Much of the pioneering work of the relationship between technology and organization design was done by 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.
Tags : Management Concepts & Organisational Behaviour - Emerging Trends In Corporate Structure
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