Participation in the age of Blurring Organizational Boundaries

 14 - 16 September 2021

Trondheim + online

Global SMART Organization Design Meeting 2021 – Here we come!

14 - 16 September 2021

We strive for a hybrid conference design. This means that we will have:
   1.    On-site workshops, presentations and deliberations in Trondheim, Norway. This setting is aimed for all members that are able to participate in-person in Trondheim.

   2.    On-line workshops, presentations and deliberations. This setting is aimed at worldwide members who cannot travel to the conference site due to pandemic travel restrictions.

Pre-recorded empirical cases

We will prepare pre-recorded empirical cases for part 1 and part 2, and make sure that worldwide members can join the on-site workshops by means of on-line video participation. Let’s meet across the globe in joint deliberations!


The theme of our conference will be ‘Participation in the age of Blurring Organizational Boundaries’. From recent global network meetings, (2017-2019), it is apparent that within and between organizations, boundaries between individual tasks, teams and (networks of) organizations are becoming increasingly blurry. The use of novel (digital) technologies results in increased interconnectedness and opportunities for collaboration. These developments clearly challenge traditional ways of organizing work, but they also challenge traditional ways in which workers organize themselves and their participation in design of work process and work conditions. Thus, in the Global SMART organization design meeting, Trondheim 2021, we will address two sub themes in this age of blurring organizational boundaries:

   •    Shifting Industrial relations
   •    Impermanent organizations.

Moreover, experiences from the coronavirus pandemic have indisputably made a huge impact on work practices and eventually organization design. Although the pandemic is not the main focus of the 2021 meeting, it will guide the discussions with the different cases. What have we learned? And where do we go from here? So, we welcome you to Trondheim – Norway – Scandinavia. Join us for a rewarding experience of in-person or on-line participation!



Grand Opening

We welcome you to NTNU campus Gløshaugen for welcoming drinks and snacks, to meet new and old friends in our community in a hybrid setting. The hybrid setting enables all of us to engage with each other both online and on-site.

GMT : 1800-2200

CEST: 20:00-24:00

Sydney: 04:00-08:00

 New York: 1400-1800

San Francisco: 11:00-15:00 

NTNU Campus Gløshaugen & Hybrid


GMT : 1300-1500

CEST: 15:00-17:00


 New York: 0900-1100

San Francisco: 06:00-08:00 

NTNU Campus Gløshaugen & Hybrid

GMT : 1300-1500

CEST: 15:00-17:00

Sydney: 23:00-01:00

 New York: 0900-1100

San Francisco: 06:00-08:00 

NTNU Campus Gløshaugen & Hybrid

Day 2 - Impermanent Organizations


This day we will take a closer look at impermanent organizations, and will both work further on AkerSolutions and be introduced to the software company, Kantega.

For registered on-line participants, films of the cases will be sent a week in advance.


In this theme we explore the self-designing and self-organizing characteristics of organizations that surround us. We will focus on organizations that use novel forms of teambased work and explore the ins and outs of working in the platform economy.


The venues

Clarion Hotel Brattøra 

1190 NOK/night

For booking:

Call: +47 73 92 55 00 or


Use booking code: GR020950




NTNU Campus Gløshaugen

The Grand Opening will be held at the Gløshaugen campus at NTNU. The Gløshaugen campus is the oldest campus at NTNU and houses researchers and students within in technical and natural sciences programs.

The Team



Hanne Finnestrand

Associate Professor of Organization development at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway. She holds a PhD in Action Research and Organization development from the same university. Finnestrand’s research area is action research in the fields of organization development, industrial relations, and socio-technical systems design. She is currently deputy editor of the Springer journal Systemic Practice and Action Research and on the editorial reviewer board of the Emerald journal The Learning Organization .


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Johan E. Ravn

Professor of Leadership and organization at Nord University, Norway and senior research scientist at the SINTEF foundation. Research interests include organization, leadership, collaborative industrial relations, and sociotechnical systems theory, and he has conducted action research in many manufacturing systems. He has published and been guest editor in several journals, and in September 2019 he co-organized a special issue on “Socio-Technical Systems Thinking in Manufacturing” for the open access journal European Journal of Workplace innovation.




