CUTS

PLANNING FOR INNOVATION AND CHANGE

Objectives

1. To describe the major components of a successful effort to implement an innovation.
2. To indicate how these components are related and why they are important.
3. To discuss these components in order to understand how they are to be used.

Outline

STEPS FOR THE TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER PLAN

A technology transfer plan is a specific program of action aimed at bringing about change and the adoption of new techniques and procedures.  It is a plan of action aimed at linking together an idea concept, technology or procedure with a particular audience.

The major steps of the technology transfer plan are:

Each step plays an important role in contributing to the success of a technology transfer program.

USER ASSESSMENT

Identify User Market. ..Before any significant progress can be made in the adoption of innovations, it is essential that the nature of the potential users of the innovation be clearly understood.  An explicit user assessment should take place.  This would include a discussion of user needs and problems, an understanding of user attitudes towards change, an assessment of user capabilities to understand and utilize the change, an assessment of user networks (how do they interact with their peers?) and an understanding of the organization in which the user works.  User assessment is a continuing process and is done through one-on-one discussions in an informal setting and through a high degree of communication between users, developers of innovation and technology transfer agents.  Information and innovations must be targeted to an audience that is clearly understood in order to be effective.  You should organize the knowledge you have about the users around these factors:  user needs, user attitudes, user capabilities, user networks, user's job and user's organization.  The worksheet given on the following pages can be used to help you identify potential users.

USER ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET

In order to understand the potential users of an innovation the following questions need to be answered:

Who are the Potential  Users of the Innovation?

                 What key problems are the users concerned about on a day-to-day basis?                 What is their normal attitude towards change (open, resistant, neutral)?
                What characteristics of an innovation would be important to them (relative advantage, simplicity, easy to try, easy to measure, cost)?                 What is a typical education level?
                How easy is it for the users to absorb
                        a)  written material?
                        b)  oral material?
                        c)  visual material?                 Who are the users' peers?
                What is the usual form of contact (written, meetings, telephone, etc.)?
                What technical, trade or job related organizations do the people belong to?
                How often and where do they meet?
                What assistance do these organizations provide to their members?
                What is the nature of vendor contact with users?

How does the User's Organization React to Change?

                What are the organization's functions and goals?
                What is the general size of the organization?
                Who are the organization's constituents?
                How does the organization react to failure?
                How visible is the organization to the general public and the news media?
                What is the normal relationship between the organization and state and/or federal agencies?
                How frequently is there direct one-to-one contact between the user organization and state and federal agencies?

TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT

A second activity is technology assessment.  Technology assessment is a process whereby innovations are carefully examined to determine how easy it will be to implement them with a given group of users.  Technology assessment assumes that the innovation is feasible and promising and focuses on the barriers that it may have to adoption.  Some of the questions asked are:

TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET

The ease at which the technology can be adopted can  be understood by answering the following questions:                 - Relative advantage of the new technology over existing techniques?

                - Trialability -- how easy to experiment with the new technology?

                - Observability -- are results easily observe or measured?

                - Complexity -- how easy is it for potential users to understand the new technology?

                - Cost -- to implement the new technology?

                - effect of failure of the new technology?

DEVELOP TRANSFER STRATEGY

Once there is a clear understanding of the user and of the innovation, it is possible to develop a strategy to implement the change within the organization.  Ideally this is done with a strong user involvement in order to identify problems at an early stage and to modify the innovation as necessary to lead to a successful implementation.  The transfer strategy may include well developed training programs, specifically targeted dissemination material, opportunities for feedback, a sequence for implementation and demonstration projects.  The techniques chosen should consider the needs for timely information, adaptability, complexity and cost.

IMPLEMENTATION

Information Dissemination.  The major goal of information dissemination is to get the right information to the right people in an effective and timely manner.  The specialists must select the best combination of dissemination techniques to achieve this goal.
When the mails are used, try to screen the needs of your audience so that you can send them appropriate materials.  The shotgun approach isn't very effective as an information dissemination technique.  Develop a catalog of materials available for users to choose from and target your efforts.  Send out brief descriptions of materials on postcards -- "white cards."  Users may then request the documents of interest.
Experience has shown that information dissemination improves when the transfer specialist uses a combination of methods.  Handing out reports at meetings and conferences, where the specialist has an opportunity to recommend certain material and learn something about user needs in the process, can be an effective way to get written material into the hands of interested people.

