“The Cylons were created by man. They rebelled. They evolved. They look and feel human. Some are programmed to think they are human. There are many copies. And they have a plan.”
– Season 1 Opening Prologue
Battlestar Galatica, regardless of the series (1978 or 2003), provides a good platform for this technology discussion. In this scenario, the creation (Cylons) turns on the creator (mankind). The Cylons were created to make life easier for humanity. However, Cylons evolved into thinking beings and rebelled against their intended use. Clearly, the inventors had created something without understanding unintended consequences in the socio-technical system.
We now approach the 2nd critical element for effective socio-technical systems, which is technology relevancy. Organizations rush to accelerate their products quicker to their customers. Under this umbrella, industrial designers seek to optimize three elements: (a) tools – involves the material infrastructures, (b) training – relates to human capital matters, and (c) time- considers setting realistic expectations in the operations. Yet, organizations shouldn’t ignore the significance of any soci-technical system integrations. In their article “The Relevancy of Concurrent Engineering in Industrial Technology Programs,” Dr. Radha Balamuralikrishna, Dr. Ragu Athinarayanan, and Dr. Xueshu Song analyze how organizations attempt to maximize operational efficiencies: “It is safe to assume that a hurried implementation of concurrent engineering without careful planning and investment of time has a high probability of backfiring.”
Organizations must understand that technology needs to be relevant as it relates to benefiting the whole socio-technical system. As an engineer, we are taught how to use theory in order to build, design, and operate technical systems, whether mechanical, digital, or otherwise. Sometimes this creates a technical superiority over the other components of this socio-technical system. Vince Adams, a technical manager, agrees, “Engineers are more concerned about the technical aspects of a system. This is what we are taught. Engineers do not want to deal with the social aspects.”
Organizations should gain input from employees to ensure that the organization has not only the best technology for its operations but the right technology. This sharing of information can only come with mutual trust between leaders and follows.
Gary Yukl, author of Leadership in Organizations, notes, “Empowerment is more feasible when there is a high level of mutual trust…Leaders can affect the psychological employment of followers in many ways, and participative leadership and delegation are only two of the relevant behaviors .” There have been numerous cases which show that organizations have purchased new technology to solve a problem or to become more efficient when a simple conversation with impacted employees would have produced better results at a lower cost. Therefore, organization should invest their time in identifying relevant technologies for their socio-technical system in a participatory manner.
How do organizations ensure they are placing technologies in their operations that do not conflict or disrupt their processes? When technologies are forced to be used due to external forces (i.e. competitors, suppliers, etc.), what is the best process for introducing these changes to the workers?
© 2010 by Daryl D. Green