Socio-Technical Systems

“The STS work design is based on the premise that outcomes such as work group productivity and job satisfaction can be manipulated by jointly optimizing both the social and technical factors of the workplace. Further, STS embraces the strategic choice model. From this perspective organizational members within work groups have some agency of choice–adjusting, interpreting, and monitoring the technology and not the other way around. While the research idiom is action science, the reporting protocol is the case study,” (Aldridge, 2004). This is an interesting premise. There is some truth that productivity and job satisfaction can be manipulated but it depends upon what the intent behind the leaders who implement these technical and social game rules. It seems that technology plays a greater factor in to today’s marketplace because of the technological advances made over the last few years.

When I think of STS in my career I can relate to it with my work utilizing the Agile Software Development Life Cycle. This is a collaborative effort using technical and social contributions to accomplish development goals.  When a formulated system is not used the evidence is clear. Outcome is much more tangible and positive than when you are just playing it by ear. The concept of STS is dynamic and aspects of it can be found throughout many organizations today.



Aldridge, J.W. (2004). Information on Socio-technical systems. Socio-Technical Systems: Team Building Glossary. Retrieved August 7, 2014 from:


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  1. LED501SVH says:

    STS (Socio-Technical System) is an approach to complex organizational work that recognizes the interaction between people and technology in the workplaces with the purpose to optimize collaboration, support and innovation (Little & Ray, 2005). Consequently, STS is used to increase productivity and job satisfaction by maintaining good communication and learning. This approach is a win-win system in which everyone (employees, stake holders, customers etc.) receives a benefit.
    In my current career I can relate to STS for Knowledge Sharing and Communication especially around IEP’s (Individualized Education Programs) for students with special needs. The planning and execution of IEP’s involve extensive collaboration, sharing of knowledge and communication between educators, parents and specialist. This collaboration contributes to establishing realistic goals for students as well as the implementation and support needed for students to accomplish their goals. When there is a lack of collaboration or a missing link of information the success of a student is at stake. The STS approach can be found throughout IEP’s process.
    Little, S., & Ray, T. (2005). Managing Knowledge. London: Sage Publications.

  2. Kaycie Hanlin says:

    STS refers to the joint optimization, where there is an achievement in both technical performance and quality in the employee’s work life. It proposes a plan for productivity and wellbeing within the organization. Different socio-technical systems are created and developed as society is changing. “It is people and not technology that is changing the way organizations share, transfer, and leverage knowledge presenting socio-technical concepts to a wider field of possibilities” (Aldridge, 2004). It seems as though technology is struggling to keep up with our demands as a society. STS continues to develop and adapt to the demands of our society as different systems fade out and new systems are created.

    Aldridge, J.W. (2004). Information on Socio-technical systems. Socio-Technical Systems: Team Building Glossary. Retrieved August 7, 2014 from:

  3. Billy Moua says:

    Socio-technical systems (STS) is an approach to complex organizational infrastructures and processes that emphasizes the interaction between people (social) and technology (technical elements) of an organization or society (Aldridge, 2004). The goal of STS is the achievement of both excellence in technical performance and quality in people’s work lives which ultimately lead to the emergence of productivity and wellbeing. It is through the interactions of social and technical factors that create successful organizational performance. This requires joint optimization or tandem social and technical systems that work well together. In today’s world the socio system has a tremendous expectation on the technical system to perform at levels that are above expectations. In addition, customization may be approaching saturation. Both need to work hand-in-hand to produce productivity and wellbeing.
    STS relates to my career in areas of reporting and data management of LIS systems. The initial input of work is by socio contribution in recreating data and addressing the goal of the system development. When the technical system does not have clear objectives or the expectation is beyond the technical performance, then issues arise and the society’s performance goals are lost. Consideration of the technical elements must be formulated with careful thought since technology can play a huge role in productivity and wellbeing of the system. This is a good example of how the complex interactions of people and technology play into each other.

  4. Seth Davidson says:

    Socio-technical systems (STS) designers made some assumptions in their design process. All organizations are: open systems and as such need to continuously renew and adapt to opportunities and demands in the environment (Helen, 2011). Organizations in today’s society are constantly changing and adapting to enhance their productivity with increase use of digital collaboration sites (Microsoft SharePoint, Cloud). In the organization I work in we have increased the use of collaboration tools like Adobe Breeze in order to save on costs incurred by having face to face meetings. We continue to enhance work and personal time balance by installing Cisco VPN software which allows us to work on a secure network from anywhere and increase work productivity at a covenant time.

  5. phillip wickham says:

    Socio technical systems are designed to be more acceptable to end users and enhance stakeholders return on investment. Socio-technical systems (STS) are social system activated by a technological system such as, Twitter and Facebook. Despite potential returns, many of these systems are not used or are not used for purposes to benefit the organization. In some cases, employees view socio-technical systems as a replacement for human contact. This is not always accurate. Often, STS creates employment opportunities, but in new, different, and emerging technology fields.

