Important Note: After reading this article, please assess your organization in terms of its current technological changes.
Technological change refers to the development of an organization’s technology over time. In general, two types of technological change have been identified in the literature: continuous or incremental change and discontinuous or breakthrough change (Zyclidopoulos, 1999). Incremental technological change refers to gradual, often indiscernible technological flows, that improve on existing products or processes, but which one cannot usually attribute to any particular investor. In contrast, breakthrough change involves revolutionary technological advances due to the invention of new products or processes, and quite often is attributed to a particular inventor.
Technological change is thus the creation of new knowledge that is applied to practical problems. Sometimes this knowledge is applied to problems hastily, without full consideration of the consequences and alternatives. Schilling (2008) suggested that the subject of change management is approached as a strategic process. A firm’s organizational behavior should encourage the generation of innovative ideas while also ensuring efficient implementation. Organizational behavior refers to the study of the structure and functioning of organizations and the behavior of groups and individuals within them (Warner, 1994). The purpose of the post is to analyze and forecast the impacts of technical innovations on organizational behavior, intrarelationships, and interrelationships.
Technological Changes in the Organizations: Various Implications
Given the rapidly changing technology and increasing globalization of systems, implications are grouped into two areas: organizational and managerial implications.
Technological Changes and Organizational Implications
According to Regan and O’Conner (2002), the potential exists for an organization’s structure to undergo changes to accommodate changes in previous work processes. The type of organizational structure change could be minor (e.g. merging or separation of work groups) to major changes involving the creation of new divisions or spin-off companies. Technology may contribute to several changes as employing new methods to communicate may decentralize supervisory decision-making. As virtual teaming may make some office functions obsolete, new problems may arise that require the infusion of new technology or improved communications processes. Technological changes may cause irregularities in the skill sets of knowledge workers may require managerial intervention. Regan and O’Conner recommended five strategies to assist with organizational problems: combining fragmented tasks in one comprehensive task, the formation of natural work units, establishing client relations with workers, applying vertical loading techniques, and establishing direct performance feedback channels.
Technological Changes and Managerial Implications
According to McNurlin and Sprague (2006), several authors and researches posit that future organizations will be more virtual than physical as employees become parts of virtual teams that are connected by networks. Managers may need to change their respective focus from directing to leading. In a virtual workspace, managers may have more depth to draw upon by exchanging employees based on the purpose of the work and skill sets of the managed. A virtual workforce may become less employee-centric and more work-centric as employees adopt the mindset of working on projects that technically inspire the worker (McNurlin & Sprague, 2006).
Another implication for managers is related to the work environment of the knowledge worker. The organization is heavily reliant on the productivity of the knowledge worker. The creation of knowledge work is largely based on innovation. Knowledge workers depend on innovation to do their work. They are not doing a pre-established task, but rather they define and perform their task for the very first time. They create tools that will be used by other knowledge workers to do their jobs (Ramirez & Nembhard, 2004). Managers must work to create an environment that inspires and encourages innovation. As a result, knowledge workers will maintain productivity for the organization. Finding meaningful ways to measure the productivity of the knowledge worker would open the field to focus on means towards improving productivity. According to Ramirez and Nembhard (2004), “making workers productive will be the great management task of this century, just as to make manual work productive was the great management task of the last century.”
Workplaces and Strategic Management of Technological Changes
Technological changes have transformed the traditional workplace to agile (Joroff, Porter, Feinberg, & Kukla, 2003), virtual (Ware & Grantham, 2003), mobile, and collaborative workplaces (Schaffers, 2005). Today, knowledge work can be conducted at thousands of other physical locations such as airports, cars, and airplanes. Agile workplaces are constantly transforming, adjusting, and responding to organizational learning (Gunasekara, 2003). Agility, as Joroff and his colleagues noted, is the flexibility to increase and contract the workforce and all its support costs to meet dynamically changing needs in a rapid change and high uncertainty. Schaffers argued key aspects of technological changes are mobility, sharing of information and knowledge, and collaboration across organizational networks. Mobile workplaces include the mobility and flexibility of the corporate settings and constraints to adapt to the evolving needs and opportunities of the knowledge worker.
