Calvin Pava’s Legacy: Sociotechnical Systems Design for the “Digital Coal Mines” – Douglas Austrom and Carolyn Ordowich

[Thanks to David Ing]
Calvin Pava
Sociotechnical Systems Design for the “Digital Coal Mines”
Douglas Austrom, Ph.D.
Kelley School of Business, Indiana University (
Carolyn Ordowich STS Associates, Princeton, NJ (
Submitted to:
Enduring Thoughts of the Thinkers of Organizational Change
Palgrave Macmillan
Change Thinkers
(publication 2018)

Calvin Pava made an extraordinary contribution to the future of work design and organizational change in the 21st century. He reconceptualized traditional STS methodology for nonroutine work analysis and design as the design of deliberations and discretionary coalitions focused on collaboration among disparate people where tension, disagreement, and conflict improve the value of the ideas, expose the risks inherent in the plan, and lead to enhanced trust among the participants. Pava provided us with a model for a flexible and scalable organizational architecture based on the precepts of self-regulation; it is a template for combining and integrating self-managing work teams (routine work), project teams (hybrid work) and discretionary coalitions (non-routine work) into a “network” organization. He also recognized that our increasingly turbulent environment requires viewing organizational change less as an event and more as an ongoing dynamic of iterative design.

Pava’s work in the 1970’s and early 1980’s is also an especially effective fit for the 21st century and a digital era that requires tapping into networks of value, connecting information sources, and bridging internal as well as external boundaries. He foresaw addressing more complex problems with sociotechnical design enhanced by information and communication technology leading to more robust solutions. But Pava also recognized the dilemma advanced technology posed: it could be designed for the flourishing of mankind or to manipulate people and engender passivity in the rest of society, and he strongly warned us to exercise organizational choice in order to disobey the new digital technocratic imperative.

Key Words
Sociotechnical Systems Design, Non-routine Knowledge Work, Deliberations, Discretionary Coalitions, Technocratic Imperative

Calvin Pava’s Legacy: Sociotechnical Systems Design for the “Digital Coal Mines”. Available from:’s_Legacy_Sociotechnical_Systems_Design_for_the_Digital_Coal_Mines [accessed Aug 09 2018].