Mod-01 Lec-09 Systems contingency approach to organization theory and practice


We will now be discussing the socio-technical
systems approach. Again, socio-technical systems approach is
a very popular and widely used notion in organization management. The socio-technical theory evolved from the
field work of researchers from Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. In fact, socio-technical systems theory is
considered to be almost synonymous with the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. The principal finding was that there are social
implications for every implementation of change. Measures suggested were to set up a structure
for intergroup communications to solve any problem groups might experience. In other words, there was an overwhelming
feeling that if you had proper intergroup communications, there will be practically
none, and in any case, fewer group problems. It also talked of developing a company code
to govern relations between people at different levels. This business of developing company codes
has become so popular that we are now in the business of developing in this country – tax
codes. Now, what is the code? Code is an agreed norm; code is not a rule. Code is a self-given practice, to violate
which is akin to violating a rule. Most civil societies have their own codes. Counseling of workers in groups to express
feelings constructively – there is nothing wrong about resentment; there is nothing wrong
about feeling bad; there is nothing wrong about feeling angry; there is nothing wrong
about any negative emotion. What is expected of a professional is: he
will express that sentiment constructively. Now, how do you express a negative sentiment
constructively? A – First by establishing, that you are expressing
your sense of hurt to focus on it with clarity; what is it that caused you hurt. To express it constructively, you will go
ahead to say how it could have been handled so that, that hurt was not caused. Your mind is oriented towards solutions; your
mind is orientated towards bettering the situation; your mind is situated on the attempt to move
on rather than to find fault – as there is a world of a difference between the two. In Tavistock view, a healthy organization
is one which is capable of tackling in a realistic manner, whatever technical, economic, or social
problems it might encounter. There is a very important concept in organization
management and the concept is of organizational health. This concept is more important than even the
concept of effectiveness. Why do you want to be effective? Effectiveness cannot be an end. You have to understand that there was a stage
where they said that we must have organizational efficiency. Then, they realized that efficiency by itself
cannot be an end. They started talking of organizational effectiveness
and they defined effectiveness as the measure to which organizational goals were being met. We have reached a stage where we have imbued
organizations with organismic characteristics where we talk of organizational health. An organizational health is important – a.
to keep the organization awake. When do you fall asleep? When your bodily system has given way and
it has nothing to do with age. It has to do with inner vitality. Organizations can go to sleep just as individuals
go to sleep. Am I right? Health is important to all dynamic activity. Therefore, this leads to, very simply, a live
organization. A live organization therefore has all the
characteristics of an organismic entity. Now, if organizational health as a concept
has to phase into insignificance then, the question arises – what is it to be replaced
by? It is to be replaced by an organization which
is vibrant. Health by itself will not remain the end product;
but vibrancy will; and vibrancy sets its own direction, which means goals can be revised. This is a very important concept; this is
yet to come. As we talk today, this has not acquired a
place in organization theory but what has acquired a place in organization theory is
the fact that organizational health is important. The socio-technical systems theory evolved
from the field work of researchers of Tavistock Institute as I have told you. It developed a method for systematic observation
of human behavior in organizations so as to solve social problems. Remember, we said technology creates a social
impact going to the extent of even touching upon industrializations. What is the problem? Suppose the problem is service department
piecewise pay vis a vis fixed pay. If there is no concern for the workers interest,
managers and workers showed lack of trust for each other, then the researchers had to
suggest management workers interrelationships that needs to be relooked at and there needs
to be a morale building activity. Therefore, management-worker interrelationship
to be looked at and morale building activities to be undertaken – are the two intervention
strategies which arise out of this kind of research. It is important to register that the basic
principles involved looking at the implication of an intervention. Set up a structure for intergroup communication
to deal with problems — if you have a civil society people talk to each other. Please remember, talking to each other is
very different from talking at each other; and talking at each other is very different
from talking without communication. How do you talk without communication? Where do you use violence? Man is a remarkably non-learning animal. He only fancies himself as a learning animal. If you look at several millennia of history,
there is no evidence to prove that homosapiens have learned anything. What have they learned? 20 millennia ago they used to beat out each
other’s head through clubs. Today, they bomb each other out. This omission is the same. They were wooing opposite gender 30 millennia
ago; we are wooing today. They used to woo with spears and clothing
made out of leaves and barks. Today, they do mass p ts on television screens
