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My earlier article entitled "Adverse Effect of Technology" resulted in an avalanche of e-mail from readers, all predominantly favorable.  In that article I put forth an observation that "As the use of technology increases, social skills decreases."  I want to take this concept a little further herein.

Before we had computers and the sophisticated communication devices we now have in the work place, there was a lot of manual processing involved. Orders were processed manually, as were shipments, financial transactions, and many other business processes.  All involved considerable paperwork with documents, reports, journals, logs, spreadsheets, etc.  We of course used the latest technology of the day which included such things as typewriters, adding machines, filing systems, cash registers, and tabulating equipment. Nonetheless, the emphasis was on manual processing which meant we were forced to work together, like it or not, hence the need for better interpersonal communications.  In other words, out of sheer necessity we were forced to socialize in order for the company to function properly.  Since the business processes were so laborious, companies would worry about losing time on a task, hence the need for long range planning.

Today, electronic automation is used to implement just about every business process in a company.  The idea of operating without computer support or electronic communications is unimaginable.  True, such devices have been able to expedite the processes, but in doing so people no longer have to interact in order to fulfill their jobs, hence the breakdown in interpersonal communications. And because our tasks are not as laborious as they once were, the technology allows us to make changes on the fly.  Consequently, long range planning has been sacrificed and reactionary management practices have taken their place. In reality, long range planning is still very much needed in order to remain competitive in a world economy, but this is not the mindset in today's corporate cultures anymore.

As I mentioned in my article, we have developed an overt dependency on our technology which results in three areas of concern:  first, that a company comes to a standstill when the power is disrupted (we can no longer perform the business processes); second, it tends to emphasize short-term planning as opposed to long range (whereby we are content to perform small tasks), and; third, basic interpersonal relations are negatively affected because we are no longer forced to interact with others.

Again, I am most definitely not anti-technology, but neither am I anti-human socialization.  If I have learned anything in the 30+ years of experience in the information systems industry, it is that people matter most of all; that it is people who use information, not technology; that projects and business processes are executed by human-beings, not robots; that it is the human-being which is of paramount importance in everything.  

I have always found it rather easy to teach people technology,  In fact, it is relatively easy to program a person to use a particular device.  But it is much more difficult to teach them the socialization skills to effectively interact with others.  This is why our corporate slogan remains, "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant located in Palm Harbor, Florida.

He can be contacted at:  timb001@phmainstreet.com

Copyright © 2008 Tim Bryce.  All rights reserved.

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