Organization follows Technology ? LO13291
Thu, 17 Apr 1997 22:45:59 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO13255 --

Hi All,

Does Organization Follow Technology? Perhaps the answer is the same as the
one Henry Mintzberg gave to the question, "Does structure follow
strategy?": "Yes, as the left foot follows the right." We are talking
about evolutionary processes in complex systems, where the only chains of
cause-and-effect may be those created by our own punctuation of the
processes. Technology is both the cause and effect of organization. Fred
Emery of Emery and Trist fame argues that the widespread use of technology
is preceded by radical social change. He argues that the first industrial
revolution is as much the story of the rise of the factory organization as
it it of the emergence of steam power. When one reads of the problems that
early industrialists had in disciplining workers to work year round, come
to work at the same time etc. it's hard to disagree with him. Similarly,
on a smaller scale, the spread of the microwave oven in the North America
seems to have depended upon changes in society's views on the
acceptability of preparing food in that way.

On the invention side I have argued that the advent of the first
industrial revolution in England was catalyzed by the emergence of small
networks of religious dissenters (Quakers, Congregationalists, Baptists
etc.). Held together by egalitarian values and common vision they rejected
almost all authority except their own experience. As a result they applied
their energies in the most pragmatic of fields and precipitated a
revolution. Indeed this dynamic can be seen in other tight-knit minority
groups ranging from the Jewish diaspora to the Basques of Spain, the
Parsees and Jains of India, and the East Indians of Kenya etc.
Entrepreneurial communities ranging from La Beauce in Quebec through
Silicon Valley to the textile regions of Italy seem to support this notion
that there are fertile industrial ecosystems - "hot spots" as they have
been called - that spawn novelties and innovation of all kinds. Companies
like 3M seem to succeed in creating ecosystem-like contexts that produce
new product on a regular basis: "If you build it they will come!"

Best wishes,
David Hurst
Speaker, Consultant and Writer on Management
Author of "Crisis & Renewal" (HBS Press, 1995)
<A HREF="">McGraw-Hill Ry
erson - Crisis & Renewal</A>


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