Sociotechnical systems: towards an organizational learning approach

E Molleman*, M Broekhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    By means of three design principles (the sociotechnical criterion, the principle of minimal critical specification and the principle of joint optimization of the technical and social system), STS as a design theory is related to four organizational performance indicators (price, quality, flexibility and innovation). As a diagnostic theory, STS helps to find contingencies between environmental demands and work design. The diagnoses result in sets of STS practices. It is argued that as long as price and quality are the only important performance criteria, STS practices have little to offer and their contributions will be only at the job level. If flexibility is of importance, STS has much more to offer, on the job level as well as the organizational level. The same is true for when innovation is a relevant indicator, in which case STS practices may also help to 'design' processes, such as mutual trust among workers and diversity with respect to attitudes, abilities and cognitions. It is argued that the dominant performance indicators have changed in a cumulative way from efficiency, via quality and flexibility towards innovation and learning. In accordance with these changes, the STS principles are extended with the concept of organizational learning. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)271-294
    Number of pages24
    JournalJournal of Engineering and Technology Management
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


    • sociotechnical systems
    • performance indicators
    • organizational learning
    • TRUST
    • DESIGN

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