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These two analyses demonstrate how theorists attempt to produce singular theories of how IT has impacted the management-worker relationships within the organisation. Burris summarises the dilemma thus: One the one hand, some social scientists have found that recent social and technological changes have created a centralized, neo-Taylorist work organization, deskilling of the labor process, and reduced worker autonomy (Braverman 1974, Feldberg & Glenn 1987, Draft 1977, 1979, Noble 1977, 1984, Shaiken 1984, Zimbalist 1979).

 

Conversely, other social scientists have concluded that the transformation of production has promoted a postindustrial or postbureaucratic work organization characerized by decentralization and reduction in hierarchy, upskilling of work and a centrality of knowledge workers, and democratization and increased worker autonomy (Attewell 1992, Bell 1973, Block 1990, Clegg 1990, Hirschhorn 1984, Piore & Sable 1984) (Burris, 1998).

 

As Wilson himself asserts in the discussion of his work, "Objections to this review may focus on the idea that the "totalizing" and overriding nature of the forms of control described logically result in the loss of all explanatory content" (Wilson, 1995). I must say that I agree. Interpretations like the two presented above are typical of the literature on this subject in an environment where academics are competing to produce the 'best' theory of the changes taking place. As O'Mahony and Barley intimate in their 1999 review of the state of literature on the affects of digital telecommunications on work and organisation,

 

Early researchers usually lodge broad and often idealistic claims about how some new technology will dramatically alter, improve or degrade the way we work or the way organizations operate... Over time, however, researchers discover that their first plots were too simple and that the technology's consequences are more variable than the organizing vision foresaw (O'Mahony and Barley, 1999).

 

The following analysis, based on the previous discussion of the changes in levels of control and empowerment wrought by IT, seeks two goals. First, the analysis recognises the plurality of organisation types, people, and goals in a model that encompasses various organisational forms. And secondly, the model is of practical use in that it predicts the uses of IT that will suit certain organisational goals.

 

The Control - Empowerment Matrix IT changes the relationship between the control exerted by management and the level of empowerment enjoyed by the worker. These two ideas can be thought of on a scale from high to low. Management either exerts a high or low level of control, and workers experience either a high or low level of empowerment. As discussed previously, those in control of the implementation of an IT system can determine the type and amount of information available to workers, and therefore can determine the extent to which they will be empowered.

 

In a parallel sense, the level of empowerment of the workers will be related to the level of control that is desirable of management. These factors must them be considered within the parameters of the goals of the organisation. Thus, the two scales of control and empowerment can then be placed in a matrix to visually examine the relationship between the varying levels of control and empowerment and the resulting organisational structure (see Figure 1).

 

The Control-Empowerment Matrix shows how combinations of worker empowerment and management exertion of control combine to produce differing uses of technology and different organisational structures. As shown in the previous discussion, levels of exertion of managerial control must be considered in reference to the level of worker empowerment. Thought management control maybe high or low, the qualitative nature of that control will change with the level of worker empowerment. When empowerment is low, management seeks obedience through commands, but when empowerment is high, management seeks influence through delegation of responsibility.

 

The four quadrants represent four uses of IT and the resulting organisational structure. Where management exerts a high level of control, but worker empowerment is low, IT is likely used for surveillance. This model is labelled Panopticon. This quadrant would be typified by organisations such as call centres where workers use IT to facilitate repetitive tasks and management uses IT to monitor for quality assurance. As Zuboff is quoted in Burris (1998), "computerisation can be implemented so as to promote centralised managerial control by making workers more visible and vulnerable to supervision, a technologically advanced version of the Panopticon." Management can monitor levels of productivity, quantity and type of errors, and the types of online activity to ensure appropriate use of technology.

 

For example, Coombs et. al. discuss how in life insurance companies, IT is used to facilitate networked date entry systems which allow management to check processing times, and monitor backlogs 'without leaving their desks'. This, "has the effect of reinforcing any sense of obligation amongst the [IT] operators to 'shift' the work. One effect of the introduction of online systems has been to encourage self-control among staff, resulting in an intensification of production which has facilitated control of relative staffing levels." (Coombs et. al., 1992) In this case the organisational structure would be typified by large groups performing similar tasks monitored by an overseer who would account for quality control.