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Matthijs Moorkamp

Assistant Professor of Organizational Design and Development at the Nijmegen School of Management of Radboud University. He obtained a PhD from Delft University of Technology. His research focuses on organizational design in temporary organizations that operate in crisis contexts, such as the expeditionary organizations of the (Dutch) armed forces and crisis management organizations. Matthijs was part of the multidisciplinary research team that evaluated national crisis response organization that was established after the disaster with flight MH17. 


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Laila Øyangen

Administrative apprentice at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Laila is responsible for the administrative work for the conference in Trondheim. 

If you have any practical questions don´t hesitate to take contact with her by email or phone.




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Suggested pre-readings

On the Nordic / Norwegian model: political economy, organization of work life, industrial relations, other institutional arrangements
  1. Gustavsen, B. (2007). "Work Organization and the 'Scandinavian Model'." Economic and Industrial Democracy 28(4): 650-671.
    (Gustavsen was a major figure in the Norwegian (and European) action research/STS field. This article says something about the practices of tripartism and innovation work within the Norwegian model)


  2. Andersen, T. M., Holmström, B., Honkapohja, S., Korkman, S., Tson, S. H., & Vartiainen, J. (2007). The Nordic Model. Embracing globalization and sharing risks. ETLA B.
    (provides a general description of the Nordic model(s), mainly in terms of political economy, flexicurity)


  3. Vihriälä, V. and T. Valkonen (2014). The Nordic model–challenged but capable of reform. Copenhagen, Nordic Council.
    (general description: political economy, flexicurity – overlaps somewhat with the one above)


  4. Torvatn, H. Y., Sørensen, O. H., Talja, H., & Eriksen, B. (2015). Good Nordic management practices: State of the art (Vol. 2015525). Nordic Council of Ministers.
    (Interesting piece of comparison – between the Nordic states and between the Nordic as a whole and the EU and US, as regards focus and type of managerial practices)


  5. Skorstad, E. J. and J. C. Karlsson (2017). "The worker collectivity and Anglo-Saxon theories of collectivity." Economic and Industrial Democracy.
    (Lysgaard’s “worker collectivity” from 1960 is widely regarded as one of the best pieces of Norwegian industrial sociology, but it was never published in English. This piece to some degree accounts for it, and revisits the same industrial site – with a similar research focus. There is something to learn about Norwegian industrial relations here – not of the most collaborative kind. According to a well-read colleague, there are some striking parallels between Lysgaard’s “worker collectivity” and Crozier’s “Bureaucratic phenomenon”  from the same period – someone should look into this, perhaps.)

Some classical sociotechnical writings that illustrate the Norwegian/Scandinavian STS tradition

  1. Trist, E. L. and K. W. Bamforth (1951). "Some Social and Psychological Consequences of the Longwall Method of Coal Getting." Human Relations 4: 3-38.
    (The classic point of departure)


  2. Trist, E. L. (1981). The evolution of socio-technical systems. Toronto, Ontario, Ontario Quality of Working Life Centre, occasional paper.
    (How do the 30 first STS years look when looking back at them? Trist’s summary and account is worth the read)


  3. Herbst, P. G. (1974). Designing with Minimal Critical Specifications. In Herbst, P. G. (1974). Socio-technical design: strategies in multidisciplinary research. London, Tavistock Publications
    (Some Herbst should be read. His most famous one-liner, “The product of work is people”, is perhaps known? The pathology of the engineer’s model begins “when man begins to treat man as part of the physical environment”. After the Tavistock years, Herbst lived (and died) in Trondheim)


  4. Elden, M. (1986). "Sociotechnical systems ideas as public policy in Norway: Empowering participation through worker-managed change." The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 22(3): 239-255.
    (There are some interesting demarcations done here, for instance between democratization and humanization. In a way it really brings a kind of political/institutional perspective to STS and AR. It highlights how the Norwegian STS tradition a) also had an institutional focus, b) was interacting with and backed by the state, the employers’ organization and organized labor, and c) was not claiming to be “ethically neutral”.)

