ORGANIZATIONAL INFORMATION REQUIRtlVIENTS, MEDIA RICHNESS AND by bfk20410

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k   ORGANIZATIONAL INFORMATION REQUIRtlVIENTS,
      MEDIA RICHNESS AND STRUCTURAL DESIGN*
1984). Ooc di,inguishing lealure 01 organizational information procraing is rh&,,g        q. ions to ask. and if quatiotu me posed. tbe silwtion is ill-defined u) the point
An individual decision maker may inlerprcl dam in rcrpoosc ,o a problem (Simoo            where P clear answer till not be forthcoming (March and Olson ,976) For example.
 1960; Ungsoa. Braunstis and Hail 1981). Infommdon processing at the organ&do,,           Minubcrg ct aL (1976) examined 25 arpnizadonal decisions. and in many cases did
kvcl. however. typically involves sewn) managen who converge on a similar in,e,p,c.       not find the rypc of uncmain,y where alternatives could be defined sod information
tation. Another distinguishing lcature 01 organization inlorowion processing h he         ohmined. They round inrtcad decision making under ambiguity where almost nothing
need to cop-z with divmity no, typical al an isolated individual. Decisions ue            was given or wily drtcnoined. Managers had to define and figure things out for
lrcquredy made by gmups so 1 coalition is needed. But coalition members may have          ticmselves Little data could bc obtincd. Unccrtaia,y as studied in Ibc psychdogy
different inlerprcralionr of IhC same even,. may be pursuing different o,gani&oul         k&aatory did not chmcsrizc the ambiguity r;pericnced by managcn A laboratory
priorities o, goals. and hence may be in coatlicc with rcspa to da intcrp,etltioo o,      &tation ana!ogou to the ambiguily faced by managws would be to provide subj&s
iLI significance lo, goal attainment (Ungson CL al. 1981). Inlormation proassing at fit   tilh partial or coouadicfory inrwctions lo, the expe,imcnlal game, or to lclvc it to
organization lwcl must bridge disagrecmcnt and divcnily quite distinct from h             subjects 10 figure out and create their own game.
infomntioa activities of ixdaed individuals.
   The final arsumplioo is tbhlr organization level information processing is iofluend    Two Forcu
by Ihe orgaCz.ational division 01 labor (Burton and Ohd 1980). Organizarioru uC              nur w ppoy that two complcmcnrary forces exisl in organizations &hat influ-
divided into subgroups or departments. Each depanment ulilizcs a specific technology      ence inlormatioo proccuing. One force is dcfincd .w unccruimy and is reflected in the
that may dillcr from olhc, dcpanmenlr (Hall 1%2; Van de Ven and Ddbccq 1974:              absence of answers LO cxplicir questions as has been studied in laboratory wltings: the
Daft and Macintosh 1981; Daft 1986). For the organiaion to p&o,,,, well, uch              other force is dcfincd as equivacalily and originata from ambiguity and confusion as
depanmenl must perform iu task. and the tasks must be wrdinatcd wiilh one another.        often sea in dx mury. paradoxical world of organizational decision making. The t-ye
Uncerminly and equivocaliry may arise Irom dcpanmenlal technology, from coordina.         forces arc analogous to an n-dimensional infomxa,ion space (Marschak and Radner
lion of dep&ncnU to manage interdcpendencc. or from ,hc exlcnul environment                1 9 7 2 ; Baligb and Burma 1981). Uncertainly is a masure or &e organiration’        s
(-T&man and Nadler 1918).                                                                 ignorance ol a v&x lo, a variable in the space. Equivocalily ir a maswc of Ihe
                                                                                                         s
                                                                                          organimtion’ ignorance of whctbcr a variable exisu in the space. When uncc,tainty ir
                          3. Two Infommtioo Contiogade,                                   low, tie organization has &la that answer questions aboul variabla in the space.
uncrnoimy                                                                                 7Kh.x cgoivoclli,y is low. tic organimtion has defined which qualions 10 ask by
                                                                                          defining variables into the space. Each iorce has vaiuc for explaining inlormation
   Based on early work in psychology (Miller and Frick 1949: Shannon and Weave,             troccrsing behavior. and each lorcc leads to diffcrcnt behavioral outcomcz Equivocal-
1949: Gamer 1962). uncertainty has come to mean tic absence of information. As            ity leads to tbc exchange of existing views among managcn 10 dclinc problems and
inlormatioo increases, uacenaialy dccrcaus. Unccrtinly can be illusvaled by a             resolve coonicls through Ihe cnacLmcnt 01 a shared in,crp,etatioo lhat can dircc,
typical laboratory cxpaimcnL Laboratory subjects might play the game ol 20 quw            loturc activiticr. Uncc,tainty leads to tbe acquisition of objective infomution about
lions_ wherein they rcccivc yes-no answcn 10 questions abau the identity of an             tie world to MIWC, specific questions.
unknot objccl, which w be animal. vegetable or mineral (Bcndig 1953; Taylor and
Faust 1952). The “inlormatioo” obtained from each answer can be precisely calculated                                    4. Integrating Framework
as tbc increased probability that lbc subject can identify tbc object lmprovemcal in
                                                                                             The two cansa of information processing xc combined into a single framework in
identifying tbc object is a reduction in uncertainty. When the person identilio tix
                                                                                           Figure I. The hotintzd axis in Figure I ,cp,cscnU organtitional uncertainty. Under
object correctly. unccnainry is gone so addilional questions provide no additional
                                                                                           conditionr of high uncctinfy, Ihe organization acquira data lo answwer a varicly Of
ioiormatioo.
