A civic-minded citizen seeking the singularity

An entry

People + Technology as the base unit in a socio-technical System, like an Organization

Series: On Work
Date: 2022-11-05
Status: draft
Tags: sociotechnical systemsthinking
This Entry is part of the Series On Work.

Modern organizations are composed of people, technology, and work processes that involve the interactions between people and technology.

Yet, too often, Organizations, and certain people within them; certain "leaders" or decision-makers, attempt to reason about, or make decisions regarding Technology, in isolation. Government procurement is an example of how technology is often reasoned about as an inert, standalone object. The term "solution" is an indicator of this thinking.

Is a hammer the "solution" for a house? No, a hammer + a person skilled at carpentry may be empowered to create a house.

Buying a CRM, requires that people adjust work behaviors to use such a system. The CRM itself is inert.

A fleet of cars can be managed, but without drivers, those vehicles fail to contribute to value.

A number of buildings can be managed, but without occupants and staff to conduct ongoing maintenance and operations, the buildings fail to provide value.

In these cases, the lack of integration between the people and the inert tools fails to yield value, and perhaps results in debt. The point being, not considering technology within the context of how it is used by people is incomplete and ineffective.

People + technology is the base working unit. Technology alone is insufficient. Technology is a tool created to support people.

Another behavior to be cautious of is the treating people as fungible units in a creative, performance endeavor.

Individuals are incredibly complex, and despite the current popularity of narratives around equality; people are not equal as beings, in behavior, desires, or dreams. Equality of rights and individual treatment, including non-discrimination are distinct concepts that don't imply humans are equal in terms of human traits and ultimately performance.

Treating individuals as fungible units is a lazy, cognitive shortcut that has been used more and more since the introduction of scientific management techniques; where people were conceived of as "cogs in a machine". Actual cogs, cast from metal, are quite fungible (in most cases). Yet, organizations and certain people within them pretend that individuals are hot-swappable within or between organizational processes, which is false, or perhaps a delusion. An organization process, or "business process" which has execution steps that are not fully-defined; where the execution requires creative capacity and individual performance resists over-simplification, such that altering the specific individuals involved will almost certainly alter the behavior of that system, and may impact other processes upstream and/or downstream from the process in which they are part of.

This almost feels insulting to write, as it should be obvious to somebody who recognizes and respects humanity. This concept may be more easily understood through sports, in which players within the same "game" construct perform at drastically different levels. Replacing Michael Jordan with another basketball player drastically alters the team chemistry and performance.

Ultimately, organizations regress to some low-standard of performance when they operate through fungible constructs. This is naturally, as Organizations aren't living or intelligent beings, despite the common practice of anthropomorphizing them. Organizations are the sum, or perhaps product of the individual people inside, their behaviors, desires, dreams, incentives, and ultimately performance.