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What is the Sociotechnical Systems Approach in Nigeria?

The Sociotechnical Systems Approach, as coined by Trist, Bamforth, and Emery in the World War II era, refers to the social behaviour of people, society and the technical aspects of industrial organization structures and operations, including industry in Nigeria.

Sociotechnical systems describes the processes of development, understanding of social structures, use of technical structures, and successful interaction with people by the application of human expertise for the operation of industries or industrial sectors and government institutions.

A sociotechnical system offers interrelatedness between the social and technical aspects of an organization and the society, they are designed to lead wellbeing and emergence of productivity in an organization. Industrial organization is comprised of various subsystems relating to the input and output processes. Kast and Rosenzweig divided it to five subsystems:

Goal Oriented Arrangement of Sociotechnical Systems Approach

Firstly, it involves a goal-oriented arrangement involving people with a purpose; a technical subsystem involving people using knowledge techniques both hardware and software, equipment, and facilities; a structural subsystem involving people working together on integrated activities; psychosocial subsystem involving people on social relationships; a managerial subsystem ensuring that the activities of the organization as a whole are directed toward the accomplishment of its objectives.

It is well known that for any industry (industrial development) to bring out favourable output, the five subsystems are to be set up.

Not to mention, some countries especially Africa countries are facing different challenges in economic development due to the policies established for industrializations and also the failure to take responsibility or vital role in understanding the interactions between people or human expertise, software and hardware, the organization, and other systems functioning that are expected to be put in place for a greater development.

History of Nigeria

Diachronically, Nigeria as a country became independent in 1960. Initially, Agriculture was the mainstay of the country’s economy which provides employment opportunities to the citizens, food productions and consumptions, and raw materials for industrial uses and product.

The government’s revenue generations were based on this and the economic growth were structured to Agricultural products. Food consumptions were highly available and farmers were also highly motivated by the turning up of the government.

At the later time, the discoveries of crude oil worsen the situation and eventually lead to the negligence of agricultural industries by the government. The government structured the country’s economy to oil and gas sector. This dominates gross domestic product (GDP) accounting to 95 percent of export earnings as at 2012 and about 85 percent of the government’s revenue.

The industrial sectors contribute to 4 percent of the country economy and the manufacturing sectors account to 6 percent of the GDP. Due to the negligence of agricultural sector, the country made her way to be part of the underdeveloped countries.

Industrialization in Nigeria: A Sociotechnical Systems Approach

Ever since then, economic growth or development through industrialization has been a major challenge. This has been the major focus of the various administrations and sectors in the country. Economic development policies and plans like SAP (Structural Adjustment Program) and ISI (Import Substituting Industrialization) were adopted as the National Development Plans dated between the period of 1962-1974 (Adeoti et al., 2010).

The first plan being ISI was built on the objective of mobilising national economic resources and deploying them on a benefit basis among contending projects as a systematic attempt at industrial development. The period of this plan witnessed the commissioning of energy projects such as the Kanji dam and the Ughelli thermal plants, which provided a vital infrastructural backbone for the industrial sector.

The ISI strategy was designed to frame the industrial policy after the post-independence era. This policy was aimed at providing a lesser dependence on foreign trade and the conservation of foreign exchange by producing local products of the previously imported products. (Chete et al, 2010)

The focus on an ISI Strategy as the cornerstone of industrial development efforts during the period of the First Plan therefore seemed to have neglected many of the factors required for managing the emergent industrial sector and in particular, the management of technologies transferred or acquired. Considering the fact that the managerial subsystem aimed at conducting, controlling and directing the well-being and productivity of an organization, but failingly the authorities were unable to administered the ISI Strategy.

Second National Development Plan

This led to the establishment of the Second National Development Plan being SAP in 1970-1974 to address the limitations of the First Plan (ISI Strategy). The Policy was to upgrade local products in the country and create the industrial structure linking them to agricultural products, mining, transport, and quarrying.

This policy coexisted with the newly discovered crude oil in the country. The country’s economy benefited with the foreign exchange inflows, creation of employment for the populace, industrial projects such as cement production, salt, iron and steel, sugar and was able to make goods readily and easily available for the populace.

The depthless of the country’s technological and technical capabilities prevented the economy to move beyond the initial phases of the plan and if not all but almost all of these projects had been abandoned (Adeoti et al., 2010). Controversially, moving down to projects abandonment leading to the increase in unemployment rate and only few industries made their ways to this point in time.

Nigeria’s Oil Boom

Another National Development Plan was developed and established especially at the peak of oil boom. The plan visualized investment expend of 42 billion NGN which is over 3 billion times the SAP Strategy. Improved machineries, raw materials and easy availability for foreign exchange and private firm were planned.

Due to lower technological approaches and heavily dependent on the needed machineries with little or no concerns by the government, the Plan failed to advance Nigeria’s industrialization. Therefore, this failure led to the increment of unemployment rate, falling of the country’s economy and later led to a greater recession (reduced economic activity).

Furthermore, various industrial organizations were faced with difficulties and challenges as policies are changing drastically in the country. Likewise the current poor infrastructure for industrial development, corruption, national insecurity, and transportation are among the issues facing industrial organizations in Nigeria.

Many of these policies established were unable to be maintained due to the lack of technological and technical capabilities, human expertise for the operation of industries, managerial systems, insecurity and corruption.

Hence, a national science and technology S&T policy was launched in 1986. This policy was formulated as a driving force for successful industrial development in Nigeria. Creation of trademarks, research and control in industrial operations and productions, agents to bridge poor technological approaches, increased public awareness, training and technical arrangements were established.


In conclusion, for the best to emerge in industrialization, the same approach as earlier should be shun and Kast and Rosenzweig sociotechnical approaches and engaging on industrial projects such as cement production, salt, iron and steel, sugar, mining, agriculture and other raw materials for industrial uses and foreign exchange would go a longer away for the populace in terms of employment and industrial developments.

Writer’s Update – Teaching Sociology & Sociology in Industry

Abdulrahman Babatunde

Abdulrahman Babatunde is a project developer and innovator (electronics) and also an article writer. His goal is to be at the cutting-edge of organization development.