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im Zeitalter der Telekommunikation
Technische Universität Wien
Juni 1993

The central thesis of this paper is that the emergence of telework necessitates the development of alternative methodologies for evaluating organizational effectiveness. Specifically, as communications technology allow work to be separated in time and space, the traditional methods of analyzing organizations (i.e., complexity, centralization, size) do not facilitate the management of these new organizational forms.

This paper proposes the development of an alternative framework of organizational functioning based on analysis of the pattern of information flows among members of the organization. This theoretical formulation is based on a series of field studies of teleworkers in the United States. These studies cover both public and private sectors with over 700 participants. In conclusion this paper presents a theoretical model of organizational functioning based on information flows which can be used to analyze organizational effectiveness in enterprises using teleworkers.


Telework is emerging as a global phenomenon. It is estimated that 38 million people in the United States now work from their home on a regular basis, with 5.5 million of these actively and routinely using telework as an option to traveling to a central office [1]. Telework is certainly emerging as a viable work option and is being given impetus by environmental and traffic congestion concerns in the United States.

Introduction of technologies into large, complex organizations creates a change in the process of communicating among people; a change in the routinized systems which support work; and finally a change in the persistent patterns of interaction among workers, especially in information intensive industries. The key driving technology of this change is software which controls the pattern of communication flow ñ and in turn this pattern of information flow becomes the dominant pattern of organizational functioning.

Currently, telecommuting is an example of extending the office into the home. The technology has been available for some time [2-4], but the barriers have been sociological. Telecommuting is the present incarnation of 'telework' [5] which is a manifestation of the emerging electronically distributed workplace [6] we are interested in analyzing.

Telecommunting has been vigorously investigated and several key research issues identified. Olson [7], referring to telecommuting as remote work, examined some behavioral, organizational, and social issues of remote work. Hesse & Grantham[4] have investigated telework in the context of the electronically distributed work community and present suggestions for research on telework in the areas of privacy regulation, emergency preparedness, self- efficacy, temporal aspects of employee behavior, communication patterns, and organizational effectiveness. The results reported in this paper narrow that focus to development of a analytical framework for investigating organizational effectiveness in enterprises engaged in telework.


Distinct variables have been used to describe organizations. Most organization theories employ these same variables, but vary as to the nature, direction and strength of the predicted variable relationships. The major variables used in traditional organizational analysis are: (1) Authority and Power, (2) Size and Complexity, (3) Efficiency and Effectiveness, (4) Technology and (5) Environment.

The pairing of variables like authority and power stems from previous research [8,9] that has consistently found associations among variables. Individuals who have more authority in an organization, are likely to have more power. As organizations increase in size, complexity also tends to increase. Efficient organizations are often effective organizations, although the strength of this relationship varies from one organization to the next [10]. However, when telework becomes a persistent pattern in an organization the impact of computer mediated communications acts as a intervening variable in these organizational relationships [11]. The robustness of these independent variables begins to decline as organizations, and their members, are increasingly separated in time and space. A new analytic paradigm is needed to provide predictive validity in organizational analysis.


Visual analysis of information flows in organizations will become a standard accepted business practice within 10 years for successful business firms [12,13]. Recent advances in technology (mostly integration of technologies) has brought us to the point of being able to use computers to simulate business decisions, in real time, as a new technique of management. The core idea is to move the manager from a traditionally static model of the business to a dynamic one. Central to this is the idea of simulation using computers.

Computer based visual simulation techniques can be a valuable part of a methodology to design information environments which characterize organizational functioning. In a recent article in BYTE magazine we see that "research from many fields is being synthesized to create a design philosophy of information environments." [14]. These information environments represent a place for the increased use of modeling environments.

This paper is intended to push organizational analysis into this new realm of dynamic computer based models of functioning. Organizations can be characterized in many ways. Traditionally, we have done this with financial models. However, these haven't always worked well in information intensive environments. Further, there is some evidence to indicate that 'groupthink' has emerged as a tendency in large organizations, making it difficult for a manager in a system to 'wake up' and perceive what is actually going on. New models of organizational functioning are needed as a thinking tool to do this.

Many contemporary management consultants are trying to do this. Peter Senge with organizational learning; Michael Hammer with 'business re-engineering' and David Nadler and 'organizational architecture.' are only a few. In our studies of telework based organizations we keep finding that the pattern of communication among workers, and workers and managers is becoming the 'the reality' of how an organization functions; not more traditional measures of money flows and hierarchical measures of power and status. We believe that as organized work becomes extended in time and space a new model of analysis is required. We have extended an organizational analysis model developed by Bennett [15] by turning his theory into measurable information flow patterns. These flows are then transferred to the modeling environment by constructing a complete equation simulation model using commercially available software.

Figure 1: Bennett's Model of Organizational Functioning


The data used to develop this new framework of organizational analysis comes from a series of integrated field studies on teleworker behavior conducted in the past two years in California.

