Eyes Wide Open: Stability, Change and Network Enabling Technology
How can a large organisation, deeply rooted in tradition, order, and control, purposefully embrace change? Add to this eternal test the complexity of rapidly evolving technology and the challenges compound. The ability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to master the technologies associated with network-centric warfare (NCW) will largely shape its destiny. The implementation of NCW cuts deep, right to the organisational, social and cultural roots that underpin the entire Defence organisation.
NCW technologies seek to deliver greater connectivity and appear to smooth the way for a more fluid and ‘self-synchronised' force. Yet technological change is ecological: it reshapes the environment, producing a range of consequences, some predicted, others unexpected. NCW offers greater connectivity and information sharing, but comes at the price of increased complexity and demand upon individual soldiers. Consequently, there is a growing need within the ADF for a more adaptable, versatile and flexible individual. The individual, however, may be the wrong place for ADF leaders to begin to understand the demands of network-enabling technology—the organisation itself needs to learn, remember and adapt.
The Department of Defence often treats strategy, technology and organisational change as discrete activities, blinded to the interplay and feedback of these factors. Increasing connectivity within the force will end this managerial fallacy. In order to master NCW, Defence leaders need a deeper understanding of technology and change.
The first part of this paper provides a basis for understanding the philosophy of technology, in particular its social dynamics. The second part explores the social complexity of technology-driven decisions. It offers an insight into the influences that shape decisions about technology and change. This paper concludes that Defence leaders can reduce the risks of implementing NCW if they approach technology with their ‘eyes wide open'.