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Socio-Technical Systems (STS)

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Presentation on theme: "Socio-Technical Systems (STS)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Socio-Technical Systems (STS)
Matthew Paulini Sowmya Prabhala CSC 551: Systems Theory Prof. Sengupta

2 Socio-Technical Systems: Short & Sweet
An approach to complex organizational work design that recognizes the interaction between people and technology in workplaces. The interaction between society's complex infrastructures and human behavior. Socio-technical system analysis facilitates understanding the ethical and social impact aspects of business but more fundamentally it helps to anticipate potential problems early on in the business process where they can be dealt with more effectively.

3 Systems with components that are interrelated and interact so that a change in one component often produces changes in the other components and in the system as a whole. Bringing about good changes and preventing bad ones requires adjusting the different elements in relation to one another to maintain or strengthen key values embedded in the system. The first part of a STS analysis is to identify the components and further describe them so as to include what makes each system special and unique. STSs change, and this change displays a trajectory or path. Frequently this trajectory is brought about by the power exercised by entrenched interests.

4 Socio-Technical Systems: The History
Coined in the 1960s by Eric Trist and Fred Emery, who were working as consultants at the Tavistock Institute in London. In the early 1950's Eric Trist and the Tavistock Institute studied the English coal mining industry where mechanization had actually decreased worker productivity. Trist proposed that manufacturing (and many other) systems have both technical and human/social aspects that are tightly bound and interconnected. Moreover, it is the interconnections more than individual elements that determine system performance.

5 The Components The social system includes people, groups, or roles and their habitual attitudes, values, behavioral styles and relationships. It includes the reward system. The technical system includes machinery and hardware, prototypes, software, processes, services, procedures and a physical arrangement. We usually think of a factory in terms of its technical system. any single technology can be used in multiple, and sometimes unexpected, ways. But we need to add to this observation 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.

6 Principles The interaction of social and technical factors creates the conditions for successful (or unsuccessful) organizational performance. Comprised partly of linear ‘cause and effect’ relationships Partly from ‘non-linear’, complex, even unpredictable relationships Optimization of each aspect alone (socio or technical) tends to increase not only the quantity of unpredictable, ‘un-designed’ relationships, but those relationships that are injurious to the system’s performance.

7 Goals The goal is to design a socio-technical system made up of a coherent set of policies, rewards, management behaviors, development experiences, collaboration systems and even business models that will increase the ability of the organization to turn new ideas into products and services efficiently through positive interactions between the social and technical aspects of the system.

8 In Software Engineering
To the extent that they concentrate on people and roles, they are mostly interested in the explicit interaction a person has with the technology and on the place in the hierarchy the person occupies as a result of their role. The concentration here is most clearly on the visible and the documented. A socio-technical analysis adds to this picture those aspects of work that are implicit, not documented, and based in informal political systems and actual (rather than ideal or documented) work practices. For the purpose of designing systems, a socio-technical analysis adds to standard concerns of efficiency concerns about skill development and social context. For the purpose of ethical analysis, a socio-technical analysis adds a concern for discovering the hidden practices and possible undocumented effects of a technological implementation.

9 In Ethics Standard stakeholder analysis in ethics spends most of its time looking for stakeholders. This is really only one element of what we have identified as a complex socio-technical system. Procedures, physical surroundings, laws, data and data structures, etc. all interact to structure the particular ethical issues that will be relevant to a particular socio-technical system. Thus, a socio-technical analysis provides a more comprehensive and system oriented approach to identifying ethical issues in a particular implementation of technology.

10 The "ethical issues in computing" arise because of the nature of specific socio-technical systems, not because of the computers in isolation. Many of these ethical issues are intimately related, however, to the technology: issues of reliability of the system in the emergency room, data privacy in the insurance company, free speech and misuse in the public university lab. These are not just social systems, they are socio-technical systems, and the ethical issues associated with them are based in the particular combination of technology and social system. It is the technology, embedded in the social system that shapes the ethical issues.

11 Social System 1.1 There is no optimum organization. As the environment, culture, people and technology change, so should the organization.  1.2 When selecting people for a workgroup, strive for homogeneity in their backgrounds and work attitudes.  1.3 Reduce wide variations in knowledge levels and variety through cross training.  1.4 Achieve High performance through commitment rather than minimal compliance. Use more carrot than stick.  1.5 Build commitment by involving people in the shaping of their future.  1.6 Provide opportunities to satisfy unfulfilled higher order needs. Use the intrinsic motivators.  1.7 Adult learning occurs primarily through experience. Integrate learning on the job through advisors, facilitators, and guided application. 1.8 Maintain ability for normal conversation between all members while at their workstations with compact layouts and noise control.

12 Technical System 2.1 Control variances at their source.
2.2 Ensure that the detection of a variance and the source of that variance occur in the same work group. 2.3 Maintain quality by detecting variances in the process rather than in the final product. 2.4 Monitor inputs as carefully as outputs. 2.5 Size work buffers large enough to allow problem solving but small enough to prevent problem avoidance. 2.6 Match technological flexibility with the product mix. 2.7 Match technology scale with production volume of the work groups.

13 Integration 3.1 Design  the Socio and Technical systems simultaneously and jointly. 3.2 Give workers larger and more varied tasks and increase cycle time. 3.3 Integrate support functions within work groups to the largest possible extent. 3.4 Optimize the system rather than the system's components. 3.5 Begin and end a work group's technical boundary at a discontinuity in the material transformation process.