   The detiiition of unccnaimy as Ihe absence of information perrbts in organization
theory w&y (Tushman and Nadln 1978: Doamey and Sloam 1975). Galbraitb
                         Ihe
deli& uoccrminly as ‘ diflcrence bctwcen the amaunl 01 iolormation required Lo
perform tbc task and Ihe amoon, of information already posses& hy Ihe organiza-
lion” (Galbraiti 1977). Organizations lha, lace high uncertainly have (0 ask a large
number of queslions and to a c q u i r e more infomndon to lam chc answer. I?./
important asumpdon underlying this approach. perhaps originating in the psychology
laboratory. is that the organizatioo and its managers work in an cavironmcnr where
quations can bc asked and aowen obtained. New data can be acquired so that tasks
arc pelrormcd under a reduced level of unccrtain,y.



Cons about an organizational situation (Wcick 1979; Daft and Macinmsb 1981). High
cquivaalily means confusion and lack 01 underslanding. Equivocality means Ihal
asking a yes-no question is no, feasible. Parlicipanlr a,c not certain about what
objcaive quustions U) solve known problems. The vmid uL in Figure l rcprewn,,
                                                                                        ddidaaal dam. lrrun are well undcrslccd. so exwnsivc divurrion is no, rquircd U,
equivmlily. UIldn wndilions of high quivoc.ali,y. rmnagm exchange opinions ~
                                                                                        raolrc md dariry issue. An organization in chi silutian would tend ,o rely on a
clarily ambiguities. delinc problems. and reach agreemol~ As a Iramcwo~ rar
                                                                                        sanding body or rlandards. procedures, politics and preccdcnu. Routine schcdula.
analysis a n d d i i i a n . cquivcalily a n d unceaainty arc vuted as indcpenden,
                                                                                        wru, and sutisdcal dam would bc Ihc p r i m a r y information haw used by Ihe
CI)~~~CU in Figure I dh~~gh they UC undoublcdly rchti in the real world. High
                                                                                        wnizaalio~ A Cell 3 si,tmtion is ,ypiIied by an organizadon lha, uses a routine
lcvcb of quivocali,y may rquirc some near dam as well I( ctifiution and ag,ee.
                                                                                        mbn% in a scablc environmenL
mcm_ Circumrlanca Iha, demand new data may alro pnerr,e some need for addi.
                                                                                          Figure I mppracnu an attempt to c o m b i n e Ihc conccpu of quivocalily a n d
,ioul inwrprctaion and definition. Hawcvcr. as indcpendcn, COOS,NCU d,e two
                                                                                        ,,,,&ty imo P single lmmcwok Tbe quadrams in Figure I rcprucnt paucms of
dimmrionr in Figure I provide ,heorc,ical catcgorim lhr, M help explain bab ,hc
                                                                                        pmblcnu and issues that influence organizational information rapcnrcr and ulti-
am-, and r0m 0r inr0mation provssing in arganhti0~
                                                                                        nu,cly I~C nrucmral design of the organ&&o. Svucture can be designed 10 Iacilitas
   Cd I. This cell is ,yPified by a swan of only a few ewa rhha, arc equivocal and
                                                                                        quivoali,y reduction. or ,O provide data 10 reduce ~n~ntlinly. M b&. depending on
pc+ undmmcd. Managcn encounln occasional sitwions for which lhcy may “,,,
                                                                                        organinti.nul needs.
knew oh, suertions 10 ask or wha, woblcm 10 s&c. Manaccrs rely on iud.mcnt an,,


 dala One example would be Ihc &biiL,y ol ac&ng Cmpontion X. Would it fi,
                                                                                           We bw argued Iha, inlomwion praessing in organizations is conccpually more
 s,raw+iiy and organizationally and accomplish the d&cd ouaoma? No one
                                                                                        ,ban simply obtining dam 10 reduce uoccnainty: i, alxo inrolvu inarprcting quiw-
 know: no dam can say for sure. Manrgcn can only diiuss &is quivoul issue until
                                                                                        d sinudonr Tbc ncx, question is how can organization bc designed LO mcc, Ihe
 dozy defmc whelhcr P problem exisu and Iha, acquiring Corporation X is lhcir
                                                                                        ne+dr rm unceainty and/or quivocality reduction. ~ition s,mc,we is the
 solution. Coal wing is another example. Managers from mgincering. marketing and
                                                                                        +Uocatian d llrkr and rcrponribilhin 10 individuals and groups wivilhin Ihc organ&-
 production may diagrcc aboul goal cmphais for dx company. and no ouuidc dau
                                                                                        ti.~~ u,d Ihc design of syr,cms 10 easure elfcctive communication and inlegradon or
 will resolve this issue. Approaches to resolve Cell I quivocali,y arc rhc Delphi
                                                                                        dfon (C&Id 1977). Organiza,ioo s~~c,urc and internal syncms laciliua in,emctiaar
 ,echniquc (Delb+cq. Van de Ven. and Gutiron 1975) and diaIaiul inquiry (Miuorr
                                                                                        ,,,d mmmticationr f o r Ihc cwrdination and wnud d organiz.&nal actividcs.
and Emsborr 1 9 7 9 ) . Thc~ lshniqua arrange r0r tic aclu0gc or even c1a.h or
                                                                                        PrnWus weak by Calbrailh (1973) and Tushman and Nadlcr (1978) bar shorn how
rubjcctive ~pinionr when no objective da~z are available U) predict an even, or
 rorm&,e suat~gy. Through Ihe pr- 0r hdly cxchrnging information. 1 COB.
