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Lesson 2: The General Systems Theory and Organizational Behaviour

The explanatory variables of the current problems are: a highly coupled, since the relationships outweigh the states; correspond to very dynamic phenomena; they behave atypically and are resistant to align with generalizing, obvious and simplistic policies; there are causal - not casual - since cause and effect behavior changes over time; it is difficult to extrapolate long-term. So what do we do to solve them, if the use of classical and conventional tools is not possible? You need to try other tools, concepts and theories to change behavior in a structural way, and generate events and results according to an integrated, holistic and systemic environment. The approach can cope with these situations is known as systemic.
General Systems Theory was originally proposed by biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy in 1928. Since Descartes, the "scientific method" had progressed under two related assumptions. A system could be broken down into its individual components so that each component could be analyzed as an independent entity, and the components could be added in a linear fashion to describe the totality of the system. Bertalanffy proposed that both assumptions were wrong. On the contrary, a system is characterized by the interactions of its components and the nonlinearity of those interactions.
One common element of all systems is described by Kuhn. Knowing one part of a system enables us to know something about another part. The information content of a "piece of information" is proportional to the amount of information that can be inferred from the information.
Systems can be either controlled (cybernetic) or uncontrolled. In controlled systems information is sensed, and changes are effected in response to the information. Kuhn refers to this as the detector, selector, and effectors functions of the system. The detector is concerned with the communication of information between systems. The selector is defined by the rules that the system uses to make decisions, and the effectors is the means by which transactions are made between systems. Communication and transaction are the only intersystem interactions. Communication is the exchange of information, while transaction involves the exchange of matter-energy. All organizational and social interactions involve communication and/or transaction.
Kuhn's model stresses that the role of decision is to move a system towards equilibrium. Communication and transaction provide the vehicle for a system to achieve equilibrium: "Culture is communicated, learned patterns... and society is a collectively of people having a common body and process of culture." A subculture can be defined only relative to the current focus of attention. When society is viewed as a system, culture is seen as a pattern in the system. Social analysis is the study of "communicated, learned patterns common to relatively large groups (of people)".
The study of systems can follow two general approaches. A cross-sectional approach deals with the interaction between two systems, while a developmental approach deals with the changes in a system over time.
There are three general approaches for evaluating subsystems. A holist approach is to examine the system as a complete functioning unit. A reductionist approach looks downward and examines the subsystems within the system. The functionalist approach looks upward from the system to examine the role it plays in the larger system. All three approaches recognize the existence of subsystems operating within a larger system.
Descartes and Locke both believed that words were composed of smaller building blocks. Both thought that one could strip away all terms of ambiguity and be left with the clarity of comprehension. Kuhn argues for clear definitions in science. The criteria that Kuhn uses to evaluate system terminology, is that it provides "analytic usefulness and consistency with other terms".
Kuhn's terminology is interlocking and mutually consistent. The following table summarizes his basic system definitions:
·        Element is any identifiable entity.
·        Pattern is any relationship of two or more elements.
·        Object a pattern as it exists at a given moment in time.
·        Event is a change in a pattern over time.
·        System is any pattern whose elements are related in a sufficiently regular way to justify attention.
·        Acting system is a pattern where two or more elements interact.
·        Component is any interacting element in an acting system.
·        Interaction is a situation where a change in one component induces a change in another component.
·        Mutual interaction is a situation where a change in one component induces a change in another component, which then induces a change in the original component.
·        Pattern system is a pattern where two or more elements are interdependent.
·        Interdependent a situation where a change in an element induces a change in another element.
Systems can be identified by their structure. A real system is any system of matter and/or energy. An abstract or analytic system is a pattern system whose elements consist of signs and/or concepts. Unlike the real system, which can only exchange information, abstract systems are information. A non-system is one or more elements that show no pattern of change. Since change is measured relative to a reference, something can be viewed as both a system and a non-system depending on the researcher's purpose.
A system variable is any element in an acting system that can take on at least two different states. Some system variables are dichotomous, and can be one of two values, yes or not. System variables can also be continuous. The condition of a variable in a system is known as the system state. The boundaries of a system are defined by the set of its interacting components. Kuhn recognizes that it is the investigator, not nature that bounds the particular system being investigated.
A controlled (cybernetic) system maintains at least one system variable within some specified range, or if the variable goes outside the range, the system moves to bring the variable back into the range. This control is internal to the system. The field of cybernetics is the discipline of maintaining order in systems.
A system's input is defined as the movement of information or matter-energy from the environment into the system. Output is the movement of information or matter-energy from the system to the environment. Both input and output involve crossing the boundaries that define the system.
When all forces in a system are balanced to the point where no change is occurring, the system is said to be in a state of static equilibrium. Dynamic (steady state) equilibrium exists when the system components are in a state of change, but at least one variable stays within a specified range. Homeostasis is the condition of dynamic equilibrium between at least two system variables. Kuhn states that all systems tend toward equilibrium, and that a prerequisite for the continuance of a system is its ability to maintain a steady state or steadily oscillating state.
