System Theory

A system is an interconnected set of elements that function as a whole. The theory of system was first developed in physical sciences but it was later extended to other disciplines such as political science, PA, management etc. The system approach to the study of organisation was developed mainly after 1950. It is also known as Modern Organisation Theory.

The concept of system involves the study of-
1. The parts of system
2. Interaction among such parts
3. Interaction between the system and its environment

The subsystems are interrelated and interdependent for their functioning. They, in turn, contribute to the functioning of the system as a whole. The most important activity of a system is to maintain administrative order and equilibrium among various sub-systems.

A system consists of five basic parts: input, process, output, feedback and environment.

Unlike the classical and human relations approaches, the systems approach provides an overall view of organisations, that is, macro paradigm for the study of organisations. The classical approach emphasized on the internal formal structure and technology while the human relations-behavioural approach concentrated on the socio-psychological variables having aside the questions of structure, technology and organisation-environment interactions. On the other hand, the systems approach describes and explains the organizational phenomena in its totality and in an integrated manner.

• Follett took a systems view of organisation in her writings as she viewed organisation as a social system.

• Chester Barnard also described an organisation as a ‘cooperative’ social system.

• Herbert Simon is chief contributor to the system approach in organizational theory and analysis. His decision making model is based on the system approach.

The system approach to organisations provides a useful framework for understanding how the elements of an organisation interact among themselves and with their environment. If administrators do not understand these interactions, they may tend to ignore important elements of organisation’s working.

Organisation as an open system

In today’s dramatically changing environment an open system approach is becoming relevant and meaningful. Organisations do not exist in vacuum. They are subject to forces from the outside world such as culture, technological change, education, politics, natural and human resources. The administrator’s task is to ensure integration of these variables in meeting the organizational objectives. This means that the modern administrator has to be a system analyst.
Organisation as an open system continuously interacts with its environment. In this interaction, it takes input from the environment, process the inputs and output is exported to environment.

Public Policy making as an open system

Systems theory portrays public policy as an output of political system. The policy making process is influenced by the values and ideologies held by the decision makers in the system. A feedback mechanism is developed through which the effectiveness and consequences of outputs are put back into the system as inputs.

The policy making process is regarded by Easton as ‘black box’ which converts the demands of the society into policies.

Closed model
1. Routine tasks occur in stable conditions

2. Task specialization i.e. division of labour is central

3. Conflict within the organisation is adjudicated from the top

4. Knowledge is inclusive only at the top of hierarchy i.e. only chief executive knows everything.

5. Interaction between people is vertical

6. Loyalty and obedience in one’s superior is emphasized, sometimes at the expense of performance

Open Model
1. Non-routine tasks occur in unstable conditions

2. Ends rather than means are emphasized.

3. Conflict within organisation is adjusted by interaction with peers, rather than adjudicated from top.

4. Knowledge can be located anywhere in the organization but no one including the chief executive knows everything

5. Interaction between the people in the organisation tend to be horizontal

Critical evaluation of systems approach

1. It is criticized as too abstract, over conceptual and a vague approach to the study of organisation.

2. The critics say that the approach lacks the property of direct application to practical situations

3. The approach is criticized on the ground that it does not offer any techniques or tools of analysis and synthesis.

4. It is said the system approach neither recognizes the differences in system nor specific the nature of interactions and interdependencies.

In spite of above limitations, the system approach has made a valuable contribution to organisation theory.

1. It has integrated and synthesised the classical, neo-classical and modern concepts associated with organizational thought.

2. Its conceptualization of organisation-environment interactions eventually became the precursor of the ecological approach of Riggs.

Contingency approach
This is the modern organizational theory that underlines the importance of dynamic interaction with environment and other ‘situational’ factors influencing the organisation.

It is being suggested that there is no single organizational model which is good in every situation. This approach emphasizes the relevance of management’s actions to the specific characteristics of the situation.

To be effective, an organisation design has to fit the situation. Management must adapt itself to environment. A manager has to identify the significant variables in variable situation. This approach is widely applied in design and leadership.

Some Appreciation Please!

  Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2015 at 11:58 AM under   Polity