                                                                                        organizaioo s,ruc,ure and suppan syrtcms can be uibxed ,a provide the correct
                                                                                        ~~o,J,M d i n f o r m a t i o n ,O reduce uncertainty. WC pmpow v) rake this tine of
 mm graammar and judgment cvolva. quivocalify is reduced. and a common pcnpcc.
 l&r _..,o.”                                                                            rtarotig ODC step ranher by arguing tba, organiaional design can provide informa-
 . .._ _._.~_                                                                           don .,f Nimble richness ,o reduce cquivocality zs well as provide sufficient dala ,o
     Cti7 4. Tbir ECU rcprcwnls a situ&an where unccrtain,y L high. The cquivocali,y
                                                                                        reduce lmcmainty.
or nws conlroating managers is low, hut mansgem nerd additional information
abau, many issuu. They know wha, quarionr 10 ark and the Y)YTCC or cx,cmal data.
 For ample. il wnover among clerical employees is iacrasing, managers migb,
                                                                                           WiKilh rrrpec, ,o uncertainly. sm~tural design can fxi!iwc Ihc amoun, or inlomm-
canduc, a Nrvcy or T-N r0r latig. If the qualion peruins 10 the reaction or
                                                                                        lion needed for management coordination and movcl. For example. Calbraith (1973)
cus~omc~ 10 certain product colors and labels, a special rmdy may provide the answer.
                                                                                        d-i bow tormal managemcn, inlormation syncms have grcarer capwily ,o carry
 If invm,ory outages cau~ cus,om~r alicnalion. data about cynomcr ordering pauems
                                                                                        useful dam u) managers than do rranding rules and pnxedura. Formal syr,cmr can
 may lead UI an algorithm for inventory managcmenl. Information processing in this
                                                                                        provide dam &xl variables such a( production wc+k flow, employee abwmccism
 ritvalion involves da,a acquisition and syys,cma,ic analyrir Cell 4 unccruimy rcpre-
                                                                                        pmductivir), and down lime, and they can provide sysc~rmtic dam abau, Ihc uremal
YOU the absence 0r explici, information. The organi2aion is mMiva,cd ,O acquire and
                                                                                        entinmm, and compedtian (Pamom 1983). Olher r~~ctural mechanisms include
proccn dau u) answer impormn, questions.
                                                                                        ,ask r0rcs and liaison r&s. A ,ask r0mc can provide 1 grwer amoun, 0r inlormation
                                                                                        tiai~ an crganiration than can a sioglc race-tdacc meeting. Liaison persnnncl can
     Cc0 2 Bah quivcality and uncertainty arc high in Cell 2. Many issues arc
paxly undmtccd and participanti may bc in disagrccmcll,. Iuucs also may be
                                                                                        actively ucbange dala between divisions lo reduce unce&nry. A number al audia
 amenable m Ihe gathering of new data that may influcncc managers’ in,crprcla,ion of
                                                                                        have indicated *a, informalian processing inouvr or dmcawr dcpcnding on Ibb
 evenn A *al study mighl be undcrtalten 10 galhcr &la that can bs combined wilh
                                                                                                                                      s
                                                                                        rcmp,exi,y or variety of ,hc organization’ lask (Tushman 1978. 1979; Dal, and
ditian and managerial judgment u) reduce bab cquivocali,y and uncertainty. A/
                                                                                        Macin,osb 1981: Bawlas 1950; Leai,, 1951). Spccilic svuclural mechanisms can be
GU 2 situation would probably be characlcrircd by rapid change. unanal~blc
                                                                                        implemcmed by Ihe organization 10 lx&late Ihc amaun, of infomwion needed ,o
 lechnology. uaprtdictablc shocks. and trial and error laming (Dal, and Weick 1984).
                                                                                        cop wilb uncertainty sod achieve desired task pcrfomuncr
 Cell 2 could OCCUI during times ol rapid technological dcvdapmcnl. wilhin emerging
 industries. or during the launching of IIC\Y prcductr. Some answers can be obtained    RM- _, ..l...~~~~~.~~
                                                                                        . .._.__ n’,“f”,mtw;on
 ,hrwgb rational data collcclion. and other answcn rquirc subjective cxpericncc.           Witi rtspcc, ,o reducing cquivcality. r,ruc,ural mechanisms have 10 cnablc debate.
judDaL discussion. and cnac,men,.
                                                                                        cltifir~& and enac,mcm more lhan simply provide large amaun,s of dam Man-
     Ceil 3. A Cell 3 rilualion rcprcrcnls a low lcvcl of bolh quivocali,y and unccr-   agcn work under conditions or bounded rationalily and lime conr,minU. The key
 ,ainry. New problems do no, arise with sulficicn, lrqumcy ,o require rignilican,       Iac,or in quivczali,y rcducfion is ,he exten, IO which s,mc,ural mcchanirms laciliwlc
%a                    RICHARD L DAFT *ND ROBEIT H. LENGEL

dae processing of rich inlormation (Daft and Lcngcl 1984; Lenpl and Oaf, 19&h
Information nchnas is defined as Ihc ability of information to change undmun~g
eiddn a time inlerval. Gmmonication wanuctions lha, can overcome dill-,
frzma of rcfcrcnce or clarify ambiguous issws ,o change underrunding in a timdy
mamcr are considered rich. Communications du, rquire a long time to enabk
ondcrslanding or rha, canno, overcome different perspectives are lower in richnar In
a YNZ richness pertains 10 Ihc learning capacily of a communication.
