Command and Control: The Sociotechnical Perspective (Human Factors in Defence)

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Military command and control is not merely evolving, it is co-evolving. Technology is creating new opportunities for different types of command and control, and new types of command and control are creating new aspirations for technology. The question is how to manage this process, how to achieve a jointly optimised blend of socio and technical and create the kind of agility and self-synchronisation that modern forms of command and control promise. The answer put forward in this book is to re-visit sociotechnical systems theory. In doing so, the problems of 21st century command and control can be approached from an alternative, multi-disciplinary and above all human-centred perspective. Human factors (HF) is also co-evolving. The traditional conception of the field is to serve as a conduit for knowledge between engineering and psychology yet 21st century command and control presents an altogether different challenge. Viewing military command and control through the lens of sociotechnical theory forces us to confront difficult questions about the non-linear nature of people and technology: technology is changing, from platform centric to network centric; the interaction with that technology is changing, from prescribed to exploratory; and complexity is increasing, from behaviour that is linear to that which is emergent. The various chapters look at this transition and draw out ways in which sociotechnical systems theory can help to understand it. The sociotechnical perspective reveals itself as part of a conceptual toolkit through which military command and control can be transitioned, from notions of bureaucratic, hierarchical ways of operating to the devolved, agile, self-synchronising behaviour promised by modern forms of command and control like Network Enabled Capability (NEC). Sociotechnical system theory brings with it a sixty year legacy of practical application and this real-world grounding in business process re-engineering underlies the entire book. An attempt has been made to bring a set of sometimes abstract (but no less useful) principles down to the level of easy examples, design principles, evaluation criteria and actionable models. All of these are based on an extensive review of the current state of the art, new sociotechnical/NEC studies conducted by the authors, and insights derived from field studies of real-life command and control. Time and again, what emerges is a realisation that the most agile, self-synchronising component of all in command and control settings is the human.

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About the Author:

Guy H Walker read for a BSc Honours degree in Psychology at Southampton University specialising in engineering psychology, statistics and psychophysics. During his undergraduate studies he also undertook work in auditory perception laboratories at Essex University and the Applied Psychology Unit at Cambridge University. After graduating in 1999 he moved to Brunel University, gaining a PhD in Human Factors in 2002. His research focused on driver performance, situational awareness and the role of feedback in vehicles. Since this time Guy has worked for a human factors consultancy on a project funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board, examining driver behaviour in relation to warning systems and alarms fitted in train cabs. Currently Guy is a Senior Research Fellow within the HFI DTC at the University of Southampton, engaged primarily in work on future C4i systems. He is also author of numerous journal articles and book contributions. Professor Stanton holds a Chair in Human Factors in the School of Civil Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton. He has published over 140 peer-reviewed journal papers and 14 books on Human Factors and Ergonomics. In 1998 he was awarded the Institution of Electrical Engineers Divisional Premium Award for a co-authored paper on Engineering Psychology and System Safety. The Ergonomics Society awarded him the Otto Edholm medal in 2001 and The President's Medal in 2008 for his contribution to basic and applied ergonomics research. In 2007 The Royal Aeronautical Society awarded him the Hodgson Medal and Bronze Award with colleagues for their work on flight deck safety. Professor Stanton is an editor of the journal Ergonomics and on the editorial boards of Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science and the International Journal of Human Computer Interaction. Professor Stanton is a Fellow and Chartered Occupational Psychologist registered with The British Psychological Society, and a Fellow of The Ergonomics Society. He has a BSc (Hons) in Occupational Psychology from the University of Hull, an MPhil in Applied Psychology and a PhD in Human Factors from Aston University in Birmingham. Paul Salmon is a Senior Research Fellow in the Human Factors Group at Monash University and holds a BSc in Sports Science and an MSc in Applied Ergonomics, (both from the University of Sunderland). Paul has over six years experience in applied human factors research in a number of domains, including the military, civil and general aviation, rail and road transport and has previously worked on a variety of research projects in these areas. This has led to Paul gaining expertise in a broad range of areas, including human error, situation awareness, and the application of human factors methods, including human error identification, situation awareness measurement, teamwork assessment, task analysis and cognitive task analysis methods. Paul's current research interests include the areas of situation awareness in command and control, human error and the application of human factors methods in sport. Paul has authored and co-authored various scientific journal articles, conference articles, book chapters and books and was recently awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society Hodgson Prize for a co-authored paper in the society's Aeronautical journal. Dan Jenkins graduated in 2004, from Brunel University, with an M.Eng (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering and Design, receiving the 'University Prize' for the highest academic achievement in the school. As a sponsored student, Dan finished University with over two years experience as a Design Engineer in the Automotive Industry. Upon graduation, Dan went to work in Japan for a major car manufacturer, facilitating the necessary design changes to launch a new model in Europe. In 2005, Dan returned to Brunel University taking up the full-time role of Research Fellow in the Ergonomics Research Group, working primarily on the Human Factors Integration Defence Technology Centre (HFI-DTC) project. Dan studied part-time on his PhD in human factors and interaction design - graduating in 2008, receiving the 'Hamilton Prize' for the Best Viva in the School of Engineering and Design. In March 2009, Dan founded Sociotechnic Solutions Limited, a company specialising in the design and optimisation of complex sociotechnical systems. Dan has authored and co-authored numerous journal paper, conference articles, book chapters and books. Dan and his colleagues on the HFI DTC project were awarded the Ergonomics Society's President's Medal in 2008.

Review:

'Walker, Stanton, Salmon and Jenkins have written a highly relevant book that describes what information technology can offer to command and control, acknowledging the importance of keeping the decision maker in charge. The sociotechnical perspective is broadened to reflect the challenges of complex environments, and the requirements for human factors integration. In short, the book presents a comprehensive framework.' Gary Klein, Applied Research Associates, USA 'This book aims to apply socio-technical theory to the design and practice of Network Enabled Capability. It succeeds and in so doing contributes substantially to our understanding of both domains. Especially interesting are the authors' propositions on the design and use of military equipment, and the presentation of some new guiding sociotechnical principles for design. The authors argue persuasively for the need to put humans at the centre of complex networked systems - Amen to that!' Chris W. Clegg, Leeds University Business School, UK 'In writing this book, the authors set themselves the ambitious goal of using HFI research to identify linkages between the various disciplines involved in NCW, then using those linkages to build conceptual bridges that 'reach out across various interdisciplinary boundaries'. This interdisciplinary approach, focused on understanding how the human operates in the NCW environment, offers a unique and valuable insight into modern command and control arrangements. The book's extensive and thorough review of literature relating to organisational design will see many readers drawn out of their conceptual comfort-zone to alternative views that will nonetheless enhance their understanding of command and control in the informationage. Although some readers may at times find the data analysis impenetrable, the unique insights that this analysis provides makes the additional effort worthwhile. This book is a 'must read' for all involved or interested in the development and implementation of modern command and control systems.' Australian Defence Force Journal, September 2010

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