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Management Concepts & Organisational Behaviour - Emerging Trends In Corporate Structure

Joan Woodward - Emerging Trends In Corporate Structure

   Posted On :  18.05.2018 01:01 am

Much of the pioneering work of the relationship between technology and organization design was done by Joan Woodward.

Joan Woodward
 
 
Much of the pioneering work of the relationship between technology and organization design was done by Joan Woodward. She found that differences in technological complexity accounted for differences in the way effective organizations were designed. Her scale for measuring technological complexity consisted of three major categories: unit and small-batch technology, large-batch and mass production technology and continuous-process technology. Woodward assigned a firm’s technological complexity to one of these three categories on the basis of the extent to which its manufacturing processes were automated and standardized.
 
Unit and Small-batch Technology is consistent with the notion of a job shop. Custom-made items (such as tailored clothing) and items only one of which is produced (such as portraits) are examples of unit production. Small-batch technology is the production of small quantities of items with each production run. Print shops wherein each customer’s order must be set and run separately utilize small-batch technology. Unit and small-batch technology is the least complex of Woodward’s categories because it offers little opportunities for using automated and standardized techniques. Most of the work done by professionals such as doctors, lawyers and managers could be considered unit technology.
 
Large-Batch and Mass-Production Technology: The most common example of large-batch and mass-production technology is an assembly line, where large number of the same product is produced. This kind of production utilizes mechanization and standardized parts. Almost all consumer durable goods such as automobiles and appliances are produced in this manner.
 
Continuous-Process Technology utilizes fewer workers than does mass production, because most of the process is automated. A continuous stream of raw-material input is actually transformed into a continuous flow of output, not into separate, definable units. The process often changes the material composition of the inputs. Most refinery operations, such as petroleum, chemicals or sugar are considered continuous process technologies. This category is the most complex in Woodward’s scheme, because the processes involved are almost always completely automated.
 
Woodward found that several design components varied with the organization’s type of technology. As technological complexity increased, the number of levels of management increased (that is, the organization structure became taller), the span of control of top management increased, and the ratio of line to staff workers increased. However, the span of control for lower-level managers was greater for technologies intermediate in complexity. This is probably because large-batch and mass-production technologies require numbers of workers than do either unit or continuous-process technologies.
 
Woodward’s findings indicated that organizations characterized by the most complex (continuous-process) and the least complex (unit and small-batch) technologies tended to have more organic designs. Organizations exhibiting technologies in the middle range of complexity (large-batch and mass-production technologies) had more mechanistic designs. Most important, she found that the most successful organizations followed this pattern. Therefore, it is evident that technology is an important determinant of appropriate structure.

 

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