   Gmmunication media vuy in Ihc capacily ,o pmrsl rich inlonnadon (Lengel aod
D& 19&1). In order of daeasing richncu. ,hhc media classifications ue (I) face.lo
face, (2) telephone. (3) pmonal documenu such as le,,m or memos. (4) impcnoti
wiflcn dcamcnu and (J) numeric documcnu. The reason for richncu diiercnccr
i&ode rhc medium‘ upacily for immediate feedback. ;:le nwbcr of aa ad
                      s
cfumcb utilized. pcrsonllization. and language vtie,y (Daft and Wiginlan 1979~
 Face-m-face is Ihc riches, medium because i, pmvida immediate f~dhack so rba,
imaprculion can be checked. Face-lo-face also provides multiple cues ti body
lmguage and lone of voice. and magc comcn, is expressed in naloral hngugr
R*h media lacilila,c quivoalily reduction by enabling managers U, overcome
diffaen, framer of rcfcrcncc and by providing Ihc opaci,y LO prapr complq              jodgmcnLTbrough discussion. a cross-uctioo 01 managers from diifcrcn, dcpanmcnrr
s&j&~ messaga (Leogel and Daft 19&r). Media of low richness prccerr fewer c,,a          reach a cnmmo~ frame of rcfcrcnce (Wcick 1979). Managers can converge on xbc
and mstnct feedback. and are less appropriate for resolving equivocal iyocI. Howcvn.    mtining of quivocal cuts, and arc able to cnac, or define a solution. Tbc rucnglh of
an imponan, pain1 is lhr, media of low richness are effective for pmcadng V$J           $roup meetings is Ihc abilily ,o overcome diifercnces and 10 build underslanding and
ucdcntccd messages and sundard &la.                                                     agrwnenr Group diurrion is a subjective process mlhcr lhan Ihc collection of hard
   SuucmraI characaristirs lha, fadlirate the ose of rich media arc diffcrcn, from      data for rational analysis.
cbanctctitics tha, facilitate P large amoon, of data Rich media arc personal and            2. fnrcgmron. In,cgra,ms rcprcsa, Ihe asdgmncn, of an organizational position 10
invdve face-lo-face comx, be,wecn manage& while media of lower richness 1~               . boooduy spanning ac,ivi,y wilhin rhc organizadon. Full-lime integrators ioclode
impcnonal and rely on NIU, fomw procedures, or daa bases. For example, Van dc           ,,roduc, aaanagcrs and brand managers (Galbnilh 1973; Lawence and Lorsc,h 1967).
Vca Dclbecq. and Koenig (1976) loud lha, coordination mechanisms varied along a         Put-time in,egm,on include Ii&boo pc~onel whore responsibility is 10 cany mlorma-
contiuum from group. ~asoaal, Lo impasonal. When task nonroutinmess or imerde-          tion acms.s departmenu. such as migh, b: done by a manufaclutiag engineer
pcodcnce wcrc high. informalion procaring shifted from imperronll rules u) ~asonal      (Galbrailh 1973; Reynolds and Iohnsoo 1982). The inlegrator role includa dx
ucbangcr including face-,*facc and group meclings. Lcngcl and Daft (1984) found          uan.smission of data. bu, it is primarily a way to overcome disagreement and Lhcrcby
&a, rich communicalions were used by managers for difficul, and quivocal messagc~       rsducc qoivocality abou, go& tic inlcrprctation of issua, or a coone of action
Rich infomta,ion uansacdons allowed for rapid feedback and molriplc cuts Y) lha,         @-cc and Lonch I%7). Whro maoagcrr approach L problem from diverse
managers a” converge on a common imcrprctation. When n,c$sages were unquiw               frames d rcfcrencc. equivocaIity is high. In,cgra,orr and boundary spsnaerr use
cal, media such as ti,ten memos or formal repoti were sufficien, 10 met, information     face-,w,ace and lclcphonc meeting5 10 resolve lhcw differwu.
nccdr Fmally. Dal, and Macintosh (1981) found tba, qoaliwjvs face-to-face web               3. Dimr Conrocr. Direa coouc, represents the simplest form of personal infor&
niqwx were preferred in quivcal situations.                                              tion pr~xaring. When a problem (XCLLII. !.fanagcr A can conuc, Managcf B for 1
                                                                                         b&f discusrion, such as how ,o gel producli~n back on schedule (GalbraA 1977I,.
                                                                                          Dkc, mmx, can occur la,erally among dcpartmcnti or vcflically bctwccn hiemrchl-
   Taken together. lhcsc idas and findingr begio lo scses, how organtitionr haodk        al kvek Direc, con,ac, ofko UY( rich media. thus is similar 10 group mccting~ and
dual informalion needs for uocctity and quivocali,y reduction. for bab obniniig           in,cw,or roles. ahbough w&en rncrtxn and Icacn also arc used. Direc, cootact            c
objective dala and exchanging subjective view We propose lhal seven swcmraI               allow managers to crcbangc view a n d disagree. hence Ihis mechanism facdilata
mccbannbms fi, along a coodnuom with rapa, u) their relative capacity for rcdoci&         sohjecdvc informa,ion as well as objective &la. Through diicu~sion and cxchangc of
unanainty or for resolving quivocality for decision makcn. This continuum is              vicwpoin~ quivocality b reduced. Some new dala SISO can bc exchanged 10 X&ICC
illvanled in Figure 2. Tbc ccmtinuom rcflecu Ihc relntivc convibudon of design            uncertain,y abau, rpccific queslionr
chuac,eristics for uncertainly reduction and quivocalily raIo,ion. md sugg&s thr,            4. f%vming. Planning is a dynamic procus lha, includcr elemcnll of bolh quiw
svuc,onl mechanisms may also address bolh needs simuluncoosly.                            &,y r&ction end da,a sharing. la ,he initial rlager of planning. cqoivcalily is high
   I. Gmu,n &feelings. Group mcstingx include Learns. lark force. and commi,,CP           Managcn ofwn rn~ct face-to-fact and in groups LO decide overall wrgetr and a gcncral
