Phase 4: Conservation

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Phase 4: Conservation

Adaptive Cycle - Conservation

As soon as the choices are made, one needs to pay attention to their operationalisation and improvement. In other words, one needs to produce order out of the urge to growth which prevailed until that moment. Once again, rationalization of processes, attention to efficiency and effectively become important, involving the regaining of bureaucratic structures, re-establishing routines that result in the organization is being able to end up in a new business-as-usual situation. It is a incremental transition to a new equilibrium. Completion of the selection process means reaching the quadrant of equilibrium in which everybody knows clearly what is going to happen and everybody sticks to the rules and norms and works on the success of the organization within limited demarcated frameworks. At that stage, solidarity reaches a peak again and the qualities in terms of potential of the remaining parties concerned are optimally utilized. The state of mind of the manager is changed from conviction regarding the choice for the future into confidence in the present. It is important to acknowledge that the business-as-usual situation thus achieved is not the same as the old one. And it is important to build up size, knowledge, power, capital and starting to make profit in order to move towards a new stable environment. Holling uses the term Conservation for this phase.

Role of Technology in the conservation phase

In this phase it is clear what has to be changed, so now it has to be implemented. In order to do this, technology can play a role in doing so. An implementation phase can be characterised by several pitfalls. In order to overcome or prevent these pitfalls, it is important to keep in mind that an implementation isn’t as easy as it looks. Looking at the past, implementations of systems has identified the following lessons:

  1. Define the business value- Identify what benefits the organization needs to get out of a system, and focus on these benefits throughout the implementation to ensure that they are achieved.
  2. Set up regular review measures- Establish metrics to measure how well the objectives of the system effort are being met.
  3. Do not underestimate the art of change management- Keep management and users well informed of changes, provide the necessary training and support throughout the transition and involve all stakeholders.
  4. Make sure that every vendor involved in the project has “skin in the game”. Every vendor should share in the risk of the venture; consider using the “fix time, fix price type of contract to ensure the effort is completed on time and within budget.
  5. Do not lose sight of the impact on the customer- The implementation should be transparent to the customer.
  6. Assign a high-level business manager to the project, adding credibility to the effort and forcing upper management to take ownership of the project.
  7. Engage the users throughout the process- Make sure they are aware of the progress of the implementation and upcoming changes.
  8. Avoid customization- This can be very costly both as a one time expense and whenever there are upgrades to the vendor software. However, there are times when customization is required because the software does not address some aspect of the user requirements.
  9. Ensure that the infrastructure can support the system, for example, the network should be built to support the web-access capabilities of a system.
  10. Outsource- This will target situations when the organization does not have a sufficient skill pool to support an implementation.
  11. Stick with a mainstream vendor- Using a vendor that may not be around in a few years is risky.
  12. Perform pilot implementations- This helps minimize risks associated with large implementations. This can also be linked to the role of technology in an experimentation phase.
  13. Be prepared for turmoil during the transition phase- The transition period can produce a stressful environment for managers and employees.
  14. Provide staff training and orientation- This training should not be the one-size-fits-all type; it must be customized for the particular environment. Trainers need to be familiar with the processes associated with the legacy system and understand how these processes map against the processes associated with the new system.

As the above experiences mentioned, employees play an important role in the success of an conservation phase (see bullet 2,5,6,7,13 and 14). In this phase it is extremely important to keep employees informed and involved in order to decrease uncertainty and resistance. By keeping employees informed, the focus of that communication should be on decreasing uncertainty and job insecurity, creating commitment for change and decrease resistance. Trust among employees and between employees and management will be created. Waddel and Sohal (1998)[1] argued that it is important to make sure communication is a two-way communication process. Involved employees should have the feeling that information is shared with them (not forced on them) and that they can consult and actively participate in the communication process. Technology can support this process of communication by facilitating information through newsletters by email, bulletinboards, dashboards, intranet, chat, video conferencing, etc.

Some other ideas on the role of technology in this phase:

  • Share and spread internal routines and basic capabilities;
  • Facilitating training and reflection on the standardized routines and capabilities (With the aim to stimulate first order learning, e.g. TeamRoom);
  • But you would also need to think about: company confidentiality, protecting intellectual property;

Besides employees it is also important that management has authority. Participation of top management is crucial to adequate resourcing of a project, to take fast en effective decisions and to promote acceptance of a project by all people in the organization. Top managers should however also delegate some authority on the project down to department managers, because they have more insights on how things are actually done on the work floor. The project management should of course also be equipped with enough authority to be able to engage in all actions needed for a successful implementation. A project success is also determined by the structure within the organization. Decisions and communication lines should be short. And project managers should have good project control in order to prevent or discover problems quickly and corrective measures can be taken quickly (Poppendieck, 2007; Eshelman et al., 2001; Ware, J.P, 2011; Womack and Jones, 2011)

During and after an implementation it is important to measure the performance. In this way it will be possible to measure how well the objectives of the new system or the new way of working are met. This will keep employees informed and involved, but also identifies any problems which should be taken care of.

When a new Business-as-Usual has been established technology is often focused on:

  • Driving efficiency
  • Optimize delivery
  • Performance measurement
  • Lower costs
  • Optimization and efficiency


  1. Waddell, D. Sohal, A.S., 1998, Resistance: A constructive tool for Change Management, Management Decision - 36/8 p543-548.


2. Eshelman, R.G., Juras, P.E, Taylor, 'When small companies implement big systems', Strategic Finance, 2001, vol. 82, nr.8, p.28-33.
3. Mary Poppendieck, Tom Poppendieck (2003), "Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit", Addison-Wesley Professional, ISBN-number: 0-321-15078-3
4. Ware, J.P., the Future of Business Collaboration, White Paper, okt. 2011
5. Womack, J.P. Jones, D.T., Lean Thinking: Elimineer verspilling en creeer waarde in uw organisatie, Lean Management Instituut, 2011, ISBN-number 978-90-784-1306-6

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