As a concept, organizational systems may sound abstract. Truth is, we live and thrive in organizational systems all the time--the family we are part of, the place of worship we attend, the city we live in, the place where we work and the world at large are just a few examples. No matter how minimal our role may seem to be, we are always part of a larger community serving a purpose and our contribution always affects the organizational system, positively or negatively depending on our actions.
Defining a System
In her 2008 book "Thinking in Systems: A Primer," author Donnella H. Meadows defined a system as "an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something." An organizational system consists of elements, interconnections and the function or purpose they serve.
Every organizational system has elements, or different parts that work together. The elements of a tree, for example--its roots, bark, branches and leaves--all work together in an organizational pattern that gather the water, nutrients and carbon dioxide needed to keep the tree alive and thriving. Similarly, members of a family can work together to create unity among each other or, at many times, disharmony if they fall into a pattern of fighting all the time. Each element plays a significant role that affect the system, for better or worse.
All the elements of a system are interconnected. That means they all work together and depend on one another to make the system work right. An employee, for example, needs an effective leader to help him understand the vision, mission and goals of the company. Without an effective leader offering guidance, an employee feels lost in the organizational system of his workplace.
Function or Purpose
All organizational systems serve a purpose. As a unit, a finance department can do stellar work, but the work it produces would be quite pointless if it is not fed to other divisions of a company, like accounting and marketing, or the company's top executives, which all rely on the knowledge the finance department produces to make decisions.
- "Thinking in Systems: A Primer"; Donella H. Meadows; 2008
- "Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind"; Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, Michael Minkov; 2010
- "The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living"; Fritjof Capra; 2002
- Tree on a slope of mountain image by Sergey Galushko from Fotolia.com