(GxIbrailh 1973; Van de Yen e, al. 1976). Project and m&x forms of wuc,urt utiliu         course of ac,ion (S,tintr 1983). Once plans arc se,. cquivocalily is reduced. and the
frqucn, group meclings as a means of cwrdinadon. Tbc compara,ivc advanuge d               plans ~~omc a data promsring dcvirc. Srhcdulcs can be defined and frcdback
group mcc,ings is equivocalily rcduclion ralhcr than d a t a procuing. Parlicipanfi        mcchanivm er!ablirhed. Comparing aclual pcrfarmancc 10 targels provider mmaqcrr
exchange o p i n i o n s . percrplions and judgmcnu face-lo-face. Some new da,a arc        with d,u IO ~valual~ pcrformanre (Lorangc and Vancil 1976). Plmning is placed near
p - c d . bo, the advanlrgc of group meclings is the capacily 10 reach a collcc,i=         &e middlc of the scale in Figure 2 bccaurc t h e o n g o i n g proccrr inwlvn both
 quivcdity reduction and data procaring. Initial planning rcsolvc~ quivcality,
   while plans. schedules. and feedback provide &la for uncertainty reduction.                 The final step in answering Ibc question 01 why organizations pracsa infom~ation is
      5. Spcial R+wnr. Special reparts include one-time studio and survcyl The               u) translate rhc ideas from Figura I and 2 into organizational applicatiom. Tltree
  pu’  poy 01 special rcpor~ is u) gather data about an issue, synrhaim i5 and rcpon it      y)urccs 01 organizatioaal uncertainty and cquivc4i:y arc technology. inlerdcpan-
  to m a n a g e r s (Lengel and Daft 1984). Tbii process k expected ID involve tame         mental relations. and tic cntionmcnr (Galbraitb 1977: Tuskman and Nadler 1978:
  quivocality reduction. but iu primary role is to obtain data, interpret it and lhnchy      Daft and Macintosh 1981: Wcick 1979). 7% cse so”ICP represent the lranslomlatio”
  mducc uncertainty. Managm know which question to Sk before a study is initialed.           praxes,, the Linkage and cc-xdinaian required bcwcen departmenU, and the evcnu
  Special studies tend to be undmakcn for problems about which objective dam an not          and problems external to the organization (Duncan 1972: Wcick and Daft 1983).
  currently available but CZI k obtained lhmugh systematic investigation and analysis.       Stmconl mcchanismr simikr v, those in Figure 2 can be uwd 10 reduce quivocality
      6. Fond lnjonnorion Symmr. Formal information wtemr include the periodic               or uncertainty &sing lmm the technology. inerdcpcadcncc. or v) inerp.ct tbe
                                                                     s
   repbru and computer data bases Ihat make up an organization’ information ntpp~n           uwnal cnvironmcnr
   mtcm (Sauderr 1981). Irdormalion systems include computer reporq performance
   cvaluaticos, budgets, and rtatistkal information on such things as scrap raw, credit      TcchnOlOgV
  dclaul&, or market share (Daft and !&cintosh 1981). Xx purpow al lhae reports is
  CO provide data 10 managcrx. and lhcy are mcdcralc to low in richneu. The reports             Technology ir the knorledgc. tools and techniques ucd 10 vdnrlorm inputs into
   reduce managen’ unccMimy aboul how well a new product is selling. or wbctbcr              organizational oulpuu. Pcrmw (1967) proposed a tccbnnalogy model that dclincd Iwo
   scrap rates are within tbc standards lor each machine shop. Periodic rcparu rypically     underlying task characwistjcr-task variety and task analyzability. Task variety is Ihe
   per&n to Ihe better undcnmcd and mcasurablc aspects 01 organiz~on an& hence.              frqvcncy 01 uncxpccbzd and novel events that occur in tbc convcnion process. High
   do not ~t-+e to reduce quiwcality. Minor disagreemenu about interpretation may            variety rnca~ lhat participanu typically cannot predict problems or activiticr in
   occur, in which case managers could either rqucst additional data or resolve the issue    advance. Task analyzability conccrm the way individtircspand to problems. When
   tbrougb discussion.                                                                       the coownion procar is analyzable, cmplayeer IypicaUy follow aa objective, compula-
      7. Ru[a and Regularioru. Ruks and rcgvlations arc perhaps the arcakcs~ and least       tion procedure to rcs&c problems. When work ir no1 analyzable. pticipanu have
   rich information proccssiog dcticc (Galbraith 1973; Tushman and Nadlcr ,978). They
  arc gcocrafly established to provide a knovm response m problems that have arisen in
   tbc past Rules and regulations fypicalfy apply to recurring well undmrood phcnom.
   &I% and they reduce tbc nctd Lo procar data on P ccnlinuour basis. Rules and
  programs lherelorc play almost no pan in quivocality reducdon. Equivcafily is
  rcduccd before rules and pnxedura arc written. Rula. proccdurq sun&r& and
  policin provide a lied. objmivc knowlcdgc base from which employm can learn to
   rapond 10 routine organization phenomena
      The phccmcnt of wuctural altcmativa along the Figure 2 continuum is teamlive
  and bypolhetical. The information mle 01 each ruuctuml sharac(etitic may vary
  across organizations. Tbc paint d Figure 1 is ta identily strucrural charactctiticr lrom
   the literature lhat pertain Lo the dual needs lor quivocalityand unccruimy reduction.
  77x rclationsbip belwccn structure and tbc reduction 01 quivcality and unccimbxy
  has not been empirically wad, but the Figure 2 pattern L consistent with previous
   rexarch. Van de Vcn CL al. (1976) found v‘   oup. personal. and impcrsaml mechanisms
’ uud according to inerdcpcndcncc and task ncnroutinencss. Daft and Macintosh
  (1981) reported qualitative information ww wxd for quivcal issues and quantitative
   information wa used lor vaquivocal isrua. Galhrailh (1973) and Tushman ad....
   Nadkr (1978) argued that same mechanisms have gw.ar information capacity.
