Modern organizations define themselves using statements of vision. They state their vision in terms of human resources and technology, a socio-technical view. Modern organizations also define themselves in terms of values. New employees entering the organization learn the value system from employees with longevity in it. How organizations incorporate socio-technical systems as a reinforcement tool of their value system is the focus of this paper.
In business, small and large, values determine course the business sets for itself. Yukl (2006) defines values as key statements of an organization. The value statement is ideological, what the organization considers important. Many values find their way into organizations including customer service, innovation, satisfaction of internal and external constituents, and excellence. Yulk’s view of values suggests something deeper. Organizational values and value creation are the soul of competitive edge, competitive advantage.
Hill and Jones (1998) write of management values as statements of how managers will conduct themselves and how they will do business. Managers in high performing businesses conduct themselves with stakeholders in mind. Winston (2002) suggests that high performing leaders accept the values of the organization as being of higher consequence and importance.
Values of an organization (customer service, innovation, satisfaction) imply an organization is a system. Senge (1990) tells us that organizations are organic systems of interconnected and interrelated sub-groups. This suggests more than brick and mortar structures, it suggests organizations of people, technology, and social interaction. Technology, according to Davis (1996), is a “conceptual bridge” between science and economics. This link gives form to how organizations manage. Conversely, Wren (2005) presents the view of technological change being disturbing to the social system of an organization. Socio-technical systems offer leverage to dispel the disturbing nature of change.
Lee (2000) explains social of the socio-technical systems as the habitual attitudes of people. He includes the relationships between people with their values and behavioral styles. He also describes it as the formal power structure identified using traditional organizational charts. However, he continues with the aspect of an informal power structure based on influence and knowledge. The technical system makes up second part of the dyad. This system, according to Lee (2000), is “machinery, processes, procedures and a physical arrangement.”
A socio-technical system, abbreviated STS for the remainder of this paper, is people and technology blended. Yet, this is a much too simple definition. Some elements of STS are closely interrelated; therefore, it is not easy to distinguished items within a STS as purely technical or purely social. Aldridge (2004) explains STS as approaching organizational work groups as social systems and macro social systems. A third level of work observed is primary work systems. The primary work system according to Aldridge is one or more work units involved in face-to-face work. Work units collaborate jointly and have support of management, relevant technology, resources, and workplace specialists. Aldridge includes the writings of Trist (1981) when defining macro social systems, “…macro social systems include systems in communities and entire business sectors as well …