and copy them in pubs and discotheques. The essential human element was the same. It is just a difference in the methodology. They were having generational wars 30 millennia
ago; they still have generational wars. Where is the evidence that homosapiens, as
a species, are a teachable animal? Yet, the duality of personality is such that
without learning anything, you call yourself as a learning person. In fact, the fashionable thing is to talk
of learning organizations. Intervention strategies ensure that learnings
become ingrained into the habit. Unless the learning gets ingrained into the
habit, no change has taken place, which is why organization management is a discipline
in its own right – far beyond the problem of decision making and problem solving. It is the recipe of a successful world order
because, if the world is not a civil society, it is nothing. The difference between the chaos of an unstructured
situation and you will notice I am not saying the chaos of a jungle. No, it is only when you do not know what a
jungle is that you think jungle is chaotic. Jungle is far more orderly than urban systems. There at least there is a logical process
which covers the trees and the plants, the animals and the living beings there. The order through which an urban settlement
goes not even the urbanites know. Imagine a phrase being put into circulation-
this is the law of the jungle. Good heavens! If it was the law of the jungle, it would
be an orderly situation; because there is far more organization in a jungle than in
an urban city. One of the biggest impediments to the learning
process is we keep gyrating we are great. The world has never been as evolved as it
is during my generation. They started talking of globalization with
the internet, as if, there was no globalization before the internet, there was no radar system,
there was no radio system and then everyone takes that crescendo. Then, they coined the word-(()). The real word should be – do not be an urbanite. I
can give you various examples which are simply a parade of the perpendicular pronoun. The reference as anyone can easily imagine
– the sun rises and the sunsets. Good heavens! The sun never rises and the sun never sets. It is the earth which rotates. But no, how can the earth rotate? The human beings stay on it. Therefore, it is the sun which rises and the
sun which sets. I am the center of the world and the sun has
to do the job, not me; or better still, time is passing. Good heavens! Time never passes, gentleman and lady; you
are passing. You are born one day, you will die one day. It is your total existence which is at stake. If you cannot understand that your total number
of days is numbered and every time you waste that, it is not wasting time; it is wasting
yourself. The message which I am trying to give to you
is, at the end of the day, get your concepts right. If your concepts are not right, you cannot
understand the subject matter.. The importance of understanding the subject
matter is to make you a better equipped person to face life. I am sorry to say, it is not placement. Yes it is nice to have a good placement; nobody
has a quarrel with it. If placements were to make life, all CMDs
of the world would have united to form a CEO’s club which would be that of the happiest people. And God forbid, as and when you land there,
you will realize that is the most miserable existence. The purpose of management education, like
any education, is to make you a better professional in your chosen domain and above, even that
is to make you a better human being and if it does not do that, you are wasting the opportunity
for management education. The Tavistock research emphasizes the human
element of running organizations and the great contribution which it made to organization
theory was interpreting the impact of technology on human terms. Therefore, there can be just organizational
problems which are triggered off by technology. The basic problem is maintaining a structure
and culture to cope with the challenges of a changing society – that is the basic problem
of a corporate entity, not more sophisticated technology. Why do I want more sophisticated technology? Then, tell you want more sophisticated technology
to experience the power of the software. Now, what do we have to do with a power of
the software, I have to do with the power which I need? You cannot make the pursuit of technology
an objective in its own right – is the central proposition of the socio-technical systems;
because, remember it is socio-technical – the impact of an interaction between society and
technology. Healthy organization is one, which is capable
of tackling problems in a realistic manner – that is the real strength of health. The socio-technical systems theory proposes
that organizations are open systems. Now, again, this is typical of organization
management. On the same situation, you can have varying
theories and both of them may be partly right. It depends on the environment for raw materials
as an input and for markets to absorb their outputs of products. Therefore, the socio-technical systems, people
believe, that all organizations are open systems. Now, if you come across the definition which
is organizations are closed systems, then you have to understand the derivations of
both those conclusions and take a position for your own and that is the beauty of organization
management. You listen to what everyone says and then
you come to a conclusion which suits you; to make the situation better – suits you,
not in a personal sense. Here is a schematic diagram of an organizational
system. I want you to observe this carefully because
it is going to come several times in the subsequent part of my presentation. The core of the organizational system is the
managerial subsystem. The managerial subsystem deals with goal setting,
planning, assembling resources, organizing, implementation. It is supported by at least four other subsystems
