A Socio-Technical Perspective on the Digital Era: The Lowlands view

  • Mark Govers Maastricht University
  • Pierre van Amelsvoort KU Leuven


Given growing global competition, organisations face the dual challenge of creating workplaces that are, on the one hand, more productive, agile, and innovative, and on the other hand, healthy places to work.At the same time, we are facing a digital revolution with profound consequences in work and daily life. Digital technologies have potential opportunities, but also constraints. To make the transformation successful joint optimise of social and technical systems is necessary. The sociotechnical systems design theory (STS-D) and practice have focused the last 70 years on this challenge.  Over the years, different STS lenses have developed like participative design (North America and Australia), democratic dialogue (Scandinavia) and organisation design (the Netherlands and Belgium, the Lowlands). All have in common the aim of designing modern organisations that are humane, productive, agile and innovative. Also, digital technology has developed over the years: from digitisation to digitalisation, and lately into digital transformation affecting societies, organisations and humans. With this article we take the Lowlands STS-D theory as perspective and we discover how this theory, especially the design sequence, should be adjusted to apply successful digital technology. First, we zoom in on digital technologies and its opportunities. Second, we zoom in on the STS-D Lowlands design theory its principles and organisational design sequence. The original design sequence requires adjustment from a digital technology perspective. We propose a combined approach from a digital-technical and social perspective. We end with new routines for designing modern 21stcentury organisations that facilitate organisational and digital experts to jointly optimise both perspectives in practice. 


Author Biographies

Mark Govers, Maastricht University
Dr. Mark Govers has been an associate professor in organisation and management at Maastricht University (CAPHRI School for Public Health and Primary Care, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands). He holds a PhD on the intersection between business information technology and organisation development. Since 2016 he acts as a steward of both the North American and Lowlands Socio-Technical Systems (STS) communities respectively called the STS Roundtable and the Ulbo de Sitter Institute. Besides his academic work, he is a senior advisor at his own consultancy firm called Archypel Consulting.
Pierre van Amelsvoort, KU Leuven
Prof. Dr. Ir. Pierre van Amelsvoort is an expert in sociotechnical systems design and organisational change. He is a partner of the consulting firm ST-Groep.  Between 1994-2007 he was professor by special appointment at the Nijmegen School of Management (Netherlands). Since 2010 he is guest professor at the Catholic University Leuven, K.U. Leuven (Belgium). Member of the global network of SmarT Organisation Design co-ordination team.