Networking,  The term networking is used to refer to the existence of formal and informal communication links between people with similar interests.  For example, a professional association of maintenance personnel that meets on a monthly basis to discuss topics of mutual interest (formal network) or a group of microcomputer buffs that share information through an electronic bulletin board (informal network).  Networks are an important means of communication and can take three to five years to establish.  It is essential that technology transfer specialists get out among potential users because face-to-face meetings build and strengthen networks.
 

DISSEMINATION WORKSHEET

                - produce dissemination material?
                - transfer information?                 - written
                - visual
                - oral
                - in person

FOLLOW-UP AND EVALUATION

Feedback..  At some point in the process of implementation of a change it is imperative to get feedback on how well the program is serving user needs.  Specialists who become part of a network of users can get feedback from interaction with users.  This feedback is effective in modifying transfer efforts ''as you go" rather than "after the fact."  Getting honest feedback from users and taking action demonstrates a genuine desire to serve user needs and builds trust.

Evaluation.  Evaluation is a broad concept and covers the full spectrum of program content.  It includes feedback as well as quantitative aspects of program performance.  Because informal feedback by itself is subjective, evaluation should contain measures of results from evaluation questionnaires given out at workshops and meetings; counts of attendees at seminars and training sessions; counts of the number of requests for technical assistance, written materials, etc.; counts of reports distributed by mail, at meetings, etc.; and counts of the comments received as a result of newsletter articles, technical summaries, and the like.
 

EXAMPLE

What techniques will be most effective to transfer information to local highway maintenance personnel?

User Assessment

Local Road Personnel: Local personnel place a high value on the experience of their peers and rely primarily on word of mouth and trade publications as a source of information, rather than formal technical reports.  Local road program managers are a mixture of engineers and non engineers with few engineers involved in the smaller offices.  Typically, the administration of a local road office has a variety of responsibilities that may range from budgeting to actual repair or operation of equipment.  These individuals place a high value on their own experiences, as well as those of their peers in similar situations.

Sources of Information: Most users do not have the time to read technical materials.  They find them hard to understand and/or generally not useful to their problems.  This attitude varies considerably by size of office and by the background of the people involved. Large operations headed by people with technical backgrounds tend to be more receptive to technical reports than smaller offices headed by geotechnical personnel.  There is a resistance to written materials even among the larger agencies and a general skepticism to outside advice at all levels.  However, this does not mean that the local agencies are necessarily resistant to change.  Many creative local solutions to problems take place: equipment modification, procedural changes and a certain resourcefulness for making-do with what's at hand.

Local Road Offices:  The local road offices are usually small operations, especially in the more rural areas.  These offices are highly visible to the local resident taxpayers and are obligated to be very cost conscious in administering their programs.  Local road personnel tend to be fairly isolated from each other and have fairly limited contact with their peers in similar groups.  Very often travel outside the county for conferences or training is severely limited.  This is especially true for lower level personnel.

Transfer Strategy

It is important to recognize the capabilities of local highway personnel to absorb and understand technical information and to work within the constraints of the agencies who develop such material.  Accordingly, technical material should be concise, relevant and credible.  Dissemination should be done at a reasonable cost and should fit within the existing relationship between Federal, state and local highway agencies.  Of the four factors for selection of dissemination techniques (cost, rigor, immediacy and adaptability), cost and rigor were felt to be the most important.  Immediacy and adaptability were not felt to be major constraints since nearly all dissemination methods examined can be developed with a sufficient amount of time and adaptability to meet the needs of highway maintenance personnel.

Implementation

Using the selection guide, a set of effective technology transfer techniques can be identified.  These techniques are characterized as having moderate to low cost and are not overly rigorous (and, therefore, not too complex) for the type of audiences in highway maintenance.  No one technique is likely to meet all needs and, in many situations, a combination of techniques should be used.
It should be noted that the characteristics of the people doing technology transfer in highway maintenance are as important as the techniques they use.  A positive, helping attitude, as well as a clear understanding of the problems faced in local agencies, is essential for any technique to be effective.  Local personnel in highways often rely heavily on their peers to get information and feel that outsiders do not understand their problems.  This means that the people selected for technology transfer have to be carefully chosen.
Based on the tables and discussions with local personnel, the following techniques appear to be promising as means to transfer information on transportation innovation in local highway maintenance personnel:
1.  circuit rider
2.  conference/short course
3.  slide/tape or transparency/tape
4.  state-of-the-art reports
5.  technical notice
6.  trade publications
7.  changeable, add-on notebook

DISCLAIMER NOTICE

This information is disseminated under the sponsorship of the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, in the interest of information exchange. The United States Government assumes no liability for the contents or use thereof. The United States Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trade or manufacturers' names appear herein solely because they are considered essential to the contents of these reports.