      Due insight lrom Figure 2 ir lhat inlormarion pmccrdng mcchanimu may no( be
   readily ruhrtitutcd lor ate another. For example. task lorccs and managcmcnr infor-
   mation systems bah have tic capacity lor high lcvclt of inlormation proccuing
   (Galbraitb 1973; Tushman and Nadler 1978). but tbc underlying pupae 01 each form
   of information proccsring is radically dillcrcnt. Management inlormation systems
   provide objective data. while usk forces and group meetings arc a rich medium lhat
  an serve the purpae 01 reducing cquivcvalily and reaching a8rccmcnL Information
  systems do not reduce quivcali~y because equivocal issues arc not wily mcasurcd
  and communicated through impenonal ryrtcmr. Likcwisc. task lorcc meetings arc not
  cllicicnl mcchanismr for dirscminating large amounts 01 quantilalivc dam
                                                                                                             O*CANIurlON*L ,NFOllYATlON RF.QU,lEUpllg                          565

difficulty developing exact procedures, and hence rely 00 judgment and caperims,            Yrnus, continwudy adjust u) one another. InlCrdepcndencc iacruwr unccrUin,y be.
rather dun 00 rtlles or compuutional roudna. Purow’ modd of technology ir in
                                                      s                                       Sue action by OM depanmcnr can uncxpcc,cdly force adaptation by other depan.
Figure 3. along wivilh prowsed suuclural mcthcds for procaring information.                  menu in the production chain. Frquenl adjumcnu are needed when in,erdcpen.
   Based upon the wmt of Van de Ven c, d (1976), Daft and Macinmsh (19811                  : dmce b high. and hence more information *us, bc processed (Van de Vcn et af.
Tushman (1978). (19791 Lengel and Dal, (1984). and Ihe idcu pmposed her<                   : 1976). When inlcrdcpendcncc is low:dcpanmenu upcricncc gru,er aumnomy, rlabil-
diffcrcn, moda of information praccrsing arc proporcd 10 occw for each ,yp of              : in and certainly arilh r~rfxc, u) coordination.
technology. For craft vchaalagy in Cell I. larks are no, analpbls bu, few problem,         :. Figure 4 comb& Ihc dimcnsians of differentiation and intcrdcpcndencc into a
arise. Thcsc cquivccaf iuucs can be handled by prronal contact and occasions                 fmnxwxk. Differentiation is associated Ah quivocali,y rcductios and intcrdcpcn-
discwtiolu between managcn Experience is atsa used Lo inIcrpr.3 quivocal N=               in dcnce with uncctity (Daft and Lcngd 19344). In Cdl I. dcpartmcn,s have diffcrcn,
Planning may be weld UI reduce quivocafiry acd anticipru pmbfcmz For nonmu.              1 fmcr of rderena hut arc relatively independent so information pmcewing tiU be
tine technology in GU L group meetings will be a primary source of information           i hhqucn~ When ccardiration dm occur tic primary aim will bc m resolve quivc-
proccrring Unccnainly is high bccavw of frequent unanalyzablablc problems. People ViU    :caUryandacbicyc a common grammar. For thcle occasional imeractions. rich face-t-
use rich media in Ihc form of frqucn, unwhedulcd mwing u) rmlvc iuun ad h,x,             face or telephone diiurrions may resolve Ihe issue. and wmc things can be handled
a s well aa scheduled “wings ,o wordinac dcpanmental activities In the case o f          ; by personal mcmw or anlicipald in the planning procru.
engineering wchnology in Cell 4. managemcn, information systems rad special s,udja             When dtpanments arc bath highly differentiated and inwdepcndcnL as in Cdl 2,
will be impalan,. Task arc anrlyzable, so they can be audied and problems rhcreby        alI information pro&sing mechanisM of Ihe organization will bc utiliicd. Wide
solved. Periodic rcparu from the formal informalion syrtcms wifl cover many a&i.         diffcrcnc~ must be raalvcd and a high volume of data must be proccucd to enable
tia. and rp&al projals and surveys can be used for ixsuua no, covered by the regular         mutuf adjwmaL The organization will have lo use svuctural mcchanlms Iha, allow
information system. Mawagcmen, information in Lab wri,reo ad stalirtical form ai”        bath a high volume of data and rich media. S~~cturcs wifl include full-time in,egra-
provide data of approprias richness for ,his kind of activity. In ,hc uy of a routine        Len. tark forces. and project teams. Direct ccw.acl in the form of coalition building
tcchnofogy in Cell I, a standard bcdy of rules. rcgulatio& and policies can guide Ihc        may also bc used Lo acgotiale acres department boundark (Cycn and March 1963;
routine activi,ia. Occaiowal rchcduled meetings may also be r&van, here, bu,                 Gantz and .Murray 1980). Matrix organi~tion SVUEWIC may apply because it is
organizatioa design should lend 10 facilimw impenonal dau                                    designed Lo encourage frequent face-lsfacc meetings u) CPIUIC cwrdioation laterally
   Of course every form of information processing will bs usal occasionally in each          - !hc wganizaion (Davis and Lawrence l977).
tihnology. Bu, dx emphasis on information form and frqucncy is expected m reflect
Ihe information rquirrmenlr of each technology. Formal r&tirticr and managemen,
information systems may no, be of value in z basic r-h w&g or for a craf,
technology. becauw ‘   aumbcrr” do no, caplure Ihc intangible natured lhcx acdviticr
Likewise. persoaal and gmup mecling?; wifl play a rmafln role it, ,bc engineering and
routine ,cchnologja where dash arc more clearly defined and quantifiiblc.


   TIC second source of uncertainly and quivocafi,y is the occd for in,cgra,ion across
departmenu. Galbraith (1973) called lhir lateral inlormadoa processing and recom-
mcodcd lcchniquo such as direct conrac& liaison roles. and in,cgra,orr u) achieve
imcrdcpanmental ccadimation.
