Software and Hard Choices: Ethical Considerations in the Facilitation of a Sociotechnical System
Terri L. Griffith Washington University
Gregory B. Northcraft University of Illinois
Mark A. Fuller Baylor University
The past decade has seen exponential growth in technological capabilities. Computer chip speed doubles approximately every 18 months, and subsequent organizational and personal computing opportunities are keeping pace. The growth of computing and network capabilities are bringing anytime/anyplace work into reality. Working in a single office is giving way to hoteling, in which employees schedule shared workspace only for the time they need it; telecommuting, in which computers are used to work away from the office, at the client's place of business, at home, or on a plane; teleconferencing; and electronic meetings.
The World Wide Web and other Internet resources behind many of these advances also make it easier for software piracy, hacking, the dissemination of software viruses, and other electronic ills to affect millions of individuals and corporations worldwide. However, the ethical issues raised by these blatantly sociopathic behaviors are simplistic when compared to the subtle dilemmas raised by the nexus of social and technological (sociotechnical) aspects of work.
Sociotechnical systems are attempts to find the social and technological arrangement that meets both the needs of the [group members] in terms of the quality of their working life and organizational goals" ( Pasmore & Sherwood, 1978, p. 41). The objective is to combine features of the social components of the organization with features of the technical components in balanced and synergistic relationships.