The is short review of an essay titled “The Principles of Sociotechnical Systems” by Albert Cherns. The article has been reviewed with a perspective of Human Centred Computing.
Most organization are a result of chaotic growth. Organization design can be tricky because this phenomenon. There is huge divide between engineers and designers for the very same reason. Piece by piece an organization is put together with almost no possibility to think of Organization Design. It’s difficult to predict human behaviour. This is the reason we need to account for all contextual possibilities while designing a system. To Err, is human.
Any social system, if it must survive, must perform the function of Parson’s (1951) four subsystems: Adaptation to environment; integration of activities of the people with the organization, including the resolution of conflict whether task based, organization based or interpersonally based; and providing for the continued occupation of the essential roles through recruitment and socialization.
There are many parties involved in the design of an effective sociotechnical system – engineers, designers, managers, social scientists, financial controllers and so on. Here is are a list of guidelines proposed by the author.
The process of design should be compatible with it objectives. The system should be self evolving and should be easily compatible with change. The structure and function of an organization can always take different paths and self-modification is a must to harness creativity from the individuals part of this system.
MINIMAL CRITICAL SPECIFICATION
The behaviour of the people need not be controlled by meticulously definitions of what needs to be done or not. A broad guidelines should be arranged within which people can work creatively using the best of their skills with varied methods and techniques. Every person is different and a well drafted minimal critical specification could benefit the entire organization as a whole. The design should be silent and intuitive, not over explanatory!
THE SOCIOTECHNICAL CRITERION
Any system is bound to have variances from its desired state. The sociotechnical criterion of these principles states that the variances needs to be controlled as much as possible. This can be done not only by investigating the source of the variance but also redesigning in the system in a way that accounts for these variances.
THE MULTIFUNCTIONAL PRINCIPLE – ORGANISM V/S MECHANISM
There needs to be a clear distinction between a unit and the whole. The unit and the whole behave differently from each other. Every unit is treated as if it is replaceable. This could arise problems in certain situations like environmental demands.
THE BOUNDARY LOCATION
In any organization there ought to be departmental boundaries somewhere. The crucial part is how to identify the boundary location that does not interfere with sharing of knowledge and experience.
It’s important to have a clear information flow in the system. The principle of Information Flow states that target systems should be designed in a way that the objective of the system designed needs to account for different hierarchies and mitigate variances.
This principle states that the systems of social support should be designed in such a way that it reinforces the behaviour the system is supposed to bring out.
DESIGN AND HUMAN VALUES
Te core members of any sociotechnical systems are the members in it. The design should consider all different human aspects that harness high quality work and sustain the system. Quality can be a subjective term however it can be considered as an over all good experience of interaction with and within the system.
From the moment a system design is complete, it is time for a redesign. Usage gives us an understanding of how the designed system can be further improved over and over again in a cycle in order to reduce constraints and variances and keep up with changing times and external environments