in a Local Authority: The CAPELLA Project,” in Proceedings of the of International Conference on Product Focused Software Process, Improvement (PROFES99), Oulu, Finland, 1999.Google Scholar
  23. Kautz, K., and McMaster, T. “the Failure to Introduce System Development Methods: A Factor-Based Analysis,” in L. Levine (ed.), Diffusion, Transfer and Implementation of Information Technology, Amsterdam: Elsevier/North-Holland, 1994, pp. 275–287.Google Scholar
  24. Kautz, K., and Nielsen, P. A. “Understanding the Implementation of Software Process Improvement Innovations in Software Organizations,” Information Systems Journal (14), 2004, pp. 14, 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kawalek, P., and Wastell, D. “Pursuing Radical Transformation in Information Age Government: Case Studies Using the SPRINT Methodology,” Journal of Global Information Management (13), 2005, pp. 79–101.Google Scholar
  26. Kovoor-Misra, S., Clair, J. A., and Bettenhausen, K. L. “Clarifying the Attributes of Organizational Crises,” Technology Forecasting and Social Change (7), 2001, pp. 77–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Latour, B. Science in Action, Boston: Harvard Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  28. Laudon, J., and Laudon, K. Management Information Systems, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2005.MATHGoogle Scholar
  29. Lunblad, J. “A Review and Critique of Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Theory as it Applies to Organizations,” Organizational Development Journal (21), 2003, pp. 50–64.Google Scholar
  30. Macintosh, R. “BPR: Alive and Well in the Public Sector,” International Journal of Operations and Production Management (23), 2003, pp. 327–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mathiassen, L. “Collaborative Practice Research,” Information Technology & People (15), 2002, pp. 321–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McMaster, T., and Wastell, D. G. “Diffusion or Delusion? Challenging an IS Research Tradition,” Information Technology & People (18), 2005, pp. 383–404.Google Scholar
  33. McMaster, T., and Wastell, D. G. “Success and Failure Revisited in the Implementation of New Technology: Some Reflections on the CAPELLA Project,” in B. Fitzgerald and E. H. Wynn (eds.), Innovation for Adaptability and Competitiveness, Boston: Kluwer, 2004, pp. 313–334.Google Scholar
  34. Meyer, A. D., Goes, J., and Brooks, G. R. “Organizations Reacting to Hyperturbulence,” in G. Huber and W. Glick (eds.), Organizational Change and Redesign, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1995, pp. 66–111.Google Scholar
  35. Mustonen-Ollila, E., and Lyytinen, K. “How Organizations Adopt Information System Process Innovations: A Longitudinal Analysis,” European Journal of Information Systems (13), 2003, pp. 35–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nandhakumar, J., and Avison, D. “The Fiction of Methodological Development: A Field Study of Information Systems Development,” Information Technology & People (12), 1999, pp. 176–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Orlikowski, W. “CASE Tools as Organizational Change: Investigating Incremental and Radical Changes in System Development,” MIS Quarterly (17), 1993, pp. 309–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rogers, E. M. The Diffusion of Innovations, New York: Free Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  39. Seeger, M. W., Ulmer, R. R., Novak, J. M., and Sellnow, T. “Post-Crisis Discourse and Organizational Change, Failure and Renewal,” Journal of Organizational Change (18), 2005, pp. 78–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Simon, S. J. “The Reorganization of the Information Systems of the US Naval Construction Forces: An Action Research Project,” European Journal of Information Systems (9), 2000, pp. 148–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Slatcher, A. “Redeveloping SPRING,” Internal Report, Salford City Council, 2002.Google Scholar
  42. Sullivan, H., and Skelcher, C. Working Across Boundaries: Collaboration in the Public Services, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.Google Scholar
  43. Templeton, G. F., and Byrd, T. A. “Determinants of the Relative Advantage of a Structured SDM during the Adoption Stage of Implementation,” Information Technology and Management (4), 2003, pp. 409–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Van der Ven, A. H. “Managing the Process of Organizational Innovation,” in G. Huber and W. Glick (eds.) Organizational Change and Redesign, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1995, pp. 269–294.Google Scholar
  45. Wastell, D. G. “The Fetish of Technique: Methodology as a Social Defense,” Information Systems Journal (6), 1996, pp. 25–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wastell, D. G. “Information Systems and Evidence-Based Policy in Multi-Agency Networks: The Micro-Political Contingencies of Situated Innovation,” Journal of Strategic Information Systems (15), 2006 (in press).Google Scholar
  47. Wastell, D. G. “Learning Dysfunctions in Information Systems Development: Overcoming the Social Defenses with Transitional Objects,” MS Quarterly (23), 1999, pp. 581–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wastell, D. G., and White, P. “Using Process Technology to Support Cooperative Work: Prospects and Design Issues,” in D. Diaper and C. Sanger (eds), CSCW in Practice, Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1993, pp. 105–126.Google Scholar
  49. Wastell, D. G., White, P., and Kawalek, P. “A Methodology for Business Process Redesign: Experiences and Issues,” Journal of Strategic Information Systems (3:1), 1994, pp. 23–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Weick, K. E. “Oganizational Redesign as Improvisation,” in G. Huber and W. Glick, Organizational Change and Redesign, New York: Oford University Press, 1995, pp. 346–379.Google Scholar
  51. Williams, C, and Willetts, M. “CAPELLA: CASE Tools for Process Enhancement in Local Authorities,” Final Report to the European Systems and Software Initiative (ESSI), Project Number 23832, 1999.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Federation for Information Processing 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Wastell
    • 1
  • Tom McMaster
    • 2
  • Peter Kawalek
    • 3
  1. 1.Nottingham University Business SchoolNottinghamUK
  2. 2.Information Systems InstituteUniversity of SalfordGreater ManchesterUK
  3. 3.Manchester Business SchoolManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations