STS – What do you think?

The true challenge will be communicating with employees (think Millennial’s, GEN Y or younger) and employees communicating with each other while some have had handheld devices and technology readily available all their lives. This has also presented them with access to live information. After all, one could have watched the twin towers topple to Ground Zero in real time. I remember when PDA was an abbreviation for a behavior (Public Display of Affection) not condoned between uniformed armed service members and now it is identified as something entirely different. My tween-aged nieces and nephews lack the ability to articulate which was demanded of me at their age. The reason for a “caveat emptor” attitude among management may not be due to their receptiveness (or lack thereof) but perhaps their inability to lead younger counterparts or employees whom demonstrate superior technical skills to their own. Management may be afraid to share and collaborate because they are unsure of the potential of STS let alone how to integrate and then align integration.


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  1. Wendy says:

    Socio-technical systems focus on fitting the technology with the human capability. This means that the primary ways that we interact will vary on the generation and the aptitude of the person. Conversational and collaborative interactions may differ from team to team depending on the diversity of the group. Leaders need to be able to decipher the best means of interaction for teams and situations. People are driving businesses to change how they allow groups to collaborate. Leaders need to foster productivity and efficiency in their teams by allowing them to use different tools. Even if the leader isn’t accustomed to the tool himself.

  2. Dave R says:

    Utilizing Socio-technical Systems (STS) in organizations with a diverse age group is less about technical skill than it is about creating value for the system and the process. Aldridge noted in Information on Socio-technical Systems that “IT-developed [STS] frameworks often remove responsibility from the individual by placing it instead on the technology.” (Aldridge, 2004) STS is often the focus, instead of the method. In many organizations STS are deployed because upper management is enthralled with the system itself, and the employees are expected to utilize the system and generate the results desired (often times, the results aren’t even known to management, except in that there is a general certainty that said results will be useful).

    Aldridge goes on to say that, “It is people and not technology that is changing the way organizations share, transfer, and leverage knowledge . . .” In order for an STS to succeed, it must be the extension of a workplace characterized by community and collaboration, not the tool to create such a workplace. Hurst and Follows noted the learning curve associated with virtual teaming: “The level of comfort . . . increased after the first chat experience. One learned noted that, ‘I initially found it difficult to converse electronically . . . [o]nce I got the “hang of it,” it became enjoyable.’” (Hurst and Follows, 2003) STS, if implemented as an extension of community will success more easily; however, if the community needs to be formed entirely through a virtual medium, it will take time and intentionality to facilitate a positive, collaborative environment.

    Lastly, although there has been negative associations with overly regulated STS, regulation should be present to create safe boundaries for community-building. From a Biblical perspective, applying the principles of Ephesians will help to create a positive, helpful atmosphere. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up.” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV)

  3. erinwel says:

    Socio-technological systems (STS) are useful, when implemented effectively in companies, to tap the knowledge and experience from a diverse workforce. Some of the software utilized as a part of STSs are the IBM Collaboration Software (Lotus), Microsoft SharePoint, and Google Apps. These systems are structured to be navigable and easily adopted by those with experience in social networking, instant messaging, and archiving information. However, it is the interrelationship between human and technology that is at the core of STS (Teasley, Jordan, & Sangtani, 2012). Interestingly, the cultural push towards adopting personal technology such as smart phones, social networking, and other Internet based technologies have made it easier for people of all ages in the workforce to transition to newer information and collaboration platforms at work.

    The effective use of STSs stems from a framework that fosters communication, collaboration, and information retrieval from across an organization. By optimizing human behavior alongside technology organizational learning moves to a more innovative structure whereby mental models, norms, policies, and assumptions can be changed (Teasley, Jordan, & Sangtani, 2012) (Smith, 2012). When the technology is present and the workforce is able to use it effectively a company becomes more innovative and competitive.

    Finally, it is how the technological tools and intellectual capital is utilized whether an organization should optimally profit from such efforts. Paul writes in Philemon 1:6 “I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake (New American Standard Bible).” Collaboration, not unlike fellowship, can only be successful by the cooperation of human capital through technological platforms.

    Smith, P. A. (2012). The importance of organizational learning for organizational sustainability. The Learning Organization, 19(1), 4-10.

    Teasley, R., Jordan, M., & Sangtani, V. (2012). The human side of the technology project performance: Effects of satisfaction, perceived technology policy, task significance and training. Academy of Information and Management Sciences Journal, 15(2), 53-72.

  4. Lifelong Learner says:

    Socio-Technical Systems aim to take the best parts of social interaction and technology and meld them together into a workable solution to modern day communication constraints. Although the bases for STS studies can be traced back to 1949 (Fred Emery and Eric Trist), the advent of social media and rapidly developing technology have created a demand for the development of the system. Communication modes are developing at a pace that is faster than the aging of the population. Thirty years ago there was no internet, smartphone, Facebook or Twitter. However, thirty years ago some still in the workforce were just entering it. Younger members of the workforce grew up with computers and cell phones and are comfortable with technology. Older members may employ modern communication methods but lean on more traditional methods. By combining the methods and knowledge of both groups “socio-technical systems create the organization context for knowledge sharing, learning and innovation enabling work groups to think and learn collaboratively thereby, develop original work patterns, maintain flexibility and competitive advantage.” (Aldridge).

