Socio-Technical Systems (STS) have been thought to be implemented in their true form by various corporations and colleges over the past years however, when taking a closer look at what STS truly are, one begins to wonder about how limiting STS implementations have actually been. Walt Scacchi explains that Socio-technical systems “…includes the network of users, developers, information technology at hand, and the environments in which the system will be used and supported” (pg.2, 2003). Action research is a byproduct of true STS implementation, which propels this concept of “prescriptive design” forward into a more user friendly approach with “descriptive results” and as a more proactive approach to organizational development (Scacchi, pg. 3, 2003). According to Jennifer Lombardo, action research can also be called “participatory research”, in that employees have as much input in the process as organizational leaders have (2014). The most notable aspect of action research is that unlike traditional attempts to implement STS, it allows for reinvention and transformation.
Scacchi explains that, “reinvention seeks to discover new ways of doing established work practices, while transformation seeks to rearrange workflow, staffing, and related resource configurations” (pg.5, 2003). The way organizations have been attempting to implement STS however, take these processes out of the hands of the end users, inhibiting any possibility for true development. John Aldridge calls this widely used form of socio-technical systems nothing more than a “technocratic approach” (2014), which only have the appearance of being an STS. Aldridge believes that the reason why many postmodern organizations continue to struggle with effectively implementing STS, is due to the traditional beliefs of top managers. He argues that organizations who attempt to implement true STS, simply “fade out” and “when this occurs, the organization simply regresses to conventional patterns of interaction” (Aldridge, 2014). Top managers are overly concerned with maintaining control over subordinates and top-down decision making, which make their STS implementation very limited with regard to employee autonomy and flexibility.
True STS “enables collaborative decision-making and shared leadership” and “STS challenges the traditional management taboos that of sharing information and knowledge with subordinates on a need to know basis only” (Aldridge, 2014). Transformational leaders would be wise to implement true STS within organizations, as it truly promotes the achievement of a shared goal, by utilizing employee participation and draws from the collective ideas of an organizations pool of knowledge. Transformational style leadership pairs harmoniously with true STS simply because, as Peter Northouse explains, “although the transformational leader plays a pivotal role in precipitating change, followers and leaders are inextricably bound together in the transformation process” (pg. 186, 2013). STS, when implemented correctly allow for leaders and followers to share in decision-making, binding together all sides of the social structures of an organization. True STS can be viewed as complete autonomy in decision-making in order to allow for the utmost flexibility within organizations. Aldridge gives us some present day examples of organizations that have successfully managed to implement STS resulting in operational frameworks of integral leadership. He mentions “hospital emergency rooms, trauma units, air traffic control centers, and research labs” as primary examples of “self regulating and autonomous work groups collaborating” (Aldridge, 2014). Doctors obtain vital information in order to diagnose and treat patients in a emergency setting by using highly collaborative systems of shared knowledge, without any limitations from top managers. In the same manner, research labs deviate from hoarding knowledge in order to accelerate the identification of solutions to ongoing research problems.
Given the aforementioned explanation of STS and its extrinsic nature, Facebook and Twitter could vary well be one of the purest forms of STS with virtually no decision-making influence form top-management, no limitations on knowledge and information sharing, and completely unrestricted collaboration with everyone. Employees and managers could very-well use these vary exact web interfaces in order to sustain business operation decisions and development. Leaders would adopt a system encouraging shared leadership, collaboration, and unlimited participation of all employees. Information would be displayed for all employees to see and formulate ideas upon, aiding in the overall development of the organization. Issues that plague organizations would be identified immediately, collectively analyzed and remedied with a solution benefiting the group as a whole. As long as leaders put aside concerns for overall employee autonomy, the possibilities for greater organizational development are promising.
Aldridge, J. W. (n.d.). SOCIO-TECHNICAL SYSTEMS. Socio-technical Systems. Retrieved
August 9, 2014, from http://www.argospress.com/Resources/team-building
Lombardo, J. (n.d.). What Is Action Research? – Executing Organizational Change. Education
Portal. Retrieved August 7, 2014, from http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
Scacchi, W. (2003). Socio-Technical Design. In The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer
Interaction (Vol. 53, pp. 1-10). California: Berkshire Publishing Group. Retrieved August