– goals and value subsystem, technical subsystem, structural subsystems, psychosocial subsystems;
and, we are going to walk through each of these to understand what is its relevance
to organization theory and to intervention strategies, and all this is subsumed under
the outer circle which is of environmental system. Therefore, organizational systems consist
of constituent elements which are then broken up into subsystems and
each subsystem, in its own right, will have its own logic and the interaction of the logic
creates the organizational system which functions. Let us look at the technical subsystem. The organization requires structuring and
integrating human activities around various technologies; there is no argument about this. And this kind of spurious debate on whether
there is sufficient technology orientation or is it an organization in which there is
more social orientation belies the logic which underpins the health of an organization. Every modern organization is influenced by
the rapid acceleration of technology in our society and therefore, the sooner social scientists
recognize the significance of the technological value available in a social system, the better
it is – just as much as sooner the technologist recognize the value of a social system in
the unfolding of the technology, better it is for everyone concerned. It affects the types of inputs and the outputs
from the subsystems and thus the task accomplishment. Ways in which organizations adapt to the changing
technology has a significant impact on other organizational systems. So, what is being said is: the method of adapting
to technology, and as technology upgrades – up-scales itself – is a significant component
of organizational studies. And of the many, many ways in which
organization management works out into intervention methodologies one component is its response
to technological change. In other words, there are different categories
of interventions. There can be a behavioral intervention, there
can be a financial intervention, there can be a strategic intervention, there can be
a technological intervention, there can be an intervention which integrates
different components of the functioning of an organization and there are different ways
in which this can be done. This particular aspect has to do with putting
together of different phases; therefore, it focuses on intervention strategies of integration. What is the definition of technical subsystem? The mechanistic view, the mechanical means
for production of goods and services and replacement of the human effort – this is the mechanistic
view. Jacques Ellul, a scholar born several decades
ago; but, you may recall my reference to his work – the changing work culture of a factory;
meets several contributions to organizational thought and one of them was that technology
is far more than the machine and refers to a standardized means for attaining a predetermined
objective or result; thus converts spontaneous and unreflecting behavior into behavior that
is deliberate and rationalized and results in absolute efficiency in every field of human
activity. Therefore, the basic concept, which you have
to register is – technology is far more than the machine. Technology refers to standardized means for
attaining a predetermined objective. So, anything which is standardized towards
achieving an objective and has predictive validity, identifiable contents, well defined
relationships amongst itself is the technology. To confuse technology with hardware is disrespectful
to the central concept of technology, which I think is a very important concept in the
evolution of human beings. And credit must be given to Jacques Ellul
to have articulated in a way in which it perpetuates itself. It is determined by the task requirements
of an organization, knowledge and skills, machinery and equipment involved, techniques,
layout of facilities and information. The technical system can be impacted by accelerating
technology – science and technology, pervasive forces in modern society; impact
that is created on the social structure and culture; automation replaced by human decision-making
in the control phase; effective utilization of technologies require the development of
complex organizations. In other words, to put simply, the pervasiveness
of technology and the impact it makes on the social structure itself beyond the organization
structure is important. Of course there are dangers of technology. It will drive out humanistic and social considerations;
total integration of man into technical and social systems will destroy the significance
of human nature itself. The challenge to profit from its opportunities
and containing its dangers, interaction between the technological and the psychosocial subsystems
is a determinant of relationship between technology and society. In other words, technology can affect the
psyche of the society; the subconscious of a society. Take the revolution of the pill – at one stroke,
one technological intervention put paid up notice to all gender differentiation. It equated the two genders in a way in which
they were brought on the same platform in every conceivable sense of the world. Of some of the major technological revolutions
of modern times – the revolution of the automobile, the revolution of the pill is amongst the
most important ones. The entire psyche of the social system was
altered. The revolution of the automobile took away
the vulnerability of women. They could travel at will, at any time, with
the same kind of speed and the kind of dominance which the male gender had exercised for millennia
over them was put paid up. The society was never the same again. Therefore, the kind of impact which technology
makes on the way a society works is often far larger than the way in which it affects
an organization. And therefore, through the open system, that
kind of society again permeates into the organization and the kind of people who get into the organization
are different breed which are coming in all together. And people who do not change with society
