At Vista Elementary School, classrooms look and operate differently from traditional classrooms. Each classroom has five computer terminals for students and a teacher workstation. Students spend fifteen minutes to an hour a day at the terminals, depending on need. They receive customized reading, math, and writing instruction, which is delivered over a computer network through a technology called Integrated Learning Systems (ILS). The system provides corrective feedback loops when students have difficulty with particular skills and collects data on each student’s progress. The rest of the time, students work individually or in small groups and, for a small part of the day, in the large group. Teachers spend much time coaching individual students, analyzing assessment results against expected outcomes, and prescribing new instructional sequences for students. The technology-mediated instructional system demands much more planning and assessment work on the teacher’s part than traditional teaching does. The teacher stands in front of the whole class only a small part of the time.
Across town, the Valley School also has an integrated learning system, but it is set up in a laboratory classroom managed by an aide. Students from all of the grades come twice weekly for basic skills instruction that is separate from their normal classroom activities, just as they go to music and art classes.
Vista is getting good results (productivity increases); Valley is not.1 Most schools use the ILS technology as Valley School does. They graft it onto their normal routines without changing classroom organization or instructional processes, and they don’t get good results.
Like these schools, many organizations are tempted to use new information technology (IT) to solve some of their most difficult problems. Some organizations are successful in their implementation efforts; many are not.
The emerging literature on change management provides many useful ideas for making the complex changes enabled by IT. As most managers realize, new technology is not enough to increase productivity. Organizational and process changes must also be made. Vista School, for example, changed its values to emphasize outcomes rather than inputs and changed teaching and learning processes dramatically.
In this article, we integrate models from the change management literature into a set of principles for managing an IT-enabled change effort. The paper has evolved from our teaching and consulting experiences.