Organization follows Technology ? LO13262

Stever Robbins (
Thu, 17 Apr 1997 02:11:33 -0400

Replying to LO13256 --

At 09:55 pm 4/16/97 -0400, you wrote:
>Replying to LO13177 --
>Do you think that
>"* organizational change follows technological changes?
>Or the other way round, meaning that
>* technological change follows organizational changes?"

What a fascinating question! There are a couple of ways of thinking about
it, when the "technological change" is one that makes information access
and processing easier. [I define "information" very broadly, to include
emotion and affect, as well as "left brain" information.]

There are only a few ways that change generically affects information

If the same people now use the same information differently, they must
process it differently. If the new processing requires different
technology, this would drive technological change. For hard data, the
technology might be computers. For softer information processing needs,
such as a manager's need to understand their employees' motivation, the
technology might be a psychological or behavioral technology.

If the same people now use different information, they will also need
different information systems to capture and refine the information. As
above, this would translate into technological change.

If the people are different, they may or may not require different
technology. It depends on how the new people are hired.

When we implement a technological change first, we are changing the
information flow from/to an individual. If the new/missing information is
crucial to their job in some respect, they'll have to change. If they can
get away with disregarding it, they may not change. I've heard a lot
about changing compensation systems when changing a culture, to realign
motivation. If someone's compensation depends on using the new
information, or with sufficient peer pressure, or for any of a myriad of
reasons, the technology could drive behavior change.

This is a pretty complicated issue, though. Technology, at least computer
technology, can implicitly shape business processes by virtue of what it
can and can't do; Donald Burr, founder of People Express, blames the
airline's downfall in part on the inflexibility of its information
systems, which wasn't originally programmed in a way that made it easy to
do yield management. Similarly, corporate culture and informal ways of
getting things done in an organization can circumvent the most
well-intended technology.

In short, I think organization follows technology follows organization
follows technology.

- Stever
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Stever Robbins <>

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