are condemned to be left behind in a unclumps. Some of you may have heard of one of the makers
of modern India – Sri Aurobindo. And he predicted that the homosapiens are
evolving towards the coming of the superman much in the same way as the present species
of homosapiens evolved from its ancestors of chimpanzees and monkeys. It may take millions of years but it will
happen and Sri Aurobindo was asked what will happen to homosapiens in their present species
and his reply was very simple- what happened to monkeys. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the significance
of being a growing person. You may be left behind in the evolutionary
race, and of course, there will be special enclaves to protect the homosapien as he exists
in 2010. And there will be notices put out of those
enclaves – homosapiens of 2010 live here, do not enter. And it is not such a remote possibility, and
here again the human ego and his teachability and his learning capacity will come in. And they will be still quarreling with each
other in those enclaves, whereas outside the enclaves people would have learnt to behave,
act and conduct themselves in a civil manner. How do the monkeys quarrel with each other? And do you do with them? So, it is not as if everyone grows in a generation,
it is not as if the whole planet will evolve, but what will evolve is the gradual process
of consciousness, the human body which leads us to an aspect of physical anthropology which
is not well understood. One of the theories about the different size
of the fingers is their use. And progressively the thumb is being used
less and less, and it is predicted that in several millions of years, the thumb will
further reduce in size. Remember, unlike other fingers which have
three components, the thumb has only two. When you woo a woman, you would say- darling
how pretty you are, your thumbs are just like a stump. You would not be talking of lady fingers there,
because they would be no lady fingers there. It is important to give your vision of the
future, to show where your progenies will be left behind if you are not the growing
type. Organization management theories also reconstruct
the future, because they lead the organization towards future; because, remember future cannot
be crafted; you can only prepare for the future. So much more interaction between the technology
and the psychosocial social systems as a determinant of relationship between technology and society. The classifications of the technical system
on the basis of, the systems which prevail- you will have schools, hospitals, unions,
technical systems bases, industrial organizations, small batch, mass production, continuous process
and we have discussed all that. Classification by Thompson: created certain
categories and you might as well be familiar with it. The long linked technology involving serial
interdependence between various production units fully automated, mediating technologies
involves joining of clients and customers, otherwise independent banks and post offices. Intensive technology deals with specific problems
like R and D hospitals. The two primary dimensions here are complexity
and degree of uniformity or non-uniformity. You know the words- that is a classification
of organizations. And organizations are classified according
to the long linked technology, they are classified according to mediating technology, they are
classified according to intensive technology, they are classified according to two primary
dimensions which are of uniformity and nonuniformity and there are other ways of classifications. The technical subsystems have a problem adapting
to one technological component, integrating and coordinating of different technologies
within the organizational systems. Impact of a technical system, therefore, involves:
traditionally – if you see – technological components has been considered as a closed
system, it did not have any dynamic interaction with other subsystems; but if you look at
it as an open system, it does have a dynamic interaction. One has to avoid leading to unrealistic and
idealistic generalizations. Actually technology and other systems are
independently related. Three basic ways in which technology influences
behavior through its effect on other inputs: human inputs required by an organization,
gross features of an organization structure and procedures and determinants of individual
and group job designs and social structure and norms. This component of determinants of individual
as group job designs and social structure and norms will be taken up in the separate
head, where we talk of theories of organization structure. The technical subsystems have other classifications;
but, the important thing is the impact upon structure, the works of John Woodward, direct
correlation between technology and organization structure, organization characteristics which
show a direct relationship with technological advances are: length of command, increases
in vertical level, span of control, salaries and wages, manager per personnel ratio, staff-worker
ratio, supervision level higher. These are illustratively seven dimensions
of organization structure which would be classified according to the diagram which you saw earlier
on and I will bring it back on the screen again of organizational subsystems. To give you an idea, let us show that diagram. Again, this is what I am talking about; and,
how this gets impacted by goals and values, technical subsystems, psychological subsystems
and structural subsystems. And, I just gave you seven dimensions of doing
the same. Systems of production lead to different structures. Operations techniques had limited impact on
coordinative systems. Strategic levels environmental influences
on broad administrative structures. In other words if you look at the systems
theory and if you see it at tandem with the contingency theory, both of them have certain
elements of truth and both of them impact the way organizations work; and, that is a
