Trident University International
Module 1 Case 1
Topic: THE COMPARISON OF THE ORGANIZATIONAL SOCIAL AND TECHNICAL SYSTEM IN PAINTER'S CASE STUDY AND ITS OBJECTIVE PRINCIPLES: Can applying a socio-technical perspective improve the odds of success?
Student Name: Franklin Nnaemeka Okoye
Course Code: ITM 524
Course Name: Foundations of Information Technology Management
Lecturer: Dr. Rebecca Hudson
Date: June 21, 2015
A socio-technical system (STS) is a social system operating on a technical base (Whitworth, Brian with Ahmad, Adnan (2014)). Social ideas like freedom seem far removed from computer code but computing today is social. That technology designers aren't ready, have no precedent or don't recognize social needs is irrelevant. Like a baby being born, online society is pushing forward, ready or not. And like new parents, socio-technical designers are causing it, whether they want to or not. As the World Wide Web's creator observes: "... technologists cannot simply leave the social and ethical questions to other people, because the technology directly affects these matters -- (Berners-Lee, 2000). The online reality is that how people interact in socio-technical systems depends entirely on the software and its design takes the shape of the social system of that organization. In organizational development, the term socio-technical systems describes an approach to complex organizational work design that recognizes the interaction between people and technology in workplaces. Socio-technical refers to the interrelatedness of these two principles social and technical aspects of an organization or the society as a whole. This paper will illustrate how the first principle proves to shaping the final outcome in Painter’s Case Study. The critical elements to drive the decision of the Worker’s Compensation Board were their workforce, the business plan, and employee development. The social system became the power house in shaping the final outcome.
SOCIO-TECHNICAL THEORY DEFINED
Socio-technical theory is a term devised to avoid the rather simplistic technological determinism in much mainstream organization theory. It was coined by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in Britain, and used in the theory of organizational choice which guided their programme of applied research.
Though accepting the conventional wisdom of industrial sociology and the Human Relations Movement that in-plant technical factors affect the quality of social relationships at work, the Tavistock researchers argued that technology merely constrains human action, rather than rigidly determining behavioral outcomes. Conscious choice can build good human relations into the technical workflow. Indeed, for any productive problem there is typically a range of technologically equivalent solutions, with differing implications for human relations.
By emphasizing the element of choice, and the mutual influence of technology and the social systems of the workplace, the Tavistock researchers sought to move away from technological determinism towards greater appreciation within management of the need for consultation, innovation, flexibility, and an open mind in the design of work processes and procedures. The consultancy and action research work which led to the formulation of socio-technical systems was carried out in the coal-mining and textiles industries in Britain and India in the 1940s and 1950s, and seemed to show that work teams which operated a flexible allocation of tasks and jobs achieved higher productivity, lower absenteeism, and fewer accidents than work teams with a rigid division of labor and inflexible ‘segregated’ task groups.
The Tavistock studies were criticized for underestimating the difficulties of reconciling economic, technical, and social efficiency. However, the idea of the socio-technical system (though not the term itself) has passed into conventional thinking...
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