Structural Interventions

Introduction of Structural Interventions

The term socio-technical system or STS is largely associated with experiments that emerged under the auspice of the Tavistock Institute in Great Britain. STS theory has two basic premises One is that “effective work systems must jointly optimize the relationship between their social and technical parts”. The second premise is that “such a system must effectively manage the boundary separating and relating them to the environment.”

Selected Structural Intervention

Socio-technical Systems (STS) Theory

It is based on the joint optimization of the social and technological systems of organizations. Further more:

  • The boundary between the organization and its environment should be managed in such a way as to allow effective exchanges, but protection from external disruptions,

  • The implementation of STS should be highly participative, and

  • The creation and development of self-managed teams is an important factor in STS implementation (Cummings and Worley; Trist, Higgin, Murray, and Pollock; and others).
  • Providing teams with a grouping of tasks that comprises a major unit of the total work to be performed;

    Creation of Self-managed Teams

  • Training group members in multiple skills, including team-effectiveness skills;

  • Delegating to the team many aspects of how the work gets done;

  • Providing a great deal of information and feedback for self-regulation of quality and productivity;

  • Solving the problem of dislocation of first-line supervisors; and

  • Reconceptualizing the role of managers with an emphasis on coaching, expediting, and coordinating (Walton, Lawler, and others).

    Work redesign theory suggests that:

  • a) Motivation and performance can be enhanced through redesigning jobs to heighten skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback from the job;

  • The concept can be extended to the creation of self-managed teams; and

  • Third-party assistance in the development and monitoring of group norms can be useful (Hackman and Oldham).

Traditional MBO Theory

It assumes the need for systematic goal setting linking the goals of superiors to subordinates and that:

  • Objectives or targets should be stated in quantitative terms whenever possible,

  • Goal setting and appraisal should be one-on-one dialogues between superiors and subordinate

  • MBO can vary on an autocratic-participative continuum and that

  • MBO can feature a participative team approach (French and Hollmann, Likert and Fisher).

Quality Circles

At least the participative, problem-solving versions are based on the assumptions that many, if not most, employees are willing to work collaboratively in group settings-both natural work teams and cross-functional teams-on problems of product quality and system effectiveness, and that they can learn to effectively utilize both technical and process consultants, providing they are:

  • Trained in quality control concepts and the relevant measuring techniques, and are

  • Trained in group dynamics, team leadership, and interpersonal communication skills.

Quality of Work Life (QWL) Programs

These programs vary in content but frequently include restructuring of several dimensions of the organization, including:

  • increased problem-solving between management and the union;

  • increased participation by teams of employees in shop floor decisions about production flow, quality control, and safety; and

  • skill development through technical skill training, job rotation, and training in team problem solving (Fuller, Carrigan, Bluestone, Goodman, Lawler, Ledford, Walton, and others).

Parallel Learning Structures (or Collateral Organizations)

Parallel learning structures are organizations established within ongoing organizations and have the following features:

  • A mandate to deal with complex, non-routine, future-oriented problems and/or to co-ordinate large-scale systems change;

  • The creation of different norms and culture to enhance creative problem solving and to create a model organization from which the organization can learn (Z and, Bushe, and Sham).

Physical Settings or Arrangements

It can be the focus of interventions that can utilize and be highly congruent with OD techniques and assumptions (Steele).

Total Quality Management (TQM) Programs

Total Quality Management (TQM) programs are combinations of several approaches, including:

  • A high emphasis on customers, including internal customers;

  • The use of statistical quality control and statistical process control techniques;
    Competitive benchmarking;

  • Participative management;

  • An emphasis on teams and teamwork; and

  • An emphasis on continuous training (Peters and Peters, Ciampa, Sashkin, and others).


Reengineering as currently conceptualized (Hammer and Champy):

  • Focuses almost exclusively on streamlining business processes, and

  • appears to pay little attention to the human-social system.

However, it appears theoretically possible for reengineering programs to utilize OD approaches in which:

  • Collateral organizations are used extensively, and

  • Organizational members are extensively involved and adequately protected.

Large-scale Systems Change

Large-scale system change (including organizational transformation) with inexpensive OD thrust typically requires a multiplicity of interventions over an extended time frame. Including:

  • A reconceptualization of the nature of the business;

  • The use of a parallel learning structure;

  • a reduction in hierarchical levels;

  • team building and Development, including the use of cross-functional teams;

  • Survey feedback;

  • Extensive use of task forces; and

  • Intensive leadership training (Nadler, Ackerman, Porras and Silvers Cummings and Worley, Weisbord, and others).


Investortonight requires its writers to base their articles on primary sources. This includes government documents, data, direct observations, and interviews with industry leaders. Additionally, we also incorporate research from reputable sources when appropriate. Our editorial guidelines detail the standards we maintain to ensure unbiased and accurate content.

  • Thomas G. Cummings and Christopher G. Worley, Organization Development and Change, 5th ed.

  • J. Richard Hackman and Greg R. Oldham, Work Redesign.

  • French, Wendell L., & Cecil H. (1996), Organization Development: Behavioral Science Interventions for Organization Improvement (5th Edition), New Delhi, India: Prentice Hall of India.

  • S. Ramanarayan, T.V. Rao, Kuldeep Singh, Organisational Development Interventions and Strategies.

Leave a Reply