Cooperation, power, and the impact of information systems

Research paper by F. A. Stowell, G. A. Allen

Indexed on: 01 Jun '88Published on: 01 Jun '88Published in: Systemic Practice and Action Research


Imagination suggests that the computer as a communication tool is potentially a significant factor in enhancing cooperative work, especially where the participants are located over a physical or temporal distance. Implementation of innovative information technology offers enhancement of operational efficiency to an enterprise in a turbulent business environment. Communications and decision making are inseparable. Industrial democracy (ID) is a particular arrangement of decisionmaking power where decision makers have to be informed and decisions have to be communicated. Cooperation implies a redistribution of power and the weakening of the traditional management organizational heirarchy. Cogently, this effect is mirrored by the potential of management information systems to redistribute information and, hence, power within an enterprise. The response of traditional management personnel to the threat of information technology (IT) to established positions of authority, is one of defense. Conventional systems analysis is unsuited for the design task of ID information systems. The methods employed by systems analysis preserve or reproduce the formal hierarchical structure of managerial organization. Soft systems methodology is explored as a means of confronting the sociopolitical factors present in the specification of information systems for an ID.