Negative equilibrating feedback operates within a system to restore a variable to an initial value. It is also known as deviation-correcting feedback. Positive equilibrating feedback operates within a system to drive a variable future from its initial value. It is also known as deviation-amplifying feedback. Equilibrium in a system can be achieved either through negative or positive feedback. In negative feedback, the system operates to maintain its present state. In positive feedback, equilibrium is achieved when the variable being amplified reaches a maximum asymptotic limit. Systems operate through differentiation and coordination among its components: "Characteristic of organization, whether of a living organism or a society are notions like those of wholeness, growth, differentiation, hierarchical order, dominance, control, and competition" (Bertalanffy, 1968).
A closed system is one where interactions occur only among the system components and not with the environment. An open system is one that receives input from the environment and/or releases output to the environment. The basic characteristic of an open system is the dynamic interaction of its components, while the basis of a cybernetic model is the feedback cycle. Open systems can tend toward higher levels of organization (negative entropy), while closed systems can only maintain or decrease in organization.
A system parameter is any trait of a system that is relevant to an investigation, but that does not change during the duration of study. An environmental parameter is any trait of a system's environment that is relevant to an investigation, but that does not change during the duration of study.
Systems theory provides an internally consistent framework for classifying and evaluating the world. There are clearly many useful definitions and concepts in systems theory. In many situations it provides a scholarly method of evaluating a situation. An even more important characteristic, however, is that it provides a universal approach to all sciences. As Bertalanffy (1968) points out: "There are many instances where identical principles were discovered several times because the workers in one field were unaware that the theoretical structure required was already well developed in some other field. General Systems Theory will go a long way towards avoiding such unnecessary duplication of labour".
Organizational development makes extensive use of general systems theory. Originally, organizational theory stressed the technical requirements of the work activities going on in the organizations. In the 1970's, the rise of systems theory forced scientists to view organizations as open systems that interacted with their environment. Although there is now a consensus on the importance of the environment, there is still much disagreement about which features of the environment are most important.
Meyer and Scott (1983) identified three dominant models for analyzing the relationship between organizations and the environment. The organization-set model (often called resource-dependency theory) focuses on the resource needs and dependencies of an organization. The organizational population model looks at the collection of organizations that make similar demands from the environment and it stresses the competition created by limited environmental resources. The interorganizational field model looks at the relations of organizations to other organizations, usually within a localized geographic area.
Five major themes of organizational change were examined by Goodman (1982):
·        Intervention methods represent alternative approaches to organizational change at the individual, group, and organizational levels. Most studies attempt to ascertain the effectiveness of these approaches by using survey feedback. Some utilize long-term longitudinal approaches to examine the impact of intervention methods. The cataloguing of intervention methods is still the dominant way of thinking about planned change.
·        Large-scale multiple system intervention methods have been gaining in popularity since the late seventies. The interest in the quality of working life is primarily responsible for this popularity. This approach places strong emphasis on designing innovative techniques that serve as a catalyst for change. It's most important application is that is stresses the relationships between the individual, company, community, state, national, and international systems.
·        Assessment of change is a major theme that has emerged as a result of the large-scale multiple system intervention methods. These include models of assessment, instruments for measuring organizational change, the development of time-series models, and an overall increase in the use of multivariate analysis for the testing and evaluation of change.
·        The examination of failures provides us with valuable information about organizational change. It forces us to focus on the theoretical constructs of change. By comparing successful and unsuccessful attempts at implementing change, we can evaluate the effectiveness of various techniques.
·        The level of theorizing about organizational change has seen significant improvements in recent years. Of particular importance is broad-systems orientation. These theories propose a model of organizational change that examines inputs, transformational processes, and outputs. Inputs refer to the environmental resources. Transformation refers to the tasks and the formal and informal system (organizational) components. Outputs include changes in both the individual and organization. The advantage of this approach is that it forces us to look at the broad spectrum of variables that need to be incorporated into the model.
Organizational and social systems must change in order to remain healthy. Both are open systems, and are sensitive to environmental changes. A change in the environment can have a profound impact on an open system. The overall health of and organization is strongly linked with its ability to anticipate and adapt to environmental change. Furthermore, the health of the environment is related to the matter-energy transactions taking place in the social and organizational systems. A bilateral relationship exists between the environment and the components of all subsystems operating within the environment.
Planned organizational or social change is an attempt to solve a problem or to catalyze a vision. A change is introduced into an organization or social system with the specific intent of affecting other system variables. Knowledge of the nonlinear relationships between variables gives planners the potential to effect large changes in a desired variable with relatively small changes in another. Systems theory forces planners to broaden their perspective, and to consider how their decisions will affect the other components of the system and the environment.