  6. Socio-Technical Systems are mechanisms used to formally communicate with people without making face-to-face contact with anyone. The technical system is comprised of components such as equipment, processes, procedures, and a physical arrangement. The social system includes people, their attitudes, individual values, styles, and relationships. STSs are social media websites and other forms of communications such as email and blogs. These systems can be used for what ever the person using the system wants to use it for. I believe businesses and corporations have a huge advantage over others who do not use this program because these organizations have the ability to advertise to anyone who has access to the Internet.

  7. Justin Rhoades says:

    Sociotechnical Systems(STS) is just a fancy way of identifying a group of people working together in collaboration with a technical system. When Trist and Emery first researched the idea of STS, they studied coal miners in South Yorkshire. Their studies were brought about the mentality of managers of the day, that a carrot-and-stick managerial approach produces the best results. Meaning that in order for the employees and/or system to be able to move forward and progress, there must be a manager there holding a carrot on a stick in the direction he or she wants to go. This is as opposed to the STS approach which promotes self-regulation and the idea that a group of people can self-regulate themselves toward a goal in a specific direction. But doesn’t there have to be a leader within the group in order to keep the self-regulation working? “STS continues to struggle within organizations. Under the best of conditions, STS and all change interventions tend to suffer from “fade-out” when the inside champion departs and there is no one to pick up the leadership staff. When this occurs, the organization simply regresses to conventional patterns of interaction” (Aldridge, 5). Aldridge also says that management opposes the idea STS. Why? Because it would make their job superfluous? I don’t think that any GOOD manager should fear STS. At the very least it will make their job easier but I do not think that even STS can replace a good manager/leader. Because without some kind of leadership in place, I think that even STS will crumble.

    On another note, I do not think that Facebook or Twitter are STS(‘s?) mostly because of the fact that there really isn’t anything technical about them. I think that the businesses themselves are but we as a people on FB… are not. It is really just a social environment driven by technological change. Most of the time, there is not a lot of value added with FB. Granted… there is KM and knowledge sharing that can be had within the confines of social media. But at its root it is really just a technological lunchroom where people talk about their day, their classes, complain about life, and brag about which ones lunch is better.

  8. mlundy says:

    “The Internet exemplifies many of the socio-technical features first set forth by Emery and Trist. Many organizations are enabling the goodness of fit between technology and human systems applying STS at the primary group and organizational level. On the Web, virtual learning community members participate in structured and nonstructured learning experiences made possible by open systems or e-learning technology.” (Aldridge, 2004)

    The internet has has also allowed the publication of seminars online. Gone are the days where professionals were required to travel in order to meet continuing education requirements for various certifications. Due to advances in technology, it is possible for the seminar presenter as well as the participants to learn from the comfort of their own home. In fact, just the other month we hosted a tax webinar where a dozen tax professionals attended and learned about updates for the then upcoming tax season.

    Aldridge, J.W. (2004). Information on Socio-technical systems. Socio-Technical Systems: Team Building Glossary. Retrieved August 7, 2014 from:

  9. Connie Bobka says:

    The Socio-Technical Systems approach provides significant insights into the complex dynamic of performance in an organization. The interrelationships between people and
    technology mean that it is not a matter of simply installing new technology to solve apparent performance problems.

    STS is a diagnostic tool to uncover the casual chain of events that drives performance so that investment in technology is supported by changes in the surrounding organizational process and people. STS supports the alignment of people and technology and needs to be in conjunction with user interface design and the IT Blueprint to ensure the right technology is put into place.

    How well social and technical systems are designed, with respect to another and with respect to the demands of the external system, determines to a large extent how effective the organization will be.

    Thus, the idea of a socio-technical system is that it is an intellectual tool to help an organization recognize patterns in the way technology is used and produced. Identification of these patterns will help us analyze the ethical issues associated with the technology-and-its-social system.

    It is important to recognize that in each different use, the technology is embedded in a complex set of other technologies, physical surroundings, people, procedures, etc. that together make up the Socio-Technical System.

    Outside of what makes up the Socio-Technical System aforementioned, leadership is what ultimately chooses how technology will be used and who will use it. If the proper technologies are put into place with the right people to operate the technology, it is a workable system, if not, it can be a chaotic setting. Great working technology with great people is the solution for effective and successful business operations.

    Thus introducing new technology is not as simple as putting it into place, training people and expecting them to perform in the way you want them to. What is needed it the right framework to analyze current performance and put into place the systematic change required to ensure all new parts work cohesively.

    Socio-Technical Systems are not regulated so problems may exist from that. Again, it is up
    to leadership to make ethical and correct decisions that would benefit the organization.

    Do I think Facebook and Twitter are STSs? No, I don’s think so because of their simplicity and they so not take into account the interactions between people and technology, it is just a forum for discussion basically,

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