Systems Theory Practical Application

Surprise!  I subscribe to the systems theory where organizations can be described and managed as systems of interrelated processes. “Systems theorists believe that organizations can be categorized as systems with their parts interacting to achieve systemic objectives” (Bush, 2006, p. 47). I have worked in education and in an number of different industries which gives me some unique insights on this topic. The structural/formal perspective of systems thinking can be applied to any and all organizations. That said, I would suggest, nobody should deem it possible to apply this perspective equally to all organization. Bush (2006) suggests “…caution should be exercised in attributing these qualities to schools and colleges, which are complex human organizations” (p. 47).  He suggests education institutions do not operate “…smoothly like highly developed machines…” as if all other organizations do. I suggest there is a sweet spot of sorts where the application of systems theory makes most sense. I also suggest it takes an experienced practitioner with industry knowledge to find this sweet spot where the systems theory can be applied.  I share below my favorite diagram for mapping systems and processes; usually what takes place 95% of the time when viewed from 50,000 feet.

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