In relation with the General System Theory we have to use other important area of study, the Organizational behaviour studies the impact individuals, groups, and structures have on human behaviour within organizations. It is an interdisciplinary field that includes sociology, psychology, communication, and management. Organizational behaviour complements organizational theory, which focuses on organizational and intra-organizational topics, and complements human-resource studies, which is more focused on everyday business practices. So, Organizational Behaviour is the study of the way people interact within groups. Normally this study is applied in an attempt to create more efficient business organizations. The central idea of the study of organizational behaviour is that a scientific approach can be applied to the management of workers. Organizational behaviour theories are used for human resource purposes to maximize the output from individual group members.
There are a variety of different models and philosophies of organizational behavior. Areas of research include improving job performance, increasing job satisfaction, promoting innovation and encouraging leadership. In order to achieve the desired results, managers may adopt different tactics, including reorganizing groups, modifying compensation structures and changing the way performance is evaluated.
While Organizational Behavior as a field of academic study wasn’t fully recognized by the American Psychological Association until the 1970’s, it’s roots go back to the late 1920’s when the Hawthorne Electric Company set up a series of experiments designed to discern how changes in environment and design changed the productivity of their employees.
Their various studies, conducted between the years of 1924 and 1933, were broad and meticulously measured over large periods of time. The studies included the effect of various types of breaks (lots of small breaks, a few long ones, etc.) on productivity, productivity in isolation, and productivity in varying levels of light. The most famous finding resulting from the Hawthorne Studies is what is now called the Hawthorne effect the change in behavior of a test subject when they know they’re being observed. 
To focus on that one finding, some have argued, is to ignore a wider set of studies that would become credited for the development of organizational behavior as a field of study and the human resources profession as we now know it. The idea of looking scientifically at behavior and productivity in the workplace with the goal of increasing the amount and quality of work an employee can get done, along with the idea that workers were not interchangeable resources but were instead unique in terms of their psychology and potential fit with a company.
Organizational behavior has focused on various different topics of study. In part because of the Second World War, during the 1940’s the field focused on logistics and management science. During this period the emphasis was on using mathematical models and statistical analysis to find the best answers for complex problems. Studies by the Carnegie School of Economics in the 1950’s and 1960’s furthered these rationalist approaches to decision making problems. 
In the 1970’s, theories of contingency and institutions, as well as organizational ecology, resource dependence, and bounded rationality, came to the fore as the field focused more on quantitative research. These findings and sets of theories helped organizations better understand how to improve business structure and decision making. 
Since the 1970’s, a good deal of the work being done in the field of organizational behavior has been on cultural components of organizations, including topics such as race, class, gender roles, and cultural relativism and their roles on group building and productivity. These studies, a part of a shift in focus in the field towards qualitative research, and among other things, take into account the ways in which identity and background can inform decision making. 
Academic programs focusing on organizational behavior are usually found in business schools, and schools of social work and psychology. They draw from the fields of anthropology, ethnography, and leadership studies and use quantitative, qualitative, and computer models as methods to explore and test ideas. Depending on the program one can study specific topics within organizational behavior, or broader fields.
The topics covered by Micro organizational behavior include cognition, decision making, learning, motivation, negotiation, impressions, group process, stereotyping, and power and influence. Macro Organizational Behavior covers organizations as social systems, dynamics of change, markets, relationships between organizations and their environments, as well as identity in organizational process, how social movements influence markets, and the power of social networks.
Findings from Organizational behavior's body of research can be used by executives and human relations professionals better understand a business’ culture, how that culture may facilitate or hinder productivity and employee retention, and how to best evaluate candidates skill set and personality during the hiring process. 
The application of theory and knowledge from the field of Organizational behavior can be broken down into sections of personality, job satisfaction and reward management, leadership, authority, power, politics and decision making. There is rarely one correct way to assess the right way to manage any of these things, but Organizational behavior research can provide a set of guidelines and topics to follow:
·        Personality, essentially a series patterned behaviour, plays a large role in the way a person interacts with groups and produces work. Knowing a person’s personality, either through a series of tests, or through conversation can give a better idea of whether they’re a fit for the environment they’d be hired into, and how best to motivate that person.
·        Theories around job satisfaction vary widely, but some argue that a satisfying job consists of a solid reward system, compelling work, good supervisors, and satisfactory working conditions. 
·        Leadership, what it looks like and where it is derived from is a rich topic of debate and study within the field of organizational behaviour. When one view is connected to management, it can be either broad, focused, centralized or de-centralized, decision-oriented, intrinsic in a person’s personality or a result of a place of authority.
Power, authority, and politics all operate inter-dependently in a workplace. Understanding the appropriate ways, as agreed upon by a workplace rules and general ethical guidelines, in which these elements are exhibited and used are key components to running a cohesive business.
Lesson 2: The General Systems Theory and Organizational Behaviour
Type: Mixed
Questions: 7
Attempts allowed: Unlimited
Available: Always
Pass rate: 75%