One of the biggest breakthroughs in how we understand and guide change in organizations is systems theory and systems thinking. There are two main definitions of a system, an implicit and an explicit phrase, with the explicit phrase being used in system thinking by organizations. The definition refers to a system as being a collection of highly integrated parts or subsystems that attain a specific goal, through inputs that are processed into precise outputs. And thus if a part of this highly-linked system is changed, the overall system is also changed. This is what's meant by a system being systemic, i.e. relating and affecting the system as a whole.
System & complexity:
Systems range from simple to complex. There are numerous types of systems. For example, there are biological systems (for example, the heart), mechanical systems (for example, a thermostat), human/mechanical systems (for example, riding a bicycle), ecological systems and social systems (for example, groups, supply and demand). Complex systems, such as social systems, are comprised of numerous subsystems, as well. These subsystems are arranged in hierarchies, and integrated to accomplish the overall goal of the overall system. Each subsystem has its own boundaries of sorts, and includes various inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes geared to accomplish an overall goal for the subsystem. Complex systems usually interact with their environments and are, thus, open systems. A high-functioning system continually exchanges feedback among its various parts to ensure that they remain closely aligned and focused on achieving the goal of the system. If any of the parts or activities in the system seems misaligned, the system makes necessary adjustments to more effectively achieve its goals. A large class of real world problems can be easily comprehended by taking a physical view of systems associated with them. These systems could be real physical systems such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, or other engineering systems;. The concrete and real physical systems exist in space and time, made of matter and energy and organized by information. The relationships among things or units in these systems are measurable. History of System Theory:
General systems theory has been attributed to the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel (1770-1831). The general systems theory was originally conceived to solve a specific problem; the problem being that there was no analytical “systems map” to fully explain organic biology. Biology is concerned with subparts and subsystems affecting each other and the overall organism. Hegel’s postulation of that time can be summarised:
The whole is more than the sum of the parts
The whole determines the nature of the parts
The parts cannot be understood if considered in isolation from the whole The parts are dynamically interrelated and interdependent
Systems theory was proposed in the 1940's by the biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy (: General Systems Theory, 1968), and furthered by Ross Ashby (Introduction to Cybernetics, 1956). von Bertalanffy was both reacting against reductionism and attempting to revive the unity of science. He emphasized that real systems are open to, and interact with, their environments, and that they can acquire qualitatively new properties through emergence, resulting in continual evolution. Rather than reducing an entity (e.g. the human body) to the properties of its parts or elements (e.g. organs or cells), systems theory focuses on the arrangement of and relations between the parts which connect them into a whole (cf. holism). This particular organization determines a system, which is independent of the concrete substance of the elements (e.g. particles, cells, transistors, people, etc). Thus, the same concepts and principles of organization underlie the different disciplines (physics, biology, technology, sociology, etc.), providing a basis for their unification. The...
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