SOCI110 Module 6 - TECHNOLOGY
In this module you will learn
Joan Woodward's classification of manufacturing
firms according to technical complexity (= extent of mechanization of the
manufacturing process) into small batch, large batch & mass production,
continuous process firms, and the associations she discovered between technical
complexity and structural characteristics of the firms
Joan Woodward's discovery of the fundamental principle
of the contingency approach
the fundamental advantage of computer-integrated
manufacturing (CIM) with respect to the traditional customization-batch
size production constraints, and the structural implications of CIM
the foundations of the structural differences
between manufacturing and service firms
Charles Perrow's framework for department technology
describing tasks in terms of variety and analyzability, and its structural
James Thompson's types of task interdependence
among departments (pooled, sequential, reciprocal)
the organizational implications of advanced information
Technology = tools, techniques,
and actions used to transform organizational inputs into outputs
Thus technology refers to the organization's
process, where "production" is understood in a general sense.
Technology is related to the view of the organization
as an open system:
1. ORGANIZATION-LEVEL TECHNOLOGY
1. Manufacturing Firms (Joan Woodward's
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?).
span of control of first line supervisors (LO/HI?)
worker skill levels (LO/HI?)
levels of management (FEW/MANY?)
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
2. Her study dealt a fatal blow to the
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 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?
Computer-aided design (CAD)
Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM)
Integrated Information Network
Q - A manufacturing firm switching to CIM will
need fewer workers with high levels of skills
use more centralized decision making (TRUE/FALSE?)
put more emphasis on teamwork (TRUE/FALSE?)
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?
intangible output (Y/N)
small firm size (Y/N)
direct client involvement in the transformation
computer equipment (Y/N)
2. DEPARTMENTAL TECHNOLOGY (Charles
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).
Task variety - frequency of unexpected
and novel events that occur in conversion process
Task analyzability - task can be reduced
to mechanical steps or specified with a computational procedure
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?)
variety (LO/HI/CANNOT TELL FROM INFO PROVIDED)
analizability (LO/HI/CANNOT TELL FROM INFO PROVIDED)
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?
3. TECHNOLOGICAL INTERDEPENDENCE AMONG DEPARTMENTS
(James Thompson's Framework)
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?).
pooled interdependence (with mediating
sequential interdependence (with long-linked
reciprocal interdependence (with intensive
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?).
4. IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON JOB DESIGN
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):
flatter organization structure due to decentralization
opportunity for both greater centralization or
improved coordination due to electronic connection
fewer narrowly specialized tasks
larger professional staff ratio due to need for
highly trained/educated personnel
job enrichment (jobs with higher-level mental
and social skills requirements)
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