Newer Norwegian STS approaches

  1. Amble, N. (2013). "Autonomy and control when working with humans—A reflection on sociotechnical concepts." Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 3(4): 45-62.
    (The interesting part here is the juxtaposition between the Karasek model (of work demands/work control) for work design and the STS approach – how there is a lack of a collective perspective in Karasek)


  2. Klemsdal, L., J.E. Ravn, N. Amble & H. Finne. (2017). "The Organization Theories of the Industrial Democracy Experiments Meet Contemporary Organizational Realities " Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 7(S2): 1-15.
    (A part of the article tries to account for how the Norwegian STS perspective split up into one strain of work environment studies, and another focused on dialogue and development processes)


  3. Claussen, T., T.Haga & J.E. Ravn. (2019). "Socio-technics and beyond: an approach to organisation studies and design in the second machine age." European Journal of Workplace Innovation 4(2): 99-122.
    (the editorial of last year’s special issue of EJWI (European Journal of Work Innovation) centered on STS)


  4. The rest of the special issue of EJWI centered on STS can be accessed here:


Practical information

How to get to Trondheim

By plane

Trondheim Airport Værnes is approximately 30 km north east of Trondheim.

Getting from Trondheim airport to the city centre. 

By train

Train to Trondheim: Trondheim Central station is situated at the outskirts of the city centre, within walking distance to the hotel.

Getting around in Trondheim

Use local buses to explore Trondheim.


Mobile app to purchase tickets:

Mobile app to plan your bus trip:

Map of NTNU Campus Gløshaugen


Corona virus 

There are few Covid19 cases in Trondheim these days, and things look very promising for a restriction-free STS meeting 2021. We still have to keep in mind that the situation may change. You can read more about the ongoing corona situation in Norway here.


 Administrative and practical issues:

Laila Bergsrønning Øyangen

+47 73559126

General issues:

Hanne Finnestrand

+47 99024720


Day 1 - Industrial Relations


This day we will take a closer look at Industrial Relation within Sociotechnical systems design, and be introduced to Aker Solutions and Foodora.

 For registered on-line participants, films of the cases will be sent a week in advance.

Key note

We are very pleased to introduce Prof. Dr. Valeria Pulignano from KU Leuven in Belgium as one of our key note spakers. Professor Pulignano works at the Centre for Sociological Research (CESO) since 2005. She has coordinated the CESO between 2013-2017 and between 2000-2005, she worked as Lecturer at the Industrial Relations Research Unit (IRRU) of Warwick University (UK), where she is currently Associate Fellow. Her research focuses on comparative European employment (industrial) relations and labour markets dualisation and inequality. She developed research on European economic and political integration, social dialogue and collective bargaining, workers’ voice and systems of representation, trade unions, employment relations in multinational companies including flexibility and employment security, and organizational restructuring.

For registered on-line participants, the key note presentation will be sent in advance.

From Tavistock to Trondheim

As we know, associates of the Tavistock Institute developed a solid foundation for socio-technical design during the 50s and 60s, but the poor relationship between employers and trade unions in Great Britain made it difficult to undertake experimentation in the organization. However, in Norway, an extensive formal political infrastructure supported participation in work life through union-management agreements creating a suitable context for STS. Consequently, Norwegian researcher Einar Thorsrud and Tavistock Institute associate Fred Emery instigated a research project that concentrated on democratization of work in practice. This was supported by The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and the Confederation of Employers, and was called the Industrial Democracy Program.

The introduction of the Industrial Democracy Program was the first time where the experiences from the coal mine studies in the U .K. could be implemented as an AR program with political and institutional support. The projects that came out of the Industrial Democracy program incorporated ‘all levels’ of working life, which led to a descending order of agreements, conflict resolutions mechanisms, training programs, information campaigns, and more, until the workplaces were eventually reached, which again changed Industrial Relation or enhanced the mutual gain perspective of union-management relation in the Scandinavian countries – and in Norway in particular.

In the 1980s and 1990s, trade unions were a prime focus regarding worker participation. However, new forms of work organizations have influenced the field of Industrial Relation in general and the labor-management cooperation specifically. Some writers have even indicated that the high involvement work forms are threatening union-management cooperation on workplaces, basically because different versions of involvement and participation has been incorporated as part of the organization’s structure and work practice, which again makes indirect participation through the union stewards less important. On top of that, societal developments show a significant tendency towards increasing flexibilization and a-typical employment: increasing temporary work, flexible work contracts, worker migration, introducing market principles in public services and massive outsourcing to low-wage countries such as India and China.

Going back to Trondheim and the Industrial Democracy program – how does this look like today, in the age of blurring organizational boundaries?