Systems Theory & Change

How does systems theory relate to organization development and change? In fact, systems theory lies at the heart of the discipline. Part of the answer is in the interactivity among all processes in the system. Every organizational process directly or indirectly affects every other. No one in any self-organizing system acts alone. Everyone is under the constant barrage of sensory inputs from events, people, and information all around.

Those relentless inputs overwhelmingly affect the unconscious thinking, decisions, and behavior of every individual within the system. In this sense, the emergence and inevitable structuration of an organization obey physical laws, rather than being the mechanistic products of their planners’ intentions. Organizations are nonrational, self-reinforcing, sociopsychological structures.

In addition to the human side of organizations, however, the paradigm of self-organizing systems provides insights into the sources of value creation in organizations. The highly abstract concepts of dynamic morphology, dynamic homeostasis, and nonlinearity, in particular, reveal some of the deeper ways in which scientifically construed systems dynamics produce value.

Select a Question to Answer

For this commentary, select one of the following items to answer. Your effort will require ample creativity, as the ideas are sufficiently abstract to challenge the thinking of ordinary mortals. If applicable, relate an example of the selected phenomenon from your own experience as part of a team or organization. We have a wealth of deep organizational experience in this class. This task is an opportunity to share it!

The aim of this exercise is to motivate energetic thinking rather than to test whether you seem to have correctly understood the selected concept. Multiple perspectives are available in answer to each of them. Therefore, be as creative as possible while nevertheless formalizing your writing to meeting the rhetorical expectations explained in the syllabus.
1. Images of Organizations (Ch. 2). How does systems theory constitute a constructive, rather than destructive, organizational image? What expectations does systems theory reasonably elicit?
2. Images of Change Management (Ch. 2). Select an image of change management that you deem most consistent with the assumptions of systems theory. Explain it from that perspective.
3. Life Cycle Theory (Ch. 2). Describe the organizational life cycle in terms of systems theory. Where is equipotentiality highest? How does equifinality explain the transition between stages?
4. Leadership (Ch. 2). Which of the common characteristics of open systems corresponds to leadership in organizations? What does this observation suggest regarding effective leadership?
5. Mimetic Isomorphism (Ch. 3). Try to explain mimetic isomorphism from the perspective of systems theory. Does this phenomenon correspond to a common characteristic of open systems?
6. Organizational Learning (Ch. 3). Explain organizational learning (OL) in terms of systems theory. How does the OL view of organizational reaction to external pressure fit systems theory?
7. Bridging vs. Buffering (Ch. 3). Explain bridging and buffering in terms of systems theory. Based on your analysis, is there normally a difference in emphasis at different life cycle stages?
8. Internal Pressures (Ch. 3). Select one of the sources of internal pressure, and explain it from the perspective of systems theory, as far as possible. Is the source common to all open systems?

Clearly indicate your selected item first, by indicating the number. Write at least 250 words (as defined in the syllabus). Your concept may demand more detail than that short length allows.