Study 1: A large public agency in California embarked on a pilot test program of telecommuting and use of remote telework centers. 100 participants were involved in the six month study. As part of the evaluation all participants were required to complete extensive survey questionnaires in a pre-post test research design. The questionnaires gathered attitudinal and behavioral data relevant to measuring productivity, communication pattern changes and travel patterns. Data concerning communication pattern changes were used for this analysis.

Study 2: A large telecommunications service company in California conducted an attitudinal study of 640 managers involved in a telecommuting program. The principal aim of the study was to identify barriers to managing teleworkers. In addition, this study employed additional data collection to develop design guidelines for home office telework technology. Both the communications pattern data and the technology design guideline information were used in this analysis.

Study 3: A public sector government agency conducted a pilot program evaluation of teleworkers. The primary focus of the study was on impacts upon family and community life of a group of 35 volunteer teleworkers. both qualitative and quantitative data were collected and used for analysis in this paper.


In all of the field studies we have conducted we have discovered that managers, in particular, indicate that they need news ways of looking at their work groups to understand patterns in work flow and allocation of human and technological resources. Many approaches have been developed to do this, such as the socio-technical method [16]. However, all these have difficulty in capturing a complete, systemic 'picture' or 'image' of the organization [17]. What is the rationale, then, of developing advanced ways of thinking about how the firm functions. Dur and Bots [18] offer three cogent reasons:

1). Organizations develop over long time spans and much knowledge about functioning is tacit knowledge, not reflected in past financial records.

2). Organizations allow for many vantage points of view, which are continually negotiated.

3). Organizations often grow rapidly so that no one individual can have a reliable picture of the entire organization at any one time.

This means that our current business environment is moving quicker, with a larger span of control and changing so rapidly that old ways of analyzing them have reached their limits of utility. Therefore modeling of organizational process can overcome these problems by making the tacit knowledge explicit, can relate various vantage points and provide a cognitive bridge between complexity and local rationality. From a psychological perspective modeling helps managers surface assumptions about behavior and do that in a way that makes these assumptions visible.

We have consistently isolated differences in views of productivity, technology use, attitudes towards telework and predicted impact on worker's social life in our studies. These differences in views between workers and their managers are the basic data which we believe indicates the utility of using a information flow to develop a unified picture of organizational functioning ñ especially one which can be visible.


As we said earlier our approach to organizational analysis bears a strong resemblance to Forrester's view of COMFLOW's within organizations. However, we would like to extend that approach by using an even more complex model of organizations. Organizations process information to manage uncertainty and puzzling situations [19,20]. The way in which they manage the flow of information can indicate the relative health of large, formal complex organizations. We are proposing that a organizational design model based on information flows can be used as a diagnostic tool--as well as a design template for organizational development practitioner. In common practice physicians use a similar approach in medical diagnosis and prescription.

Bennett [15] sees a multi-term system composed of six elements as a model which describes a concrete 'event'. That is, something which has come into existence and is complete. A six term system becomes the basis for describing a work organization - because it does exist and is complete. In systems theory terms the organization has a boundary, requisite variety and has its' constituent parts are connected to one another.

Bennett's [15] work provides the basis of this model by relying on structural aspects of organizations. Figure 1 is a diagram which identifies these elements of organizational health. This figure is meant to indicate the interconnectedness of the six elements. The dark lines which form the outer border signify that all elements must be viewed as a complete whole. The dotted lines inside the Figure form two triangles which are two subsets of the entire process. Freedom, Network and Focus unite to build potential for action. Identity, Order and Growth are the manifestations of that potential. So elements can be examined as unique things, in sets of three or as a whole. Each of these structural elements has an analog of information system flow which is outlined in Table 1.

Table 1: Information Flow Analogs

 Organizational  Dimension Operational
Information Flow Analog
 Growth Organizational scale and rate Normalized volume, 1st order derivative
 Focus Efficiency of operation, output variance reduction Variation in output types, Standard Deviation
 Freedom Rate of innovation, measure of creative ability Creation rate of "Objects", 2nd order differential
 Order Sequencing of steps in process Degree of indexing log linearity
 Identity Uniqueness boundary permeability Self references degree of translation
 Network Interaction patterndensity and reciprocity Density of communication
Each of these structural elements is therefore characterized by an information flow. We can by definition diagnose the relative functioning of an organizational elements by examining the associated information flow characteristic. This principle becomes the basis for the creation of our unique diagnostic (and design) paradigm.

Our research is based on this model of organizational functioning. We have begun to focus on collecting data which operationalizes these information flows. The context of telework presents a unique opportunity to develop this analytic model because workers are separated in time and space, but linked electronically. These electronic links create a history of communication activity which can be readily translated into our model operational definitions. future work will involve more validation of the Bennet [16] model in the electronically distributed workplace. We believe that this will yield both basic insights (i.e., into organizational functioning and structure) as well more practical results such as designs for management development programs and public policy in this new work environment.


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