14 Managing The System 4.1 Allow teams to manage the daily work.
4.2 Coach and facilitate rather than supervise. 4.3  Coaches should manage the team boundaries. 4.4 Upper management should set goals, supply resources and manage the culture.

15 The English Coal Mines 1951 – A study done by E.L. Trist and K. Baumforth Mechanization -> Broke up tightly knit teams. Different people performed the various steps of extraction rather than all steps as previous. Formation of shifts which caused coordination problems. Loud equipment stifled communication and inhibited teamwork and team development. The pay system went from a group incentive system to an hourly wage system and this destroyed monetary motivation. People felt alone, isolated, and unappreciated deep in the earth. This destroyed the powerful intrinsic motivators of pride, satisfaction and belonging. The overall result for the English mining industry was decreased productivity and labor strife.

16 English Coal Mines

17 Mechanization of Weaving Sheds
In studying the mechanization of weaving sheds in India, F.E. Emery realized that the social system had not adapted to the new operational characteristics of the recently mechanized technical system. As automated looms were introduced, instead of a social transformation occurring, workers remained in their pre-mechanism roles. These roles were largely independent with little interaction between operators. After automation, interaction between operators was necessary to achieve the expected performance levels.

18 Modern, Real-world Problem
An insurance company based in Albany, NY contracted a software firm to design custom software to increase productivity and employee happiness in their daily tasks. The software cost the company over $15,000. The software was designed based on the workers’ common tasks but without employee input in the functionalities. The software led to a decrease in productivity and efficiency from workers and even some highly important workers to leave the company.

19 Hawthorne Effect The term gets its name from a factory called the Hawthorne Works, where a series of experiments on factory workers were carried out between 1924 and 1932. States: subjects improve an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they are being studied, not in response to any particular experimental manipulation. Short-term performance improvements. As long as management is paying additional attention to a specific performance area, often that performance area will realize an improvement. Unfortunately, when the additional attention goes away, so does the improvement in performance.

20 Hawthorne Effect Example

21 Hawthorne Effect Example

22 Joint Optimization Joint optimization is the main goal of Socio-Technical Theory. Designing different kinds of organization and principles where the relationships between socio and technical elements lead to the emergence of productivity and wellbeing Too often, new technology fails to meet expectations of designers and users alike. Organizational improvement efforts need to address the social and technical systems concurrently to increase performance and decrease the risk of the Hawthorne effect. More of an accepted conceptual philosophy than an effective approach to performance improvement. Sustainability - is the ability to meet present requirements without jeopardizing the ability to meet future requirements.

23 Improving Socio aspects Improving Technical aspects

24 Improving Socio-Technical
(Joint Optimization)

25 System Equivalence Proposed by Marvin Washington and Marla Hacker in their paper System Equivalence: The Application of Joint Optimization. An effort to make joint optimization into a managerial practice. Adds a 3rd component to the socio-technical system; environment. It incorporates aspects of the business environment (missing from other measures of joint optimization) and it recognizes that all three systems need to be equivalent.

26 System Equivalence (cont.)
The requirements of multiple systems must be concurrently blended to achieve the highest level of sustainable performance. The difference in system equivalence and joint optimization is that system equivalence recognizes the importance of the environment and suggests that all three factors - technical, social, and environmental - be addressed when implementing and assessing the effectiveness of organizational change processes. As stated before, system equivalence is a condition organizations strive for in order to maximize performance. Achieving system equivalence indicates that the organization is performing optimally given the current organizational choices

27 The Environment This model likens a given system to a living organism that requires input (i.e. raw materials and food respectively), produces outputs, and must be able to adjust to changing environmental conditions in order to survive. At the managerial level, the business environment plays an important role for managers as managers base their actions on their idea of the environment. It is an “enacted environment;” one that is sensitive to the manager's perception of the environment.

28 An Example: Social-Environment Link
If the top management team believes that the union is untrustworthy, then they will develop strategies to deal with this. These strategies may, in turn, produce untrustworthy behavior from the union. As changes are made to the social system (i.e. the reporting structure, cultural changes, etc.), the technical system is impacted through such things as the planning process, information sharing, and training. Similarly for the environment, these changes may affect the organization's role in the community as well as the relations between customers and suppliers.

29 An Example: Technical-Environment Link
Communication and reporting structures in the social system can be changed dramatically by changes to the technical system. The technical system can effect the environment in many ways, from the changing demands of a diverse labor force, to the changing consumer demands on product quality and customer service.

30 The Process Get an initial assessment through a socio-technical methodology survey, such as the survey designed by Sabiers.

31 The Process (cont.) Analyze the results from the survey and compare to the scales. *Note that in the case of system equivalence, a decrease represents an improvement.

32 The Process (cont.) A firm improves its system equivalence when it reduces the gap between its best subsystem and its worst subsystem and it makes improvement in all three systems. This measure is good for two things: (1) it allows the change agents to understand the system in terms of this measure and can subsequently be used to measure progress as change is implemented; and (2) it identifies areas for improvement (social, technical, or environmental in nature) for the change effort.

33 The Process (cont.) The lowest scales are possible priority areas for improvement. These are the scales that are relatively keeping the system from reaching a higher level of equivalence and tell which links to focus on for improvements.

34 Work Cited System equivalence: the application of joint optimization. Marvin Washington, Marla Hacker. Measuring Business Excellence  Volume: 4 Issue: 4  Page: 18 – 24 Socio-technical principles for system design. Chris W. Clegg. Institute of Work Psychology, University of Shezeld, Shezeld, S10 2TN, UK. Received 29 March 1999; accepted 21 February 2000.

35 Work Cited (cont.)

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