Archive for November, 2008


Each level is more complex than the one that precedes it. However, no stage is as yet fully developed and knowledge about different levels is of varying degrees. Beyond the second level none of the theories are comprehensive or fully meaningful. Over the last three decades further developments in research into organizations may have added to the existing knowledge, but human organizations continue to be extremely complex.


The systems approach points to the interdependent nature of everything that forms part of or concerns an organisation. A system is composed of elements which are related to and dependent upon one another and which, when in interaction, form a unitary whole.


Systems framework covers both general an specialised system and closed and open analysis. A general systems approach to the management processes deals with formal organisation and concepts relating to different disciplines such as technical, social, psychological and philosophical. Specific management systems deals with aspects relating to organisation structure, job design, specific functions of management, etc.


A closed system operates in a closed loop, devoid of external inputs. An open system, in contrast, is a dynamic input-output system “in continual interaction with environment to achieve a steady state of dynamic equilibrium while still retaining the capacity for work or energy transformation”.


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Since 1940s, researches and information theorists also looked at organizations in a Systems viewpoint. In 1956 Kenneth Bounding propounded General Systems Theory (GST).


The GST approach suggests the following nine levels of systems complexity: 

  1. The most basic level is the static structure. It could be termed the level of frameworks. As example would be the anatomy of the universe.
  2. The second level is the simple dynamic system. It incorporates necessary predetermined motions. This could be termed the level of clockworks.
  3. The next level is a cybernetic system characterized by automatic feedback control mechanisms. This could be thought of as the level of the thermostat.
  4. The forth level is called “open-systems” level. It is a self-maintaining structure and is the level where life begins to differentiate from nonlife. This is the level of the cell.
  5. The fifth level can be termed the “genetic-societal” level. It is typified by the plant and occupies the empirical world of the botanist.
  6. The next is the animal level, which is characterized by increased mobility, teleological behavior, and self-awareness.
  7. The seventh level is the human level. The major difference between the human level and the animal level is the human’s possession of self-consciousness.
  8. The next level is that of social organizations. The important unit in a social organization is not the human per se but rather the organizational role that the person assumes.
  9. The ninth and last level is reserved for transcendental systems. This allows for ultimate, absolutes, and the inescapable unknowable.

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As a part of our talk on organizational design, development and change, we discussed on different topic like Classical Viewpoint, Dysfunctional Aspects, Administrative Theory, Scientific Management, Neoclassical View Point, and many aspects which are related to Organizations. Today we will discuss on Modern means System Viewpoint here.


Modern theories of organization and management have been developed largely since the 1930s. The perspective here is to provide a systems viewpoint. Among the several persons who contributed to the modern theory, it was perhaps Chester I. Bernard, who in 1938, provide a comprehensive explanation of the modern view of management and organization. He considered the individual, organization, suppliers and consumers as part of the environment. Ten years later, Weiner’s pioneering work on cybernetic developed concepts of systems control by information feedback. He described an adaptive system (including an organization) as mainly dependent upon measurement and correction through feedback. An organization is viewed as a system consisting of five parts: inputs, process, output, feedback and environment.


Since 1940s, researches and information theorists also looked at organizations in a Systems viewpoint. In 1956 Kenneth Bounding propounded General Systems Theory (GST).


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The test group achieved higher morale due to special attention given to the employees as individuals and also the social structure of the work group. The Hawthorne experiments further revealed that a worker’s feeling about himself and in work group matter most. The third set of experiments which began in 1931 attempted to understand how group norms affect group effort and output. It was noted that the informal organization of workers controlled the norms established by the groups in respect of each member’s output.


These and subsequent findings concerning human behaviour at work focused on worker as an individual and considered the importance of caring for his feelings and understanding the dynamics of the informal organization of workers-which affect the formal organization structure, its activities, processes and output. The neoclassical viewpoint thus gave birth to human relations movement and provided the thrust toward democratization of organizational power structures and participative management. The emerging changes in social, economic, political and technical environment of organizations also seems to have provided the rationale for such shift in emphasis.


The neoclassical viewpoint does not replace classical concepts. The need for order, rationality, structure, etc. have been modified to highlight the importance of relaxing the rigid and impersonal structures and consider each person as an individual with feeling and social influences that effect performance on the job.

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The neoclassical theory, also referred to as the human relations school of thought reflects a modification to and improvement over the classical theories. While classical theories focused more on structure and physical aspects of work (notwithstanding Taylor’s concern for mental revolution), the neoclassical theory recognizes the primacy of psychological and social aspects of the worker as an individual and his relations within and among groups and the organisation. Though neoclassical philosophy could be traced to ancient times, it gained currency only after the World War I, particularly in the wake of the “Hawthrone experiments” at Western Electric Company by Elton Mayo during 1924 to 1932.


The initial experiments carried out cover a period of three years sought to determine the effects of different levels of illumination on workers’ productivity in the test groups, productivity raised irrespective of variations in illumination at indifferent experiments. In the second set of experiments which began in 1927 a smaller group of six female telephone operators was put under close observation and controls. Frequent changes were made in working conditions such as hours of work, lunches, rest periods, etc. Still, over a period of time as the experiments continued with such changes, productivity continued to rise. It was concluded that the social or human relationships among the operators, researchers, and supervisors influenced productivity more decisively than changes in working conditions.



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Scientific Management – 2

We continue our discussion on Scientific Management today. For Taylor, scientific management fundamentally consists of certain broad principles, a certain philosophy, which can be applied in many ways, and a description of what any one man or men may believe to be the best mechanism for applying these general principles should in no way be confused with the principles themselves.


Taylor described the following four principles of scientific management:

1. Develop a science for each element of a man’s work, which replaces the old rule-of-thumb method.


2. Scientifically select and then train, teach, and develop the workman, whereas in the past he chose his own work and trained himself as best he could.


3. Management should heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure all the work being done in accordance with the principles of the science which has been developed. 

4. There is an almost equal division of the work and the responsibility between the management and the workmen. The management should take over all work for which they are better fitted than the workmen, while on the past all of the work and the greater part of the responsibility were thrown on the workers.

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Scientific Management-1

The third stream of classic school of thought is the scientific management. The principles of scientific management were first developed around 1900. Among the pioneering proponents of the principles of scientific management, particular mention should be made of Frederick Winston Taylor, an engineer by profession. Whereas bureaucracy and administrative theory focused on macro aspects of the structure and process of human organizations, scientific management concerned itself with micro aspects such as physical activities of work thorough time-and-motion study and examination of men-machine relationships.


Unlike in the other two, the scientific management laid emphasis on activities at shop floor or work unit level than management and based its inductive reasoning on detailed study and empirical evidence. In juxtaposition the principles of bureaucracy and administrative theory were formed by synthesizing experience and observation with abstract reasoning.


Taylor’s principles of scientific management could be considered as an improvement over the contributions in the other two streams of thought in as much as he tried to use the engineer’s discipline to reduce personal factors, randomness and rule of thumb decision-making. Though Taylor too had his share of critics and criticism, his contribution to modern management and use of scientific methodology for decision-making and management practices are profound. 

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