Another problem is presented. A worker gets injured on a subcontractor’s project. We gather around the table to dish out the blame. Everyone wants to point fingers. The project manager blames inadequate funding while the safety engineer cites an ineffective preplanning process. Nothing gets resolved. The issue moves up the line for a senior management decision. There’s a meeting to discuss the matter.
Someone leads out and says, “What can be done to prevent this problem?” Numerous technical recommendations are offered. Standing up, I state, “Why don’t we ask the workers about this problem? Let’s get them involved so that they can help find the solution.”
The room gets quiet. Finally, one senior manager suggests that we should take money away from the subcontractor, buy new technology, and fire the worker’s supervisor. Everyone agrees. After dealing with this same problem every month, I was hoping for a different answer. I was disappointed again.
Why do we see managers make the same mistakes over and over and never want the day-to-day workers involved in the process? Executives are then shocked when their employees don’t buy-in on their latest management initiative. One of the reasons organizations do not reach peak performance is because managers do not create socio-technical systems to support organizational values.
With fierce global competition and a need for a market advantage, I found it surprising that managers move toward the quick fixes like downsizing for short term gain without analyzing the organization over the long-term. I am not suggesting that this approach is easy; however, I am declaring that over the long haul, an organization will become a stronger institution in the process. 
The concept of socio-technical systems is very important in a highly competitive environment. Socio-technical systems relate to the reciprocal interrelationship between humans and machines. In fact, the idea explores how both the technical and the social conditions of work interact with efficiency and the human condition.
This interaction satisfies each, but does not compromise the other. Since the industrial age, researchers have recognized that both technical and social factors impact organizational performance.
Daniel Wren, author of The Evolution of Management Thought, concludes that analyzing a social system gives management an avenue to measure conflict between the “logic of efficiency” demanded by the formal organization and the “logic by sentiments” by the informal organization.
In profit hunting, many businesses lose focus of the importance of socio-technical systems. Given precepts, the questions for most managers becomes how to use this scholarly perspective in the practitioner’s avenue where time is money and money is time. In the following weeks, we will address three practical applications (i.e. value modeling, technology relevancy, and human factor buy-in) so that socio-technical systems within organizations can support its organizational values.
Discuss the concept of socio-technical systems in today’s organizations.
© 2013 by Daryl D. Green