Can an unconventional Socio-technical System approach open the way to new solutions and new understanding?

  • Trond Haga Kværner Stord


Socio-technical System Design (STSD) was developed as an alternative to the prevailing Taylorist organisational design principles focusing on specialisation and standardisation. STSD emphasised quality of work and has thus been described as a strategy for “simple organisation and complex jobs”. This may sound like a partial strategy for developing holistic, meaningful jobs. However, it is as much about developing efficient organisations with interactions between people and technology that increase company competitiveness.

STSD has taken different directions in different countries/geographic areas. All these directions emphasise holistic job design and employee participation. However, approaches to achieving holistic job design and to the role of employee participation vary. The ongoing digital revolution, often labelled Industry 4.0, is rapidly changing the conditions for work in general. Tasks that were previously manual are being automated, and communications and information are being made available to an extent not seen until now. In this landscape, it is necessary to consider whether we have suitable approaches for facing the challenges posed by these technological developments.

In this paper, which considers two strands in the tradition of STSD theory and a case study, I will examine the need to introduce a familiar but rarely discussed or used STSD approach to major technological and organisational changes