  5. Ola says:

    The advancement in technology is a direct result of the continuous process improvement methods most organizations have embraced over the years and it is geared towards the enhancement of different tasks that we perform on a daily basis especially in the workplace. Before the invention of the technology is that now sprouting into extensive applications, individuals and organizations have always been looking for ways to make things better and technology in general has lifted those limitations. The effects of socio-technical systems acceptance for organizational development, HR management, improvement in productivity and organization behavior is a way of giving employees a wider and higher level of accountability with increase in ethical decision making authority.
    Some organizations are still skeptical about the integration of STS, because of the resistance to change and organizations’ key decision maker’s negligible knowledge of the emerging technologies. The socio-technical approach focused more on work group interactions than individual performance. It provides encouragement and maintains social support better than individual job assignments.

  6. LanceSmith says:

    The main idea behind Socio-Technical Systems is to integrate technology with social aspects to form a system which allows for the spread of information and collaboration. The idea is to create a system which manages information and allows for users to practice action research which is the user’s ability to evaluate their own critical issues to come to a decision point. This relieves the user from having to rely on experts or others to make informed decisions. It also allows teams to do the same. When combining the knowledge management of socio-technical systems with an increased means of collaboration organizations are seeing a rapid increase with innovation and change. A true socio-technical system is created for this purpose and websites such as Facebook and Twitter do not fall into this category. It is important to understand the technology alone “has not supported earlier claims that the technology itself will produce a “leveling effect” in organizations.” A hierarchy still remains despite the concept of increased feedback from users. However, organizations are benefiting greatly from STS and will continue to do so in the future.

    Miller, K. (2013). Why a Socio-Technical System?. Retrieved from

  7. 0302603 says:

    Socio-technical systems (STS) have been around since around the end of WWII (Baxter, 2011. But, Lance points out a key fact, Facebook and Twitter do not fall into the typical category of STSs. Everyone in this chat has laid out perfect examples and uses of STSs and the ST theory. However, we all must be astute to the fact that, our younger generations will find ways to work with, improve and modify our current concepts of the use of web-based applications for STS. If a gen z person needs to find information on somethig they are doing at work, their first point of reference may quite well be Facebook or Twitter, asking a “friend” if they have come across the situation or issue before. From there, it is possible that they may be directed to other social sites sch as a technological chat group or manufacturer’s web board. So is it possible that our current scope and definition of STS is ever-changing and growing to include FB and Twitter?

    Baxter, G. (2011). Socio-technical systems. In LSCITS Socio-Technical Systems Engineering Handbook. University of St Andrews.

  8. Stephanie says:

    John W. Aldridge described Eric Tist’s theory of Socio-technical approach as the interaction of people with tools and techniques. Tool and techniques such as collaboration software and instant messaging have resulted in a prominence of autonomous work groups in modern day work environments. Members are able to manage their own activities, collaborate and make decisions independently. STS challenges the traditional top-down leadership style (2004).

    Technology creates new challenges such as communication barriers. A couple current challenges are using computer technology to collaborate are misunderstandings and differences in technical knowledge. As technology advances, these issues may be addressed. Video meetings may take the place of conference calls. Emoticons may installed for instant messaging, and buttons may be simplified for ease of use. Management has been slow to give up the traditional style of leadership to surrender more power and independence within the company. Self sufficiency can empower teams to be more creative and productive. In a quickly changing market, the ability to innovate and make quick decisions is indispensable.

    Aldridge, J. W. (2004). SOCIO-TECHNICAL SYSTEMS. ArgosPress. Retrieved November 24, 2013, from

  9. icetrevor says:

    Socio-Technical Systems are here to stay. MIT is currently working with Russia in developing a research center near Moscow to further expand research over to Eastern Europe, specifically in the study of Socio-technological systems. I think it is a neccessity for business leaders to get on board with socio-technological systems in order to stay current and innovative. We move further and further away from purely social work systems and closer and closer to technolgy-driven workplaces. Technology and effective social dynamics go hand in hand with the business of the future.
    Let me include a brief excerpt from a paper on MIT’s Socio-Technological System Research Center.
    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is world-renown for its innovative use of technology and cutting edge collaborative processes. In fact, MIT has its very own socio-technical systems research center. There are a variety of well-researched programs within this research center that cover the gamut of areas of industry. These areas of industry are listed as “… automotive, biomedical, healthcare, energy, environment, global economy, information quality, cybersecurity, mobility, productivity, and materials systems” (MIT) Their mission statement is listed as “SSRC (Socio-technical Systems Research Center) seeks collaborative, holistic, systems-based solutions to complex sociotechnical challenge.”

    Looking through a socio-technical systems research lens, SSRC provides highly collaborative working groups that have a very high degree of flexibility and freedom in their research. These working groups consist of gifted students that have a degree of choice in which program they decide to work on. Current working groups have partnered with major organizations to research with a socio-technical approach. Ford has even invested heavily in SSRC, assembling a working group that can better develop their developmental engineering. This alliance is MIT’s longest running large-scale industry alliance. “Ford and MIT collaborate on a broad range of technical, business, and policy topics focused on the future of transportation including: Vehicle Autonomy, Active safety, Materials Science, Energy Storage, Powertrain Efficiency, Enterprise Modeling and Health and Wellness.
    In comparison to most resources regarding Socio-technical systems, MIT is well ahead of its competition. MIT equips powerful tools for knowledge management and organizational learning that it has further refined as an institution over the years. The SSRC emphasizes streamline communication between the faculty, the students, and the hired researchers to expedite future resource allocation.
    MIT, SSRC (2013). Inside The Socio-Technological Systems Research Center Referenced Nov 24th, 2013 from,

    Thank you for your post.

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