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