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I. Introduction

Examining my lessons on how businesses and other similar entities traditionally developed their strategies, and comparing it with the way that some of today's more innovative firms have begun to plan, reminds me of the change in many companies' approach to quality decision-making. From what I have learned, quality was traditionally associated with inspectors assuring quality after the fact--after parts were made--rather than getting everyone down the line involved in building in quality in the first place, as eventually happened through the TQM (Total Quality Management) movement.

Indisputably, a similar trend is emerging in the fields of decision-making and strategy. Traditionally, many companies regarded strategy development as an exercise in which specialists "programmed" the right products and services into existing markets. According to what I have read, however, as global competition grows more complex and volatile, and as information technology revolutionizes organizational structure and decision making, responsive, flexible, and innovative organizational designs displace hierarchical, command-and-control structures. This is putting decision-making strategy as a 'planning-by-the-numbers' process on the same road to obsolescence as the notion that we can create quality by setting tolerance standards and manning inspection stations.

The impact of information technology on how organizations make change, make decisions, and develop has been nothing short of profound. Consider any aspect of the new technology-from the installation of desktop computers to automated inventory and customer support, computer-aided manufacturing, electronic mail, and videoconferencing. Each of these innovations has forever changed the nature of work, forcing old organizational structures into new configurations. To appreciate the impact on decision-making, one must take a deeper look at some of the changes that accompany a new technology. Through implementing information technology, organizations not only increase process efficiency, they also change the central point of knowledge. In the eyes of many managers, this equates to changing the focal point of power. If implemented in its most productive fashion, information technology provides line employees with important data to perform their jobs more effectively and make decisions on job changes.

Information technology changes the time dimension of many communication and decision-making processes by providing global communication networks that cross multiple time zones and by increasing the turnaround time of production and feedback data. This, in turn, provides employees with information technology and considerably more information on a more frequent basis. Coping and intellectual skills to handle these changes in information flow are critical.

II. Policy-Making: Genuine Application of Info- technologies in Decision-making

Policy is the product of a group struggle between contending factions who constantly strive to weight policy creation and decision making in their favor. As one good example that I uncovered, within social service settings; resource policies promoted by management compete with service policies of social workers. Management familiarity with information technology rewards operational advantage in resource application at the expense of social work personnel. Social workers thus far have reportedly failed to incorporate information technology withhin the natural systems approach resulting in a state of disempowerment face to face with information technology itself. My relevant research indicates that the social worker will be able to avail himself of information technology only as a result of redefinition of social services organization policy based on social work concepts such as social change, involvement, informal organization and empowerment.

Policy as a results of a decision-making and as a guide to action (Meehan, 1985) is directed towards the accomplishment of some purpose or goal by implementing a pattern of actions. This stands in contradiction to giving individuals the opportunity of shaping separate discrete decisions (Anderson, 1975:3). Policy development is understood primarily in terms of the making of choices concerning alternatives to be achieved and how this is to be effected. Policy development includes in its repertoire organizational, informational and political conditions under which decisions are made (Pardeck, Umfress & Murhphy, 1985). The administrative tool used to apply a policy is inherent to it (Meehan, 1985; Calista, 1986). Challis et al. (1988) refer to factors, one of which is the organizational.

There are those who view technology as the controlling decision-making force in organizations. Wilson (1989) sees technology as the dominating factor within an organization and emphasizes its influence. "Technology demands characteristic ways of thinking . . . . Technology sets its own objectives, and would have us evaluate progress towards those objectives in terms of its own criteria and logic. These demands and criteria are quite independent of the 'content' of the technology. Technology is more than an expression of culture--technology drives culture. In a real sense technology is culture" (Wilson, 1989:49).

From what I have inferred, if one concentrate on the structural elements of information technology as many observers have done, they run the risk of falling under the spell of "techno-value systems." Such an arrogant position sees information technology as assuming a central and controlling posture in the organizational framework, in its policy development and policy implementation. Murphy and Pardeck present the reality of this situation when they write in an article that, "computers create a unique presence in an organization, which requires that life be altered in many significant ways" (1990a:1). This overly deterministic and rigid perception of the nature of information technology implies that information technology will control and regulate the value system of the organization, its policy, its organizational framework, the roles of the personnel of the organization and the organization's normative behavior with consistent reference to the decision-making process.

So with all of this in mind, how does information technology interact specifically with decision-making policy in a social service organization? In order to better understand the dynamic interplay between managers and social workers in the quest for information technology control, I reviewed a journal article in which Eaglstein and Berman carried out a study using the previously mentioned "policy streams" approach of Webb and



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