Loose Connection of Technology and Structure

Others take a more middle stance and argue that while technology can constrain structures somewhat they do not deterministically create them. Strategic contingency theorists argue that individuals in organizations do have some control over how technology shapes structure in their orgnizations. Which strategy is employed has a strong effect. Furthermore, various interest groups within organizations form shifting coalitions that based upon their control of resources have levels of power and influence that also shape the organizational structure. When managers exercise power differentiation, deskilling, and interdependence are more likely to occur, and when performers have more power craft expertise, professionalization, and skill-enhancement are emphasized.

The view of technology in this perspective is more subjective than the objective view held by early rational theorists. Technology and structure are thus loosely coupled. For example, with the new information technologies, Zuboff (1988) notes that some of these new technologies actually absorb information and produce it -- leaving the choice as to whether the technology ultimately is de-skilling or skill-enhancing left up to the organization decision-makers (though they don't often see it as a rational choice).

Barley nicely combines these technology-structure issues in his study of the impact of CT scanner technology on two hospital radiology departments. The scanners themselves became social objects that changed the working relationship between the technicians and radiologists. The same technology introduced into similar work structures produced very different structural effects.