The sociotechnical approach to organizational structure was developed in England during the late 1940s by Eric Trist and his colleagues at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. These researchers conducted seminal studies on the coal mining industry, where the introduction of new technology had shifted the social patterns of work so profoundly that productivity and job satisfaction were negatively affected. In response, managers and workers fundamentally reorganized their work patterns, returning to the small-team, collaborative process that had prevailed before the mechanization of the industry.

In these and subsequent studies across a variety of work settings, Trist and his colleagues found that technical changes in an industry (e.g., increased automation) consistently produce profound changes in the social aspects of work as well. They became convinced that ...

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