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Occupational Survival through Task Integration: Systems Men, Production Planners, and the Computer, 1940s-1990s, Organization Science


This paper examines how occupational groups survive the introduction of a new technology and associated jurisdictional changes. We draw on a comparative historical analysis of two occupational associations’ - systems men’s and production planners’ - efforts to frame their evolving tasks and relate to other occupations after the introduction of the computer into US business in the early 1950s. We observe that systems men followed the path traditionally advocated in the occupations and professions literature by seeking autonomy through differentiating their task domains from other groups and by trying to get other groups to recognize their control. But they were unsuccessful and disbanded by the mid-1990s. In contrast, the successful production planners took an integrative approach through efforts to frame the interdependencies of their tasks and relate to other occupations, making them more necessary to the functioning of other groups and the organization. Our study contributes to the growing relational perspective on occupations by showing how taking an integrative approach with other occupations at the field-level can help occupations survive long-term.




Steve Kahl, Brayden King, Greg Liegel

Date Published



Kahl, Steve, Brayden King, and Greg Liegel. 2016. Occupational Survival through Task Integration: Systems Men, Production Planners, and the Computer, 1940s-1990s. Organization Science.(5): 1084-1107.


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