Technology

Technologies help organizations get work done, a mechanism for transforming inputs into outputs (Scott p. 20). Most research has focused on relation between technology and organizational structure.

Technology and the Technical Core

Technology is broadly referred to as the work performed by the organization (Scott p. 227). It includes both the hardware, skills, and knowledge of the workers. There is much overlap between technology, task environment, and environment in organizational literature. Environment is more inclusive and includes political, technical, and institutional aspects of the organizational context. Task environment emphases those features of the environment relevant to the inputs and ouputs, plus the power-dependence relations needed for exchanges with the environment.

The environment is both a supplier of an organization's technology while it is simultaneously acted upon by the organization. A technical system is a "specific combination machines and methods employed to produce a desired outcome" (in Scott p. 228) and is a specific instance of the total organizational technology. Early researchers like Woodward (1965) and Thompson and Bates (1957) called attention to the impact of technology on organizational structure. Thompson (1967) formally defined this relationship, which was refined by Perrow (1967, 1970). Recently technology has been broadened to include the inputs, outputs, and tranformation processes (throughputs) within organizations. Alternately, another perspective shows that most approaches have emphasized either materials, knowledge, or operations within the technology (Scott p. 228).

Three measures of technology that predict structural features somewhat are (from Scott p. 230):

1. Complexity or diversity -- the number of elements that must be dealt simultaneously by the organization.

2. Uncertainty or unpredictability -- variability of elements on which work is performed. This includes uniformity of inputs, exceptions in the work process, and output changes experienced.

3. Interdependence -- interrelatedness of of work processes. Thompson (1967) proposed there levels:
A. Pooled interdependence -- all elements contribute to overall goal
B. Sequential interdependence -- some elements performed before others
C. Reciprical interdependence -- elements are directly affected by others and must be considered simultaneously