In this module you will learn

Technology = tools, techniques, and actions used to transform organizational inputs into outputs
Thus technology refers to the organization's production process, where "production" is understood in a general sense.
Technology is related to the view of the organization as an open system:


1.  Manufacturing Firms (Joan Woodward's Study)

The important study by Joan Woodward looked at the impact of technical complexity, which represents the extent of the mechanization of the manufacturing process, on manufacturing firms.  She classified 100 manufacturing firms into 3 categories corresponding to increasing levels of technical complexity:  (1) small-batch & unit production; (2) large-batch & mass production; (3) continuous process production.  She looked at associations of technical complexity with structural characteristics of manufacturing firms (Woodward, Joan.  1965.  Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice) Q - Woodward's classification of technology is based an a scale that measures what?

Q - In Woodward's classification, a company that produces rum is likely to use which type of technology?  [Rum is a alcoholic drink obtained by distillation of fermented sugar cane molasses.]

Q - Compare 2 successful companies, one that uses mass production technology and one that uses continuous process technology.  How are these 2 companies likely to differ on the mechanistic-organic dimension?

Q - The Shamrock Oil Refinery in Dumas, Texas, has operated successfully for over 50 years.  According to Woodward's findings, how should the refinery score along the following dimensions:

Q - When the work is highly complex and problems arise frequently, one would expect the span of control to be (WIDE/NARROW/UNDETERMINED?).


1.  Woodward's study of 100 firms illustrates the importance of the comparative method in detecting relationships among organizational characteristics, as compared with studies of a single case.

2.  Her study dealt a fatal blow to the universal principles of management approach, and contributed to lay the foundation of the contingency approach, which holds that the optimal organizational structure depends on technology and the other circumstances of the organization.  The following exhibit in particular can be viewed as the very foundation of the contingency approach:

Minicase:  Northeast Utilities & Boston Edison  (Daft p. 125).  Both companies run nuclear power plants, an instance of continuous process technology.  Northeastern Utilities has an organic structure that is well adapted to this type of technology.  Boston Edison has a less appropriate mechanistic structure and runs into problems.

3.  Her interviews of managers suggest that the latter have limited conscious awareness of the role of technological constraints on organizational structure (Woodward 1965, pp. 76-77).  EX:  managers typically don't know why their organization has a certain span of control, or even that their organization is distinctive in that respect.

Q - "One remarkable finding of Joan Woodward was that managers in successful firms usually were acutely aware of the structural requirements of their production system."  (TRUE/FALSE?)

2.   Computer-Integrated Manufacturing (CIM)

CIM is a combination of: A major advantage of CIM: combining customization with large batch production: CIM has a number of structural implications, including important human resources implications: Q - What is the fundamental advantage of CIM?

Q - A manufacturing firm switching to CIM will most likely

3.  Service Firms

Definition of service versus manufacturing firms: The service versus manufacturing distinction has a number of structural implications.  The main mechanism at work is that in service technology, technical core employees must be close to the customers (since customers are directly involved in "production"), while manufacturing firms can isolate the technological core from the outside. Q - In the service versus manufacturing perspective, Walmart is an example of what kind of organization?

Q - Which of the following are essential characteristics of pure service technologies?

2.  DEPARTMENTAL TECHNOLOGY  (Charles Perrow's Framework)

Charles Perrow's framework of department technology is based on the concepts: The combination of these two dimensions yields Perrow's framework for department technologies: The task variety/analizability framework has important structural consequences for the design of different departments: Minicase:  M*A*S*H & E.R.  (Daft p. 137)  Both TV series show the tensions that result when emergency medical units requiring an organic structure for success have to exist within larger mechanistic organizations (the U.S. Army or a large hospital).

Q - When asked how her new management job was, Jennifer replied "Well, everyday some new situation develops and the job is full of problems and challenges for me!"  Jennifer's new job can thus be described in terms of task variety and analizability as

Q - "According to Perrow's model, when a conversion process is analyzable, problem solution involves a lot of accumulated experience, intuition, and judgment."  (TRUE/FALSE?)

Q - Charlie works for a college which offers correspondence courses.  He works in the mail room stuffing envelopes with the replies of professors to students.  He then seals the envelopes and puts them in the outgoing bin.  He finds that on this job he has a lot of time for day-dreaming.  Where would you expect the organizational structure of his department to be on the mechanistic-organic dimension?


James Thompson's framework of departmental interdependence is based on a classification of 3 types of interdependence among departments: Different types of interdependence necessitate different types of coordination mechanisms: Minicase:  Athletic Teams  (Daft pp. 141-142)  The nature of interdependence among players ("departments") affects many aspects of team sports (baseball, football, and basketball), as seen in next exhibit: Q - In James Thompson's framework, the interdependence of players in football is best described as (POOLED/SEQUENTIAL/RECIPROCAL?).

Q - In James Thompson's framework, the interdependence of stores in McDonald's Corporation, viewed as "departments" within the corporation, is best described as (POOLED/SEQUENTIAL/RECIPROCAL?).


1.  Job Design Concepts

Job design concepts include

2.  Impact of Advanced Information Technology on Job Design

The introduction of advanced information technology (in the form of the microcomputer) into organizations has resulted in a number or trends in organization design and the nature of jobs (summarized from Daft pp. 142-149):

3.  Sociotechnical Systems Approach

The sociotechnical systems approach originated in the work of the Tavistock Institute in England during the 1950s and 1960s.  The goal of the approach is the joint optimization of the social system component and technical system component of the organization. Q - The framework for departmental technology based on the dimensions of task analyzability and task variety is associated with the name of (HENRY MILLER/CHARLES PERROW/ANAIS NIN/JAMES THOMPSON?).

Last modified 26 Sep 2001