Bridging the Gap Between Reality and the Sense of Reality

Jenny Ohman Persson


This paper focuses on different ethical dilemmas occurring when real working life situations are to be analyzed and built into tools as customized software for computer-supported office work. The problems are discussed on different levels and in different settings. The levels concern problems with the understanding of what a work is, of how to avoid to reduce the interpretations of work situations into information processes and how to deal with the fact that there are two parallel, but at the same time different ongoing development processes – the development of the work and its organization on the one hand and the development of the customized computer system on the other hand. Discussions are raised about difficulties of being aware of our preconceived notions affecting the understanding of interpreted situations and solutions.

The combination of IT-development and organizational development is of vast interest. The increasing number of people developing health problems in poorly designed, computer-supported work environments, is a problem of great concern. Negative effects from inferior software and poor organization management are consequently in focus for discussion in this paper, while the possibility to move towards achieving efficient and effective organizations built on ideas that will contribute to a superior and satisfying life for people at work is one of the overall goals.

The empirical data that will be presented is gathered mainly within one governmental authority in Sweden. The empirical data deals with problems concerning the development of one specific customized computer system to be used by one specific work group in the authority. The empirical data also deals with problems occurring when developing an IT-strategy on a central level concerning the authority in its entirety.

The notion that interpretations are affected by our experiences, thoughts and preconceived notions is an issue to take into consideration. Basic values are the underlying sonority that colors all our ways of acting. In the interpretation of our environment, basic values have great impact. One inescapable conclusion is that the difficulties in development strategies and organizational change are several and severe. But the result most important to discuss here, is the fact that in every moment and with every move, we are challenging the understanding of the environment with all our previous beliefs and experiences. It is only through awareness of one’s own basic values and knowledge that we can begin to talk about a genuine understanding of reality.

In a changing environment, we use metaphors to better communicate different conditions, for instance, in an organization or in a software development project. A metaphor can be used as a tool in the interpretation and understanding of the organization. In relation to the discourse on basic values, these values are not to be seen as a tool, but as a more or less conscious interpretive filter, through which we look at our environment. Basic values thereby also color the interpretation of a metaphor, which will provide us with different images depending on our interpretive filter. If we are unaware of the bias of our own basic values, our interpretation of a metaphor runs a great risk of contributing to strategic decisions that will sub-optimize parts of the business.

When redrawing an organization plan, or chart of any kind, there may be no clear awareness that the work is theoretical, in the sense that the organizational units that we are moving around, are a complex system of people, physical work environments, work space, relations, affections etcetera. It would be extremely difficult to manage change, if all the conditions that affect the change, and are affected by the change, were taken into consideration. In this sense, the discussions about the organizational changes must be about changes in an organizational plan, or in the work processes, or in work content or other aspects that might influence reality. But as a basis for discussion about the abstraction of the organization, the discussion can also be interpreted as a sub-discussion, which we – if we don’t look up once in while and take time to reflect – will lose ourselves in. The change will only be in the image of the organization and not in the organization itself – or it will have consequences for the organization that were not represented in the image.

Healthy work can be seen as a consequence of a well-implemented development process, but it can also be treated as a main target in the development process. The reasons can differ as to why an organization shows an interest in healthy work. In order to successfully motivate or negotiate for improving the work environment in an organization with the aim of creating a healthy work environment, the efficiency potential must usually be brought to the fore, if interest in the idea of healthy work is to be aroused.

Awareness helps us reflect over our ideas and our understanding of the world. The notion of being in control can be sufficient if we understand that we all create our own framework of how things in the world are related to each other. This framework helps us in various ways, in our struggle through daily life, in conducting research or in handling the different phases we pass through in life. If we can accept this, then the structure of the world can be dynamic and can be used as a context for development that we can challenge. Through awareness, it may be possible for us to promote a healthier climate in organizations. It is only through awareness that we can find the confidence and courage to adhere to our beliefs and ideas of what is right and wrong.