Technology and Organisational Design- Classifications

Hello Respected Researchers and HR managers, In this section we will discuss about “Technology and Organisational Design- Classifications “. It is very much important for a Researcher as well as HR Concern person/ manager to know the Technology and Organisational Design- Classifications. If researcher or HR Manager could follow the Points accordingly,it would easier to reach the goal. Let’s have a look…


Technology and Organisational Design:

The way work is organised is very much a function of technology within the organisation. Products and services are produced very differently than they were a decade ago, simply because of a new technological presence. The infrastructure of organisations has been redesigned in a way that has radically changed the way people communicate with each other, and the cross-functional nature of work teams has also been enabled with technology.

⇒ Classifications:

We will focus on the classifications of technology provided by Charles Perrow, James Thompson, and Joan Woodward. These classifications apply to organisations that provide either products or services, or both.

(1). Charles Perrow – Routineness:

Charles Perrow argued that various technologies are differentiated primarily by the routineness of the transformation task that is managed by the department or organisation. Perrow examined two components of this task:

  1. Exceptions: if the organisation is using standardized inputs to produce standardized outputs, it is likely that there are few exceptions. On the other hand the organisation might have a variety of inputs and outputs where many exceptions are the norm. As exceptions increase, technology becomes less routinized.
  2. Problems: some problems necessitate non-programmed decision-making because they are difficult to analyse. Alternatively, programs can be easy to analyse under some exceptions. Where problems are more complex and difficult to analyse the technology becomes less routine.

(1.1) Outputs from Inputs:

Perrow used the term technological routineness to describe the extent to which exceptions and problems affect the task of converting inputs into outputs. In exhibit 8-1 below, the matrix demonstrates that exceptions and problems produce four specific types of technologies:

  1. Craft Technologies: these refer to standard inputs and outputs. Only when a special need or request is present, will an exception be made (for example, you might order a car, and choose a paint that is not among the standard choices available).
  2. Routine Technologies: these technologies also require standardized inputs and outputs, however, when an exception is made, the adjustments are clearly articulated (for example, you might have a new product line added to an assembly line).
  3. Non-routine Technologies: exceptions are common, and decision-making regarding processes can be complex. An addiction centre might treat alcoholism, but also needs to consider a wider variety of mental disorders.
  4. Engineering Technologies: many exceptions are characteristic of these technologies, however, the solution or application is standardized. For example, you may have a number of clients, all of whom require consulting for fund-raising events. While their needs are distinct, you have an application for each of them that is based on their own objectives and available resources.

(2).  James Thompson – Interdependence:

While Perrow focussed on the routineness of technology, James Thompson pursued an understanding of sequential work activities. Specifically, he examined the way work activities are sequenced. Thompson’s work examined multiple organisational subunits or activities, with a view to identifying the ways in which these units or activities were dependent on each other for resources such as raw materials or information. Thompson argued that the degree of interdependence among activities fell into three categories of technology.

(2.1). Intensive Technology:

  • Intensive technologies are complex environments where interdependence is reciprocal. Under this technology, members of the organisation work interactively and use multiple techniques in order to solve problems. An example that Thompson provides is a hospital, where a combination of efforts and coordination from doctors, nurses, pharmaceuticals, social services, religious services, and others is needed in order to facilitate patients’ progress.

(2.2). Mediating Technology:

  • This is a function of pooled interdependence. Unlike intensive technology, the level of interdependence is not as high, however, each unit or activity relies to some extent on pooled resources that have been generated by other units. An example of mediating technology can be found in banks, which link creditors and depositors, and are sources of information that facilitate exchanges. A post office provides another example.

(2.3). Long-linked Technology:

  • This technology implies a sequential interdependence, where each unit is dependent on the unit that preceded it in a sequence. Long-linked technology is also known as mass production or industrial technology, and a common example of this is the automobile assembly line. An example of a paper processing technology that is sequentially interdependent is an insurance claim, where claims are reported, then verified, then adjusted, then settled.

(3).  Joan WoodwardBatch Technology:

Woodward’s work focused primarily on the relationship between technology and organisational structure. She distinguished among three kinds of technology based on relative contributions made by people or machines. Woodward’s work is based on a study in South Essex, England, where she was examining technology, structure, and organisational effectiveness.

Woodward classified technology of many firms in her sample in three specific production groups:

  • Unit or small batch technology: entails custom-tailored units using unsophisticated machinery and equipment. Quantities are small and production is carried out by small groups of skilled participants.
  • Mass production technology: makes use of automated machines that perform the same activities over and over again. Tasks tend to be repetitive and there are typically stringent controls in place that manage the production process. Products are produced in large quantities and are highly standardized. Woodward determined that the most appropriate structure for this type of production was a mechanistic structure, where hierarchical levels are common, and there is a clear separation between lower paid workers who have very detailed instructions, and higher level management, where strategic decisions are made.
  • Continuous process technology: is highly mechanized and inputs are transformed as on ongoing process. This is done using automated machines that typically are centrally controlled with computers.

Advanced Information Technology in Organisations Today:

For the purposes of this discussion, we will define information technology (IT) as:

  • a combination of machines, artefacts, procedures and systems that are used to generate, aggregate, store, analyse, and disseminate information that is translated into knowledge.
  • When mainframe computers were introduced, they did displace many routine, highly-specified and repetitious jobs.18 Yet the character or ‘personality’ of the organisation was typically unaltered.
  • As time went on and a second wave of IT implementation took place, we began to see subtle changes in organisational design. Technology did replace some process controls and coordination mechanisms. Firms in some cases began to outsource operations that were traditionally managed by internal staff. An example of this is employee payroll.
  • People have historically made predictions about the influence of information technology within an organisation. Some would argue that job loss and deskilling would be a result; others suggested that productivity, quality, and efficiencies would improve exponentially. But the impact of IT is not as deterministic as that. In fact, what we can safely assume is that, in most organisations, IT increases the number of choices that organisations can make about how to design and manage work.
  • Manufacturing technology was significantly advanced with the introduction of Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM); together known as a CAD/CAM system. These programs allowed for technological integration that enabled members of the organisation across several levels to make informed decisions, increase coordination, and become empowered to make non-programmed decisions.


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