   Tblhe imerdepamncnlal chancterislic lha, iaffuenca quivocaliry is differcn,iation
(Dal! and Izngcl 1984). Each department develops ill own functional specialization.
time horizon, goals frame of reference and jargon (Lawcncc and Borsch l%7:
Shrivastava and Milroff 1984). Bridging tide diffcreaca ~crca departmenu is a
problem of equivcalhy reduction. People come 10 a problem dlh different expcri-
ena. cognitive cfcmro~ goals. valun. and prioriticr. A person vained a.s a wiemis,
may have a difficuh lime undenunding Ihe point of view of a lawyer. A common ’
pcnpcctirc does no, uisr Ceding schema arc dissimilar. ln,erdcpartmcnt.al communi-
cations lbus can be complex, ambiguous and difficul, 10 in,erpre, (Allen and Cnhcn
 ,969; ~rub-er c, al. 1974). Equivocality is high when diifercnliatioo fs grca~ The
aructuraf dcvica should enable par,icipanU lo confroo, and resolve dffgrccmcnl and
misundcntanding lha, can tiiy Lx,wccn departmcnu.
   The charac,cris,ic dn, influences unccrlainly and hence Ihc need for dala process-
ing be,rccn dcpartmcnlr is strength of in,erdcpcndcncc. fmcrdcpcndmcc means the
extcn, ,o which dcpar,mcms depend upon each other ,o accomplish ,hcir tasks
(Thompson 1967). Some dcpa,,mcnu work indcpcndendy while other departmcnlr
-

                                                                                                                     ORtiANIU*,ONAL INFORMATKJN REglJ,REMEKn
5s                    IllcHARD L DAFT AND ROBEIll H. LENGEL                                                                                                                         5.57

                                                                                                    aviro”m~L Dafa tend lo be pmo”al. “onroutine and informal. and arc obuincd u
   When diffncotiatio” i s s m a l l , such as bclwcc” a” indrutial e”gi”ecri”g a n d
                                                                                                    ,hc oppo~U+lY ati=. f” CCff 2. or’@“iMiO”s arc more a&c. Organizations combine
m&an&l mginceting department hut intcrdepadcnce is high, as in Ccl1 4. a
                                                                                                    thc,acquuiuon of “w data aritb the creation of new inarprclationr about tic
dillcrcnl form of uxrdinatio” will apply. Tbcsc departments can rely more heavily on
                                                                                                   C”y”mOtL Managers “=y rcducc quivocaliry through trial and emor e~p&,,~,,_
a high vdume of dam processed through impersonal communications. Information
                                                                                                    moo” a wll a~ by acqoln”g more data about the external environment Frcquc”!
can be achanged through plans. rcporu. schcdulcs. updated data bara. chanr.
                                                                                                   meetings and debatn will CCCUT. I” Cell 4, fom~alixd warch is the primary ioforma.
budgets and memos. Much coordination can be achieved through less rich media
                                                                                                   tie” vehicle. This organizadon has a welldefined environment which can be mcarurd
because cquivoalily is low.
                                                                                                   sod analyrnl [hroogh qoatio”naircJ. aoxys. and other means of data collcctio”.
    Finally, in 011 3 interdependence and diffcrcntintio” are both low. so the infornu.
                                                                                                   Manage reduce a high I+ of uncertainty by asking questions through ma”agcmc”~
lion “e&d for uardinatio” will be minimal. Ceil 3 b similar 10 Ihe pooled inarde.
                                                                                                   ioformaoo”, SYslcms. spaal porpow reports, and scanning deparcmenu. I” GII 3.
pendcnce dcsaibed by Tbompsa” (1967). A series of branch baoks have similar
                                                                                                   “eithn qulvocality “or UncerUinly is high. The organization ha?i atablishcd mltL
pets~ectivcr and little need for interaction. so they can be coordinated through
                                                                                                   prmxdura. repa& and information systems that reduce tbe need for external infor.
 standard&3 ruler md operating procedures. Personal or group contact is infrequent
                                                                                                   malion The environment is not hostile and the organizuio” has little “4 to &]=I
 beaux &xc is IiuJc cquivocality to be resolved and little need for mulual adjutmcnL
                                                                                                 large amounts of environmental &la.


    IIC final source of organizational information processing is interpretation of the                                        7 . Summay uld Coodlrrio”
exwmal cwironmenr. The c”vimnmcnl is a major factor in organtitional *tructure                       Tbir paper bega” by asking Ibe quatio”. “why do organizations procaf informa.
and intcrul procervs (Duncan 1972; Pfcffcr and Sahxncik 1978: Leblebici and                       lion?” Thhe proposed answer ir lo cfftctivcly manage both uncertainty and equivocal_
Salancik 1981). As a” open ryslem. a” organization cxnol seal &If off horn the                    ft~. G”CCIUI”~,Y and eqoivocafiry repracnt two forces identified in the litcmurc &at
cnvironme”: (lhompsnn 1967). The organization must have mechanisms to learn                       mflucn~~ Ihe lnfommtlon prcassing rquircd for organizations to alai” adequate
aboor and inrerpre, cx~-“al eve”&.
            s
     Wcick’ (1979) discuuio” of cquivocality emphasized that many events in the
e”.,iro”mcn~ ax inherently unclear. Managers discurc these NC”U and enact a
definition aad common grammar so du.1 organirational action may follow. Likcuir
data can Lx accumulated Lo reduce uncncainty about objective indioztorr such .u
markc( shut and c~~tomcr demographics. Information processing about the cxlcmal
e”viro”mc”t mu, meet tic dual needs of quivocalily and uncertainty reduction.
     Figure 5 is adapwd from Wcick and Daft (1983) and illus~ate~ tic relationship
                            r
bcwce” the or~anization’ cnvironmenl and the dual iofotmation processing “teds.
