Managing Modern Sociotechnical Systems: New Perspectives on Human-Organization—Technological Integration in Complex and Dynamic Environments

  • Haftay H. Abraha
  • Jayantha P. Liyanage
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Mechanical Engineering book series (LNME)


Modern sociotechnical systems (SSs) are becoming increasingly advanced, complex, boundary-less, and technology-dominant systems that have major economic, societal and environmental implications. Digital technologies are enabling us to develop systems with various levels of complexities and interconnections involving different elements. This creates new ways of organizing work, new work processes, for instance: creating closer cooperation across organizational and geographical borders and this trend is likely to increase. Complexities are associated not only with the large scale hardware and software infrastructures, but also with the even more complex issues involved in human and organizational behaviours and characteristics. This implies that there are many hidden risks under the modern systems development and deployment process, and subsequently the potential for serious events are considerable. A major area for study in this context is the establishment of a seamless connection between the characteristics of the individual components (at micro-level) and the macro-behaviour of the complex SSs. Given the complexity of the systems involved, use of classical/traditional approaches (e.g. linear relations of causality) alone to understand the behaviour and performance of these systems are quite challenging, if not extremely limited in use. We need new perspectives to understand the behaviours and interactions in wider context, so that the new perspectives can capture the complex issues that influence Human-Organization-Technological (HOT) conditions within such systems, can emerge. This paper elaborates on an approach that can provide the basis for micro-macro integration to reduce vulnerabilities based on a better awareness (i.e. system thinking) taking into account the dynamic and complex context from a new perspective.


Complex systems Human error Human-Organization-Technology Unwanted events Risk Safety incidents Sociotechnical system 


  1. 1.
    Liyanage JP (2012) Human-An asset or a liability: The real deal with modern humans in intelligent systems and complex operations, Daejeon, WCEAM2012, acceptedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Abraha HH, Liyanage JP (2012) Review of theories and accident causation models: Understanding of the human-context dyad towards the use in modern complex systems, Daejeon, WCEAM2012, acceptedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Deepwater Horizon Study Group, DHSG (2011) [online]. Retrieved from < > [accessed: 03 FEB 2013]
  4. 4.
    Goh YM, Brown H, Spickett J (2010) Applying systems thinking concepts in the analysis of major incidents and safety culture. Saf Sci 48(3):302–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Rasmussen J (1997) Risk management in a dynamic society: a modeling problem. Saf Sci 27(2):183–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Abraha HH, Liyanage JP (2012) Review of theoretical foundations for risk minimal operations in complex socio-technical systems: The role of human error, Daejeon, WCEAM2012, acceptedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Sklet S (2004) Comparison of some selected methods for accident investigation. J Hazard Mater 111(1–3):29–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Leveson NG (2013) A systems thinking approach to leading indicators in the petrochemical industry: ESD working paper series. Retrieved from <> [accessed: 15 May 2013]
  9. 9.
    Leveson N (2011) Risk Management in the oil and gas industry [online]. Retrieved from <> [accessed: 10 FEB 2013]
  10. 10.
    LaPorte TR, Consolini PM (1991) Working in practice but not in theory: theoretical challenges of “high-reliability organizations”. J Public Admin Res Theory: J-PART 1(1):19-48. Oxford Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, IncGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Perrow C (1999) Y2 K as a normal accident. International Conference on Disaster Management and Medical Relief, June 14-16, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Roberts KH (1990) Managing high reliability organizations. Calif Manag Rev 32(4):101–114Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Weick Karl E, Sutcliffe K, Obstfeld D (1999) Organizing for high reliability. Res Org Behav 21:81–123Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    CBS(2005) Chemical Safety Board (2007). Investigation report: Refinery explosion and fire, BP Texas City, March 23Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Dekker S (2006) The field guide to understanding human error. Ashgate, AldershotGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Reason J (1990) Human error. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Reason J (1997) Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents. Ashgate, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Rasmussen J (1986) Information processing and human-machine interaction: an approach to cognitive engineering. North-Holland, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of StavangerStavangerNorway

Personalised recommendations