Sociotechnical Systems Design for the “Digital Coal Mines”

The IT industry is struggling to find better ways of working with technology that progresses at an ever-increasing rate and where workers are demanding more participation in the design of not only the products but also work itself. The publication of the agile manifesto was a pivotal moment and the values and the principles described there seems to have a lot in common with something that started in the British coal mines 25 years earlier. Sociotechnical systems design has a similar focus on democratisation of work but contrary to agile it has been properly researched over the years to find ways to jointly optimise the technical and social aspects of an organisation. This did not just make the them perform better, but also made them more adaptable, resilient, and improved the quality of work life for all involved.

In this talk we will take closer look at open sociotechnical systems thinking and compare it to agile, seeing where they overlap and diverge. We will take a look at the methods and theoretical underpinnings developed in social sciences over the years that our industry needs in order to cope and even thrive in our increasingly complex and hazardous “digital coal mines."

Talk based on years of experience with agile way of work and a detailed study of the sociotechnical system design literature. Previous talks and blog post that touch on similar topics are available at .

Trond Hjorteland

Senior IT Consultant and sociotechnical practitioner.

Oslo, Norway

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