 Equiv-lity b related to the analyzability of cause-effect relationships in the external
environmcnr (Thompson 1967: Tung 1979). Wh c” enviroamental relationships are
 clear and a&zxblc, quivwalily is low. and managers ca” rely on the acquisition of
 explicil data to answer questions that arise. For example. rcmrch by Wilcnsky (1967)
 and Aguil,w (1967) found significant difcreaces amoog organizations in the extent the
 environment (~a( sza as rationalized and objective data coile~tcd. When UIC cause-
 effect rclati&ps arc unclear, information proccrsing mosL reduce quivocalily.
 Managers mosx dittos% argue, and ultimately agree o” .a rcawrnabls inlerprclatioo that
 makes action sasiblc and suggcsu some next steps.
      Thc v&&an b~ u”cxtainty along tic horizontal dimmsio” in Figure 5 is related 10
  &C amount d data collected about tbc external c”viroamc”L Organizatioos an@
  f r o m b e i n g p&e with respect to &la ~oll~~tio” 10 those thal actively rcarch the
  cnvironmcor w a caotinuou baris (Fahcy and King 1977; Aguikr 1967). When Ihe
  cavironmcnt is perccivcd as hostile. competitive. r a p i d l y c h a n g i n g o r when the
  o r g a n & & ” d-n& heavily o” the cntiooment for f~urccs. the organi~tio”
  gathers mor~&u about the environment (Pfclfer and Salancik 1978: Wilcnrky 1967).
  Orga”jz_a!ions do-&p multiple lina of inquiry into the environment because man-
  agcn feel u”c&ty. Organizations in bcnevolenl, ruble. “oncompctilive environ-
  me”& have la incentive to g a t h e r d a t a (Wilcnsky 1967: Hcdbcrg 1981) becw~e
  unccrlninty is low.
       Based up” hat idas, organizations in Cell I 01 Figure 5 do not actively seek
  Cnviro”mc”ml dau. bw do reduce cquivocality. R i c h media arc used lo interprcl
  cvc”fs, a”d i”ri_&jn xc obtained from personal con~acl~ with significant others in Ihe
          Fl0U.S 6.   sunlq MC&l d   r*-ti      Pfucui” md Ory”
                                                       l       iuLion biga


paformancc. Organizations     can k structured through the ux of pmonal or imper.
sonal mechanisms ,o manage cquivocafiry and unccnain,y. Depending on Ihc type of
Ihc wchnology. dcgrcc of rquircd inlcrdepartmenlal integralion. and Ihc na,we of the
environment. s,ruc,ural mczhanisms caan be adoprcd 10 mce, managcmem’ need for  r
addi,ional dam or Ihe need UI crca,e a common grammar and in,erprc(a,ion ataut
ambiguous cvcnu.
   The purpose of lhis paper was to tic t0gclher.a number of threads from *e
organila,ional li,cra,urc. which are summarized in Figure 6. The notions of UILCCI.
tainty and cquivoali,y. s~~tural mechanisms 10 rcflcc, informalion needs, media
richness, and of ,cchnol~. imcrdcpndcncc. and environmen, as cauxs of informa-
tion processing. have bczn discus& in ,bbc litna,ure. This paper af,cmp,ed u) in,c~,c
quivocality wi,h unccruimy and argue lha, s~~c,ural characrcristics arc uxd 10 help
organiralions cope wi,h lhac wo faclon. Research pertaining lo technology. intcrde-
panmental relationships, and cntionmcnt was shown ,o have common Ihcmes consis.
,cn, with Ihe cquivocali,y/uocmain,y framework. Figure 6 is adapwd from Tushman
and Nadlcr (19X), and illusuara how organizational CO~,CX, influenca uncertaimy
and cquivocalily. and tha, effective design will provide the appropriate anoun, and
richness of information.
   This paper also offered a preliminary answer 10 a second and related question.
‘How do organizations procar information?” Figure 2 and the framovorks for
technology. in,erdcpartmental rclatior&ips, and environmen, in Figures 3. 4 and 5
proposed specific svuc,ural mahanisms Lo enable the corxc, amount and rypc of
information procasing. Each struc,ural charac,cristic-from rules and procedures to
group mce,ings--rv.u propacd to have a specific role lha, enabled the reduction of
quivoality and unccrtaimy.
   The frameworks dcvclopcd in lhis paper suggcs, specific ,hema about organiza-
tional informatioo prcaxsio 8 Iha, can be ~~,cd in fumrc research. For example, Ihc
ambigui,y confronting m&ugcrs in orgaoimtions may be as imponan, 10 swc,ural
daign and informa,ion pr accaing .u the need ,o obtain cxplici, dau to rcducc
 uncertainty. Previous raarch has measured informa,ion processing by wunling
communication activities such as Ihc numbcr of letters, phone calls, or oral common!-
cations. or by examining the geometry or frqucncy of dara flow bctwecn specific
 points in ,hc organization (Tushman 1978; Bavclas 1950: Lcavi,, 1951; Allco and
 Cohen 1969). Tncsc studies have made important con,ribu,ions, bu, lhcy assume 3
 reasonably well-dcfincd field for managcn and lha, dam flow is sufficicol for under-
 sfanding information procasing. The frameworks in [his paper imply chat dam
 counting may ovcnimplify informa,ion managcmcn, within organinlions. A major
 problem for orgxnira,ionr is lack of clari,y. no, lack of cxplici, dala. The approach lo
 cquivocali,y is for manaqcrs IO develop and agree upon a definilion of Ihc ritualion.
The na,urc of cquivoali,Y and iu impac, on managers rcpresen, a new and po,cn,ialfY
 importan, avcnuc of rcxxch into informa,ion processing. Some preliminary smdics
 have already been undcrakcn (Pumam and Sorenson 1982). bu, additional research IS
 nmlcd ,o undcrrund cquivocalily wirhin organiwlions.

								
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