Adaptive Structuration Theory
role of information technologies in organization change
History and Orientation
Adaptive Structuration Theory is based on Anthony Giddens' structuration theory. This theory is formulated as “the production and reproduction of the social systems through members’ use of rules and resources in interaction”. DeSanctis and Poole adapted Giddens' theory to study the interaction of groups and organizations with information technology, and called it Adaptive Structuration Theory. AST criticizes the technocentric view of technology use and emphasizes the social aspects. Groups and organizations using information technology for their work dynamically create perceptions about the role and utility of the technology, and how it can be applied to their activities. These perceptions can vary widely across groups. These perceptions influence the way how technology is used and hence mediate its impact on group outcomes.
Core Assumptions and Statements
AST is a viable approach for studying the role of advanced information technologies in organization change. AST examines the change process from two vantage points 1) the types of structures that are provided by the advanced technologies and 2) the structures that actually emerge in human action as people interact with these technologies.
1. Structuration Theory, deals with the evolution and development of groups and organizations.
2. The theory views groups or organizations as systems with ("observable patterns of relationships and communicative interaction among people creating structures").
3. Systems are produced by actions of people creating structures (sets of rules and resources).
4. Systems and structures exist in a dual relationship with each others such that they tend to produce and reproduce each other in an ongoing cycle. This is referred to as the "structuration process."
5. The structuration process can be very stable, or it can change substantial over time.
6. It is useful to consider groups and organizations from a structuration perspective because doing so: (a) helps one understand the relative balance in the deterministic influences and willful choices that reveal groups' unique identities; (b) makes clearer than other perspectives the evolutionary character of groups and organizations; and (c) suggests possibilities for how members may be able to exercise more influence than they otherwise think themselves capable of.
See Desanctis, G. & Poole, M. S. (1994). Capturing the Complexity in Advanced Technology Use: Adaptive Structuration Theory. Organization Science. 5, p. 132.
To be added.
Scope and Application
The AST could be used to analyze the advent of various innovations such as the printed press, electricity, telegraph, mass transpirations, radio, telephone, TV, the Internet, etc., and show how the structures of these innovations penetrated the respective societies, influencing them, and how the social structures of those societies in turn influenced and modified innovations' original intent. In conclusion AST's appropriation process might be a good model to analyze the utilization and penetration of new media technologies in our society.
In this example two groups are compared that used the Group Decision Support System (GDSS) for prioritizing projects for organizational investment. A written transcript and an audio tape produced qualitative summary. Also quantitative results were obtained which led to the following conclusions. Both groups had similar inputs to group interaction. The sources of structure and the group’s internal system were essentially the same in each group, except that group 1 had a member who was forceful in attempting to direct others and was often met with resistance. Group 2 spent much more time than group 1 defining the meaning of the system features and how they should be used relative to the task at hand; also group 2 had relatively few disagreements about appropriation or unfaithful appropriation. In group 2 conflict was confined to critical work on differences rather than the escalated argument present in group 1. This example shows how the Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST) can help to understand advanced technology in group interactions. Although the same technology was introduced to both groups, the effects were not consistent due to differences in each group’s appropriation moves.
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See also Organizational Communication