 

The second quadrant is qualified by low exertion of managerial control and low worker empowerment. This has been labelled Taylorism in the spirit of the idea that the goal of Taylorism - complete control of workers - would ultimately lead to automation. Here management does not need to exert much control and workers need only ensure that machines or repetitive processes function efficiently. This quadrant would be typified by manufacturing industries where tasks are machine or process automated.

 

While Wilson suggests than Bentham's concept of panopticon and Taylor's scientific management are the same in that they both survey workers, gather information and thus enforce compliance, I would differentiate the two theories. The first seeks to control an existing body of workers. Taylorism, however, seeks to increase efficiencies by introducing fewer and more efficient workers - a trend that was clearly a forerunner of automation.

 

Centralised power, a de-skilled labour process and reduced worker autonomy would typify the Taylorist quadrant. Burris presents a case study by Prechel in which "the large steel corporation he studied, in response to global competition and economic crisis, has implemented a "neo-Fordist" strategy of "hypercentralization," hyperquantification," and "formalised control". This system reduced or eliminated the former autonomy of managers and instituted a sophisticated neo-Taylorist system of production control where the "one best way" of doing something is consistently utilised" (Burris, 1998). The case demonstrated how a firm could flatten its hierarchy and use IT to achieve functional decentralisation and flexibility, while strengthening centralised managerial authority over production and decision-making.

 

In both the Panopticon and Taylorism organisational forms, management leads through command and control. Workers are expected to follow set rules and directives about how to perform duties. However, in the case of Panopticon, obedience is enforced through surveillance and in the case of Taylorism obedience is enforced through direct management control. Where there is high worker empowerment and high exertion of control, technology is used in a structured environment.

 

This quadrant, labelled High Level Bureaucracy takes account of the fact that, in some organisations, though workers are empowered with information, the over riding goals make worker autonomy undesirable. For example, in a high level bureaucracy or high-level military establishment, there are organisational goals which constrain a high level of worker initiative. When a Minister is asked to assume responsibility for the actions of an entire department through the Doctrine of Ministerial Responsibility, then managerial control will be exerted to ensure that workers follow rules of conduct and work on only sanctioned projects.

 

The importance of defining this quadrant can be seen through this quote from Malone: "When most people talk about decentralised organisations and empowerment, they mean relatively timid shifts of power within a fairly conventional, hierarchical structure. But these forms of empowerment go only halfway toward what is possible" (Malone, 1997). It is easy to get carried away with the possibilities presented by IT and forget that the technology is often implemented within an organisation with preconceived purposes and goals.

 

In a quadrant three organisation, the level of hierarchy will not decrease much with the introduction of IT and the span of control will only increase slightly. In this type of organisation, IT will facilitate existing tasks instead of facilitating the provision of radically new services. For example, in the Canadian federal government, IT has been used to facilitate the provision of information to the public through government web sites.

 

These two analyses demonstrate how theorists attempt to produce singular theories of how IT has impacted the management-worker relationships within the organisation. Burris summarises the dilemma thus: One the one hand, some social scientists have found that recent social and technological changes have created a centralized, neo-Taylorist work organization, deskilling of the labor process, and reduced worker autonomy (Braverman 1974, Feldberg & Glenn 1987, Draft 1977, 1979, Noble 1977, 1984, Shaiken 1984, Zimbalist 1979).

Conversely, other social scientists have concluded that the transformation of production has promoted a postindustrial or postbureaucratic work organization characerized by decentralization and reduction in hierarchy, upskilling of work and a centrality of knowledge workers, and democratization and increased worker autonomy (Attewell 1992, Bell 1973, Block 1990, Clegg 1990, Hirschhorn 1984, Piore & Sable 1984) (Burris, 1998).

As Wilson himself asserts in the discussion of his work, "Objections to this review may focus on the idea that the "totalizing" and overriding nature of the forms of control described logically result in the loss of all explanatory content" (Wilson, 1995). I must say that I agree. Interpretations like the two presented above are typical of the literature on this subject in an environment where academics are competing to produce the 'best' theory of the changes taking place. As O'Mahony and Barley intimate in their 1999 review of the state of literature on the affects of digital telecommunications on work and organisation,

Early researchers usually lodge broad and often idealistic claims about how some new technology will dramatically alter, improve or degrade the way we work or the way organizations operate... Over time, however, researchers discover that their first plots were too simple and that the technology's consequences are more variable than the organizing vision foresaw (O'Mahony and Barley, 1999).