theme of today’s presentation. Traditionally, assumptions lead to adaptation
but it affects the network of social relations amongst workers, size and composition of workgroups,
range, character, frequency or contact with fellow workers and supervisors. The consequences are: leads to job insecurities,
status positions of the workers, physical and social mobility, outmoded jobs, self-image
and motivation which links up with social systems of the diagram which I was showing
you. Impact of the psychosocial systems: the technical
systems have, therefore, remedial measures of increased production, personal satisfaction,
quality and efficiency, maintain high level of group morale, better coordination, job
enrichment and it leads to increased organizational effectiveness and efficiency; you might as
well add there – and health. Role of first line managers required to integrate
it, created with activities across a broader spectrum, supervisory requirements – both
in terms of technical and human relations, traditional systems – primarily consideration
was given to differentiation or segmentation of activities into subsystems for task performance. Now, these are intervention strategies. This is how you can alter the way an organization
works. Remember, ultimately, the purpose is through
all these methods lead to how organizations can be altered through a conscious intervention. Remember, where I began this session – the
problem is not just of understanding the world, the problem is doing something to change it. So like in any science, there are structured
ways of carrying out an intervention which are very clinical in character. In traditional systems, primary consideration
was to give to differentiation or activities into subsystems; in complex organizations,
it increased differentiation resulted in integration problems of various subsystems. So, when you are trying to change an organization,
check out what is the problem – differentiation or integration or both. Is it span of control, is it wages? Is it job design? Is it the information flow? And in each case, there are indicators. Burns and Stalker, another duo, which had
significant contributions to make to organizational theory, talked of mechanistic systems adapted
to stable systems, rigid organizational structure has resemblance to bureaucracy. Well-defined tasks and methods, duties and
powers of each functional role were determined precisely, coordination of interactions were
vertical with a command hierarchy. As compared to mechanistic systems, organismic
systems adapted rapidly to changing technology and environment, suitable to unstable conditions,
flexible structure, continuous adjustment and redefining of individual task through
interaction and use of networks. Lateral communication, wide dispersal of power
based on technical expertise and knowledge, authority and superior knowledge, which do
not necessarily coincide or overlap the problem insecurity on the part of managers, innovative
judgmental decision making and you could cause yourself a bureaucratic jungle and we come
back to the organizational system. In other words, any intervention which you
carry out has to be assessed on the kind of impact which it is making on the organizational
system. When you come to the structural subsystem,
there are similarly established patterns of relationship amongst the components of parts
of an organization that are relatively stable and that change slowly. Inferred from actual operations and behavior
of organizations, arrangements of its subsystems and components in three-dimensional space
at a given moment of time. In other words, just as we have looked at
the technological characteristics, we will look at structural characteristics of the
organizations, as we have looked at behavioral characteristics of the organization and all
that goes back to the organizational systems design which I have been showing to you repeatedly. Structure and its functions are separate phenomena
but cannot be looked at completely separated, which is why there are independent courses
on structure and processes and the heart of an organization management is its structure
and process. Initially set forth by the design of the major
components or subsystems and then by the patterns of relationship among these subsystems; internal
differentiation and pattern of relationship with some degree of permanency refer to as
structure. The structural subsystems can be both formal
and informal – formal is slow in responding, informal is adaptive and serves to perform
innovative functions. An informal structure is that which grows
up through a network of relationship. A formal structure is that which is an administered
system of relationship among subsystems. Traditionally, concentration was on the formal
organizations and formal relationships were of concern. Today both are intermeshed. In fact the truth is in a very large number
of organizations decision-making grows much quicker on the network of informal relationships
than on the network of formal structures. It is difficult to understand the nature of
formal organizations without investigating the network of informal relationships. Cleavage between the two is artificial. Impact of sociocultural environment was something
which was researched on by Stinchombe. Structure at the strategic level has a great
impact on forces in the task environment. MNCs strongly influenced by different cultures
in which it operates and has to adapt its goals and structures and managerial approach
to different cultures; which is why one of the major contributions to impact of culture
on organization system, even to this day, is by Hoffstede, who looked at subcultures
in IBM, and his field work till today has not been improved on. The impact of sociocultural environment on
cultures is something which you will be looking at in the next session and we will look at
the works of Chandler.




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