‘ 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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