Organizational Issues in the
Introduction of New Technologies
Ralph Katz and Thomas J. Allen
Organizational Issues in the Introduction of New Technologies
Professor(s) Ralph Katz and Thomas J. Allen
More than ever before, organizations competing in today's world of high technology are faced with the challenges of "dualism", that is, functioning efficiently today while planning and innovating effectively for tomorrow.
Not only must these organizations be
concerned with the success and market penetration of their current product mix, but they must also be concerned with their long run capability to develop and incorporate in a timely manner the most appropriate technical advancements into future product offerings. Research and development-based corporations, no matter how they are organized, must find ways to internalize both sets of concerns. Now it would be nice if everyone in an organization agreed on how to carry out this dualism or even agreed on its relative merits.
is rarely the case, however, even though such decisions are critically important to a firm competing in markets strongly affected by changing technology (Allen, 1977; Roberts, 1974).
Amidst the pressures of
everyday requirements, decision-makers representing different parts of the organization usually disagree on the relative wisdom of allocating resources or particular RD&E talents among the span of technical activities that might be of benefit to today's versus
Moreover, there are essentially no
well-defined principles within management theory on how to structure organizations to accommodate these two sets of conflicting challenges.
Classical management theory with its focus on scientific
principles deals only with the efficient production and utilization of today's goods and services.
The principles of high task
specialization, unity of command and direction, high division of labor, and the equality of authority and responsibility all deal with the problems of structuring work and information flows in routine, predictable ways to facilitate production and control through formal lines of authority and job standardization.
What is missing is some
comparable theory that would also explain how to organize innovative activities within this operating environment such that creative, developmental efforts will not only take place but will also become more accepted and unbiasedly reviewed, especially as these new and different ideas begin to "disrupt" the smooth functioning organization.
More specifically, how can one structure an
organization to promote the introduction of new technologies and, in general, enhance its longer term innovation process; yet at the same time, satisfy the plethora of technical demands and accomplishments needed to support and improve the efficiency and competitiveness of today's producing organization. Implicit in this discussion, then, is the need for managers to learn how to build parallel structures and activities that would not only permit these two opposing forces to coexist but would also balance them in some integrative, meaningful way.
Within the RD&E
environment, the operating organization can best be described as an
"output-oriented" or "downstream" set of forces directed towards the technical support of the organization's current products and towards getting new products out of development and into manufacturing or into the marketplace.
Typically, such pressures are controlled through
formal structures and through formal job assignments to project managers who are then held accountable for the successful completion of product outputs within established schedules and budget constraints. At the same time, there must be an "upstream" set of forces that are less concerned with the specific architectures and functionalities of today's products but are more concerned with...
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"Time and work: Toward an integrative perspective." Research in Organizational Behavior, 1980, 2, JAI Press, 81-127.
"The effects of group longevity on project communication and performance." Administrative Science Quarterly, 1982, 27, 81-104.
and Allen, T.J. "Investigating the not invented here (NIH)
syndrome." R&D Management, 1982, 12, 7-19.
Roberts, E.B. "Stimulating technological innovation: Organizational approaches." Research Management, 1979, 22, 26-30. Roberts, E.B. "New ventures for corporate growth."
Review, 1980, July-August, 134-142.
Schon, D.D. "Champions for radical new inventions."
Review, 1963, March-April, pp
Souder, W.E. "Effectiveness of product development methods." Marketing Management, 1978, 7, 299-307.
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