The following analysis, based on the previous discussion of the changes in levels of control and empowerment wrought by IT, seeks two goals. First, the analysis recognises the plurality of organisation types, people, and goals in a model that encompasses various organisational forms. And secondly, the model is of practical use in that it predicts the uses of IT that will suit certain organisational goals.

The Control - Empowerment Matrix IT changes the relationship between the control exerted by management and the level of empowerment enjoyed by the worker. These two ideas can be thought of on a scale from high to low. Management either exerts a high or low level of control, and workers experience either a high or low level of empowerment. As discussed previously, those in control of the implementation of an IT system can determine the type and amount of information available to workers, and therefore can determine the extent to which they will be empowered.

In a parallel sense, the level of empowerment of the workers will be related to the level of control that is desirable of management. These factors must them be considered within the parameters of the goals of the organisation. Thus, the two scales of control and empowerment can then be placed in a matrix to visually examine the relationship between the varying levels of control and empowerment and the resulting organisational structure (see Figure 1).

The Control-Empowerment Matrix shows how combinations of worker empowerment and management exertion of control combine to produce differing uses of technology and different organisational structures. As shown in the previous discussion, levels of exertion of managerial control must be considered in reference to the level of worker empowerment. Thought management control maybe high or low, the qualitative nature of that control will change with the level of worker empowerment. When empowerment is low, management seeks obedience through commands, but when empowerment is high, management seeks influence through delegation of responsibility.

The four quadrants represent four uses of IT and the resulting organisational structure. Where management exerts a high level of control, but worker empowerment is low, IT is likely used for surveillance. This model is labelled Panopticon. This quadrant would be typified by organisations such as call centres where workers use IT to facilitate repetitive tasks and management uses IT to monitor for quality assurance. As Zuboff is quoted in Burris (1998), "computerisation can be implemented so as to promote centralised managerial control by making workers more visible and vulnerable to supervision, a technologically advanced version of the Panopticon." Management can monitor levels of productivity, quantity and type of errors, and the types of online activity to ensure appropriate use of technology.

For example, Coombs et. al. discuss how in life insurance companies, IT is used to facilitate networked date entry systems which allow management to check processing times, and monitor backlogs 'without leaving their desks'. This, "has the effect of reinforcing any sense of obligation amongst the [IT] operators to 'shift' the work. One effect of the introduction of online systems has been to encourage self-control among staff, resulting in an intensification of production which has facilitated control of relative staffing levels." (Coombs et. al., 1992) In this case the organisational structure would be typified by large groups performing similar tasks monitored by an overseer who would account for quality control.

The second quadrant is qualified by low exertion of managerial control and low worker empowerment. This has been labelled Taylorism in the spirit of the idea that the goal of Taylorism - complete control of workers - would ultimately lead to automation. Here management does not need to exert much control and workers need only ensure that machines or repetitive processes function efficiently. This quadrant would be typified by manufacturing industries where tasks are machine or process automated.

While Wilson suggests than Bentham's concept of panopticon and Taylor's scientific management are the same in that they both survey workers, gather information and thus enforce compliance, I would differentiate the two theories. The first seeks to control an existing body of workers. Taylorism, however, seeks to increase efficiencies by introducing fewer and more efficient workers - a trend that was clearly a forerunner of automation.

Centralised power, a de-skilled labour process and reduced worker autonomy would typify the Taylorist quadrant. Burris presents a case study by Prechel in which "the large steel corporation he studied, in response to global competition and economic crisis, has implemented a "neo-Fordist" strategy of "hypercentralization," hyperquantification," and "formalised control". This system reduced or eliminated the former autonomy of managers and instituted a sophisticated neo-Taylorist system of production control where the "one best way" of doing something is consistently utilised" (Burris, 1998). The case demonstrated how a firm could flatten its hierarchy and use IT to achieve functional decentralisation and flexibility, while strengthening centralised managerial authority over production and decision-making.

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