Assessment of complex sociotechnical systems: Theoretical issues concerning the use of organizational culture and organizational core task concepts

Teemu Reiman (Corresponding Author), Pia Oedewald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

58 Citations (Scopus)


This article studies organizational assessment in complex sociotechnical systems. There is a practical need to monitor, anticipate and manage the safety and effectiveness of these systems. A failure to do so has resulted in various organizational accidents. Many theories of accidents and safety in industrial organizations are either based on a static and rational model of an organization or they are non-contextual. They are thus reactive in their search for errors and analysis of previous accidents and incidents, or they are disconnected from the actual work in the organization by their focus on general safety attitudes and values. A more proactive and predictive approach is needed, that is based on an accurate view on an organization and the demands of the work in question. This article presents and elaborates four statements: (1) the current models of safety management are largely based on either a rational or a non-contextual image of an organization, (2) complex sociotechnical systems are socially constructed and dynamic cultures, (3) in order to be able to assess complex sociotechnical systems an understanding of the organizational core task is required, and (4) effectiveness and safety depend on the cultural conceptions of the organizational core task. Finally, we will discuss the implications of the proposed concepts for safety research and development work in complex sociotechnical systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)745-768
JournalSafety Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2007
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed



  • Organizational culture
  • Organizational core task
  • Task analysis
  • Assessment
  • Work psychology
  • Safety culture

Cite this