System Paradigms Humans Term Paper

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System Paradigms

Humans have the tendency -- whether innate or learned -- to come together with similar individuals for the purpose of meeting like goals. These groups, which are called organizations, can be as small as three people sharing time to fight the rising costs at Jones Supermarket to the global World Health Organization, the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. Because of the completely different parameters of organizations, scholars have found various ways to classify them into smaller, more manageable classifications. One of the major ways developed during the twentieth century to better understand the complexity of organizations is the "rational," "natural" and "open" perspectives (Scott & Davis, 2003, p. 28).

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As early as the end of the 19th century, several individuals including the sociologist Max Weber spoke of organizational structure in bureaucracy and the need for following rules, strict behavior, and "rational legal authority." Frederick Taylor, for example, wrote the Principles of Scientific Management in 1911 where he developed the paradigm of the scientific organization. This led to the creation of manufacturing assembly and detailing every position within an organization based on rational logic. All projects were broken down into repetitive tasks and workers subjected to strict supervision. The workers were not to think but rather act like machines and produce something that had previously been scientifically calculated. People would be motivated by a system of bonuses or rewards (Kanigal, 1997). Taylor's rational or emphasis was from the bottom or workers up the organization. To the contrary, the administrative management theorists, such as the French industrialist Henri Fayol, stressed the need to rationalize the organization from the "top down." (Scott & Davis)

TOPIC: Term Paper on System Paradigms Humans Have the Tendency -- Assignment

As noted above, Weber had a significant impact on this organizational thought. His concept according to Scott and Davis (p. 47) was Western rationality across the many spectrums of legal, religious, political, and economic systems, as well as administrative structures. His listing of the structural characteristics of bureaucracy was generated in order to make a distinction of this rational system from earlier forms. As a result of these individuals' theories, Scott and Davis (p.29) define rational systems as collectivities that are "oriented to the pursuit of relatively specific goals and exhibiting relatively highly formalized social structures." This emphasizes both the distinctive characteristics and normative structure of organizations.

Humans, of course, are not always 100% right. They do not always follow the rules, often because they have their own agenda or for myriad other reasons. They cannot be programmed to act like machines. This is why the natural paradigm states that organizations are basically social groups that are trying to adjust and survive in a specific situation. This natural approach explains that an organization is made up of both a formal and informal, yet orderly structure. Individuals in structured organizations demonstrate patterns of behavior that include communication networks, systems of power and status and functional and cross-functional working arrangements.

These two paradigms, the rational and natural, are on different ends of the spectrum. The mechanization of the rational model is opposed to the organic model in the natural system. The rational are designed and the natural evolve and grow. Similar to the rational, there are major natural system approaches. Chester Barnard in his 1938 book Functions of the Executive argued that organizations are basically cooperative systems that integrate the participants' contributions. However, these participants must be induced to contribute, and their efforts have to be directed toward a common purpose. A function of the executive is to promote "belief in the real existence of a common purpose."

Yet, Elton Mayo taking the human relations approach, suggested that organizations should consider social and psychological factors when designing production processes. Changes in management ideology are based on cooperation.

Further, Philip Selznick's institutional approach (1957) noted that people participate in the organization as entire wholes rather than just in terms of their formal roles. Thus organizations include the formal and the complex informal systems internal and external to the organization. "The executive becomes a statesman as he makes the transition from administrative management to institutional leadership." Also, Jonathan Parsons' AGIL system (Scott & Davis) detailed the need to meet for organizational survival: adaptation - acquiring enough resources; goal attainment - setting and implementing goals; integration - maintaining coordination among the group; and latency - creating, preserving and transmitting distinctive culture and values.

Thus, according to Scott & Davis (p. 83), the natural system model stresses organizational commonalities among organizations. The natural system theorists do not deny that organizations have definitive aspects, but these are overshadowed by more generic systems and processes that everyone shares. Thus, the output goals of organizations are often undermined by energies devoted to the pursuit of system goals, mainly to survive. The formal aspects from the rational system analysts are "faded backdrops" for the "real" informal structures, imbued with human frailties and agency. Also, where the rational paradigm stresses the normative structure of organizations, the natural emphasizes the behavioral structure; where the rational stresses the importance of organizational structure over individual interests and capabilities, the natural system is the reverse. Bennis calls this orientation portraying "people without organizations"

Lastly is the open model that was developed most recently, but has acquired more of a following than the previous two avenues. It puts the stress on the complexity and variability of separate members and groups in addition to the connective looseness between them. Organizations have interdependence, but there are also degrees of coupling. In mechanistic systems there is a rigid and highly structured organization. In natural systems, the connections among interdependent parts are less constrained due to more flexibility of individual response. In open systems, social systems are complex and loosely coupled systems.

Kenneth Boulding identifies nine open system types or levels:

1. Frameworks Systems or comprising static structures; 2. Clockworks that are simple dynamic systems with predetermined motions; 3. Cybernetic or self-regulated systems in with some externally prescribed target; 4. Open Systems capable of self maintenance based on a throughput of environmental resources; 5. Blue-printed Growth Systems reproducing by preprogrammed instructions for development; 6. Internal Image Systems capable of understanding the environment that receives and organizes the information into a hole; 7. Symbol Processing Systems that can use language; 8. Social Systems with comprising actors functioning at level 7 who share a common social order and culture, social organizations operate at this level; and 9. Transcendental Systems that are composed of absolutes. Moving from 1 to 8, each successive level becomes more complex, loosely coupled, dependent on information flows, able to grow and change, and open to the environment. (9 is included so that the schema remains open to new possibilities). The open paradigm stresses that organizations can function at higher levels of complexity. They are capable of self-maintenance via throughout of resources from the environment.

A fundamental factor of complex systems is using hierarchy as a means of describing the open system definition of organization. Theorists propose to view the key participants in organizations not as a unitary hierarchy or as an organic entity, but as a loosely linked coalition of shifting interest groups (Scott and Davis, p. 94). Open system schools of thought include 1) design with very complex systems researched with probabilistic and statistical techniques and simulation models; 2) simulation techniques that model behavior of the overall system due to complex and probabilistic interactions among components. 3) information flows of energy and materials throughout the organization that are modeled; 4) contingency theory that is led by the general hypothesis that organizations meeting the demands of their environment will adapt best; 5) Weick's model of organizing with a social psychological approach instead of a structural level of analysis of system design and contingency theory; 6) enactment: construct of a "picture" of the situation or environment; 7)selection or filter for a collective sense of happenings and 8) retention to keep rules or routines that are useful.

The desire for open organizations results from dissatisfaction with the formal power structures in governments and corporations as well as the informal structures found in many voluntary and activist groups.

The action research model is based on open systems theory (Cummings & Worley, 1997), in which an organization is perceived as a rational and hierarchical system, with differentiated work groups and division of labor among individuals. However, the model of a hierarchical organization has been challenged due to the growing use of cross-functional teams (Lucas, 1996). Cross-functional teams with decision power and rich network access are commonly recognized as more customer responsive than hierarchical structures. Their implementation can flatten organizational structures and create higher levels of customer service.


Max Weber (1964) defined a value-rational organization when the actors have a conscious belief in an absolute value. They know the secondary consequences of the means and goal, but they are not concerned with them. This value-rational approach involves a commitment to an absolute goal despite the consequences to the organization. This is what led Weber to assume that even religious organizations,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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