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Mining the archives: exploring the potential for new applications of STS thinking and practice

Mining the archives: exploring the potential for new applications of STS thinking and practice

Exploring the potential for new applications of STS thinking and practice.

In this talk Camilla Child takes us briefly through STS history and current practice. She looks at recent work with fresh eyes to see if we can uncover new understandings for future practice.

Eric Trist said of Socio Technical Systems (STS) that he “found them down a coal mine by people who were already doing them.” This seminal work took place in the post war period but the influence of STS theory continues to lie at the heart of our thinking at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. The surfacing of our archives from the salt mine to the Wellcome Trust and into the daylight has stimulated my interest into thinking more about the contemporary relevance of STS to our project work and in particular how we also incorporate our systems psychodynamic practice into the theory and practice of it.

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Tavistock Institute

August 08, 2017
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Transcript

  1. Mining the archives for contemporary understanding Camilla Child 22.2.17

  2. NHS Citizen 2

  3. 3

  4. Development of socio technical systems thinking and practice Post war

    developments in the coal industry - despite improved equipment and other technological advances, there was still low productivity. Why? (Trist and Emery, Bamforth, Miller studies)
  5. So what is the STS approach? Principles: • Requires an

    understanding of an open systems approach • ‘The joint optimization of the social and technical aspects’ create the conditions for un/successful organisational performance • Work system is the basic unit, not the single jobs and the work group is central not individual role-holder • Self managing semi autonomous teams • Emphasis on the capacity of the small group for internal self regulation – role of the supervisor to maintain the boundary aspects so that the group can fulfill its function • The original emphasis was on social aspects of work expressed through: occupational roles and structures; methods of payment; supervisory relationships; work culture etc, not the psyche • Studies are at three broad levels: primary, whole and macro social systems
  6. 6 STS job-, work-, and organisation design principles • Compatibility

    – goal links organisation to environment • Minimum critical specification – avoid over-specification • Socio-technical criterion – control variances as near source as possible • Multi-functional – spare skills & redundancy of functions • Boundary location – at point beneficial for sharing knowledge & skills • Information flow – available to actors using the information, at first order boundary • Support congruence – reinforce role behaviours • Human values – design satisfying jobs • Incompletion – leave design incomplete so that those that operate or use it can adapt it, self-regulation • Ashby’s principle of requisite variety
  7. Social systems as a defence against anxiety Isobel Menzies Lyth

    (1960) 7
  8. Relating an STS model to NHS Citizen 8

  9. 9 The contribution of A.K. Rice and Eric Miller Systems

    of Organisation – The control of task and sentient boundaries (1967)
  10. Task and sentient system 10 Task system Those rational aspects

    of role wherein others’ conscious expectations are built and the individual overtly works the role Sentient system Social, human process: the symbols, meanings, unconscious group forces, emotional significance experienced and attitudes and beliefs based on the needs, fantasies and patterns of identification for an individual, within a role and an organisation
  11. 11