Digital work courses at the Tavistock Institute

Digital work courses at the Tavistock Institute

Rewriting sociotechnical systems for remote teams.

Rewriting socio-technical systems for remote teams

Technology is an integral aspect of business operations. Yet, technology is largely absent from organisational research and consultancy. This gap remains despite the early recognition of the importance of technology in organisational affairs, for example in the Tavistock Institute’s work on socio-technical systems (STS) and operations research.

The low priority may in part be due to the increasingly complex nature of technology for non-specialists Yet, without focusing on technology, there is a risk of ignoring the material world. As Karen Barad (2003) wrote, we have over substantialised the power of language at the expense of our awareness of technology.

This is a particular issue as information and communication technologies (ICTs) are central to team functioning in remote teams especially in a post-pandemic world. Most studies show that ICT impairs performance (Schweitzer and Duxbury, 2010; van der Kleij et al., 2009) often in unexpected ways; video conferencing being unhelpful to build trust (Altschuller and Benbunan-Fich, 2013) is one such example.

Our Digital Surgeries are designed to combine theory and practice, offering a safe space to discuss how to address the profound challenges involved in working remotely and become as effective as possible.

We are informed in these groups by recent work, which suggests the STS model itself needs updating so that relations between technology and people are viewed as complex and not necessarily reconcilable (Winter et al., 2014). Seeing the social and the technical as entwined has allowed our Digital Surgeries to openly reflect on our limitations online and explore how best to manage groups at a distance, rather than how to definitively solve issues.

In this spirit, we have launched our new programme: Exploring the Dynamics of Remote Working. This programme has three strands: locating ourselves in our roles in virtual environments, navigating boundaries and splits when remote working, and exploring the nature of transition in the online space. To support these topics, we are also running bespoke Digital Surgery sessions where participants can share their reflections and experiences of digital work in an open environment.

Next steps

Apply to join the Digital Surgeries here and find out about our Exploring the Dynamics of Remote Working course here.

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