The paradigm shift to the diversity of workplaces described above is multidimensional because of its relationship with the flexibility of the knowledge worker needs, corporate settings and various constraints inherent of the knowledge-based economy. In an attempt to define a portfolio of mobile workplaces, Schaffers summarized these dimensions into two: the number of work locations (or workplace context) and the frequency of changing location. Schaffers’ portfolio of mobile workplaces is subdivided into four generic forms: full mobility workplace, micro-mobility workplace, multi-location workplace, and dynamic workplace. Besides the location and time, workplace context includes additional aspects such as the nature of the task, markets demands, and availability of corporate resources.
The realization of the various work environments presents complex managerial and leadership challenges. Schaffers had identified the following ones: work requirements, workers behavior and needs, organizational factors, industry developments, societal and cultural structures and policies, and technological opportunities and bottlenecks. Continued globalization, coupled with the technology revolution has changed corporate work settings. Abbott and Banerji (2003) noted that the change in environment has forced most firms to develop strategies based on dynamic systems that can adapt to the changing external environment.
Therefore, the future work setting will be the result of a balance between these different forces. Murray and Greenes (2006) have identified the four pillars framework for building an enterprise of the future. The framework covers leadership, organization, learning and technology. Murray and Greenes added that the ability of an organization to compete with these future workplaces is enhanced when all elements of the enterprise are in close alignment. A leader’s role of the enterprise of the future is to find solutions to the challenges; also to create and maintain the alignment between all the elements.
Future Workplace, Tools, and Work Patterns
A traditional structure in an organization is defined as the manner in which its specific work activities are divided and the way the coordination among these activities are achieved (Bratton, Grint, & Nelson, 2005). The labor is subdivided into two dimensions. The horizontal dimension involves grouping different work activities into subunits, or departments, and into jobs. Horizontal division of labor is associated with specialization of workforce. The vertical dimension of division of labor is concerned with distributing authority for planning, decision making, and monitoring.
Future firms will require more flexibility, quick responsiveness, and mutual accountability. They need sophisticated, adaptive, empowered workers in a fractal organizational structure, that is, a distributed network of leaders with innovative organizational core competencies adapt to the new context (Prewitt, 2004). The new dynamic environments are driven by technological revolution and economic globalization, resulting in rapid and continuous changes, diminished product life cycles and the need to turn large amounts of data into useful information (Schreiber & Carley, 2006).
Business in the new century is not a physical thing, but a network of relationships that spans the globe and is increasingly mediated by telecommunications instead of face to face transactions. Rindova and Kotha (2001) have examined the coevolution of form, function, and competitive advantage in the dynamic, hypercompetitive in a particular context and have developed, using the grounded theory methods, a framework within which organizational continuous changes can be understood and managed. In this framework, they proposed that firms rely on continuous morphing to regenerate competitive advantage under conditions of rapid change.
Dynamic capabilities and strategic flexibility are two organizational mechanisms that facilitate continuous morphing. As Rindova and Kotha (2001) pointed out, whereas dynamic capabilities are defined as a firm’s ability to achieve new forms of competitive advantage, strategic flexibility is referred to a firm’s ability to respond to the demands of dynamic competitive environments. As firms change what they are and what they offer through the continuous morphing process, they migrate into a new strategic and competitive domains. This requires an inherent flexibility of the resources available, including IT resources, to a firm and its flexibility in applying those resources. Corporate structural features and patterns can be more complex within multinational corporations. Indeed, research on the organization of multinational corporations has projected the emergence of complex internally differentiated structures (Malnight, 2001). Characteristics of these structures include a global dispersion of operations, interdependence and tight coupling of subunits, and an emphasis on cross-unit learning and structural flexibility.
The purpose of this post was to analyze and forecast the impacts of technical changes on organizational behavior, intrarelationships, and interrelationships. Technological change is the creation of new knowledge that is applied to practical problems. Sometimes this knowledge is applied to problems hastily, without full consideration of the consequences and alternatives. The subject of change management should be approached as a strategic process. A firm’s organizational behavior should encourage the generation of innovative ideas while also ensuring efficient implementation.
The new dynamic environments are driven by technological revolution and economic globalization, resulting in rapid and continuous changes, diminished product life cycles and the need to turn large amounts of data into useful information. The realization of the various work environments presents complex managerial and leadership challenges: work requirements, workers behavior and needs, organizational factors, industry developments, societal and cultural structures and policies, and technological opportunities and bottlenecks. Future firms will require more flexibility, quick responsiveness, and mutual accountability. They need sophisticated, adaptive, empowered workers in a fractal organizational structure, that is, a distributed network of leaders with innovative organizational core competencies adapt to the new context.