Notes on Open System Theory

Topics: Systems theory, Cybernetics, System Pages: 6 (968 words) Published: April 5, 2014
Organizations and the System Concept (Katz + Kahn)
-To understand human organizations it is best to describe what is important in their form, aspects, and functions by looking for the cycles of growth + decline and predicting their effectiveness.
-Common sense approaches to understand organizations rely on two key assumptions which can be misleading:
1. Nature of an organization of organization are indicated by name of organization 2. Organization has inherent goals
a. Decided by managers
b. Given by current leadership
c. Emerged through activities
Problems in understanding an organization/social system:
1. Location and identification
a. How do we know if it is an organization? What the characteristics are? What they value?
b. Popular names exist which help represent stereotypes about the organizations (i.e. psychological nature, role structure, and boundaries)
i. Names help identifying area of behavior
2. Organization is understand as the columniation of purposes of important members a. It takes time to implement these purposes
3. Primary mission of an organization is to provide a set of distinct clues about mission of organization. However, the stated mission is not always true; rather it can be misleading. a. Equate the purpose (goals) of organizations with the purposes of individuals working there

4. Organizations are social devices for groups to efficiently accomplish a articulated purpose
a. BUT, the design of organization is typically decided by the founder not group members
i. It is not always easy to find out the founder or the biggest contributors to organization
ii. Stated important features may not be in reality whereas seemingly small aspects of the organization may dominate
1. Merton- Unanticipated consequences
Katz + Kahn suggest starting with concepts that do not look at what the designers were looking at (and then working backwards) but rather beginning with the input, output, and functioning of an organization as a system.

1. Theoretical model: energic input-output system wherein the energic output restarts the system
a. Open system model (as taken from Open systems theory- von Bertalanffy) i. Input of energy and the conversion of output into additional output by means of a connection between the organization and environment b. All social systems has patterned activities which are connected with an output i. Activities are repeated, enduring, and bounded in space/time

ii. Can be examined in relation to energic input, transformation of energies in system, and resulting product (output)
Organizations differ on source of energy renewal
1. Outputs are most commonly money and new energy
2. money is a product not generally the purpose of an organization 3. alternatively, some organizations do not depend on selling/buying cycle such as universities
a. depend on gifts, legislations, and bequests instead
Large scale organizations are not self-contained and are dependent upon the social effects of energy renewal
Identifying social systems and functions:
1. following energy through outputs
2. understanding the output cycle through which energy is recycled System Theory
1. Concerned with problems of relationships, structure, and interdependence 2. Living systems are dependent on external environment = open systems Common Characteristics of
Open Systems:

Important Facts:

1. Importation of Energy




2. The Through-Put



3. The Output



4. Systems as Cycles of
Events







5. Negative Entropy




Open systems important some energy from external
environment- must rely on renewed supplies of energy from
other sources
i.e. personality is dependent upon external world for
stimulation- deprivation can lead to disorganization
Open systems transform the energy in the system in ways
that benefit the system and allows work to be done
Open systems export products into the environment
(products are created)
Cyclical energy exchange – many...
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