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Principles of Socio-Technical Design

How To Integrate People & Technology 

1.0 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.

2.0 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.

3.0 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.

4.0 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.

socio Technical System4.4 Upper management should set goals, supply resources and manage the culture.


Al Joad as part of a socio-technical systemAl, at the wheel, his face purposeful, his whole body listening to the car, his restless eyes jumping from the road to the instrument panel. Al was one with his engine, every nerve listening for weaknesses, for the thumps or squeals, hums and chatterings that indicate a change that may cause a breakdown. He had become the soul of the car.

John Steinbeck, "The Grapes of Wrath"

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