Systems Theory DBQ
Fredrick Taylor’s classical style of management is now being phased out (Wheatley 1997). Modern day companies are implementing systems theory and relying more heavily on interdepartmental collaboration. Two of the basic tenets of systems theory that were exemplified and illuminated in my experience were requisite variety and hierarchical ordering. I support systems theory as an effective means to sustaining an organization because it allows the organization to remain flexible in changing environments, as well as grow and learn from various internal and external inputs.
To begin with, even with a hierarchical ordering system organizations can still fail. For example, in August 1949 there was a deadly forest fire that raged in the mountains of Montana (Weick, 1996). A crew of 16 well trained smoke jumpers with a hierarchy in place failed to extinguish the fire, and in the end only 3 remained (Weick, 1996). There was a hierarchy in place, but the system wasn’t sophistically structured inside, and when an input from the environment was received the system collapsed and the organization failed.
To counter, Apple is one of the world’s most successful companies. When I walked into the Apple store it seemed just like any other store. Although it seemed to me as if there was no real order, I could see that more was going on that met the eye, as multiple Apple employees frequented the back of the store. I also noticed that all of the employees behaved the same way and maintained a positive attitude. After watching a video about Apples strict employee policy, I now know that Apple is requisite variety savvy and has a sophisticated interior structure.
Now, let’s explore the notion of self-organizing systems. In today’s chaotic marketplace it’s easy to see how one can think that self-organizing systems would never work. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest art gathering in the world, generating 225 million annually (William, 2011). The festival has over 42,000 performances of 2,542 shows hosted by 258 venues and featuring 21,192 performers (William, 2011). The interesting thing about this very successful festival is that there is no order. The organizers don’t decide who will play, the combination of the performances, or which venues will be displayed. Instead, they market the festival, making it as compelling as possible to as many participants as possible- and then let the participants themselves decide what happens (William, 2011). This is a helpful idea because it takes the stress of organizing off of the organization and allows participants to decide their fate.
To wrap it all up, we have much to learn from adopting a systems theory approach. Pervious communication theories that we have studied did not factor in environmental variances and would have never even thought about allowing an organization to self-organize and operate. I support systems theory as an effective means to sustaining an organization because it allows the organization to remain flexible in changing environments as well as grow and learn from various internal and external inputs.
Weick, K. (1996). Prepare your organization to fight fires. Manuscript submitted for publication, Harvard Business Review.
Wheatley, M., (1997). “Goodbye command and control.”
Leader to Leader, July, Retrieved September 7, http://www.scribd.com/doc/106180101/Goodbye-Wheatley
William, T. (2011, August 18). How the seemingly chaotic but wildly successful fringe festival makes it work. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/1773957/how-seemingly-chaotic-wildly-successful-fringe-festival-makes-it-work
Zaremba, A. (2010). Organizational communication. (3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 60-66 inclusive). New York: Oxford University Press.