discussion 3 121

Discuss Lindblom’s “incremental” approach to decision making. Also, outline the differences between “closed systems” and “open systems”.

Thompson’s Merging of Closed and Open Systems

Open and Closed Systems Theory Review

If you remember from Module 1, I shared the concepts of open and closed systems theory. Just to refresh you:

  • Closed System – Theories that are formed with this mind frame, assume that no outside influences impact what is happening inside the division/organization; therefore, when we create theories about organizational operations, we only need to be concerned with what is happening inside of the organization because what is happening outside has no influence on the inside
    • Think about sitting inside a classroom
    • According to this theory nothing happening outside of the classroom impacts what is happening inside the classroom
    • So if I create a lesson plan, I do not need to take into account anything that is happening outside of the classroom because as long as I control what is happening inside and create the right conditions, every one of you will earn an “A”
    • Is this true? Maybe, but more likely, no matter how awesome my lesson plan, there will be things outside that classroom that distract some if not all of you at some point in the semester
  • Open System – This mind frame is completely opposite of the closed system. In an open system, the organization is interacting with and being influenced by what is happening outside of the division/organization; therefore, when we create theories about organizational operations, we have to consider what is happening outside of the organization too
    • Again, using the classroom example above, I would realize that our class is part of a larger campus and even world beyond that
    • You have multiple things competing for your time, so I have to take that into consideration when designing the course

Strategies for Studying Complex Organizations

Thompson shares two different approaches for study organizations:

  • Closed-systems strategy – primarily concerned with the internal organization (efficiency in the accomplishment of objectives)
    • For example – Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management
  • Open-system strategy – assumes we cannot fully know all the variables that may influence the organization
    • There is surprise an uncertainty

Integrating Open- and Closed-System Approaches

Organizations can be seen as having three levels of responsibility and control:

  1. Technical – concern is for efficiently completing the daily tasks of the organization
  2. Managerial – mediating the technical group and the client group; also ensuring there are enough resources to accomplish the technical tasks
  3. Institutional – concerned with the relationship between the organization and the wider system it is a part of

From a closed system point of view, the primary concern is for the internal technical parts of the system. It is not so much concerned with anything outside the organization as they are not seen as having any influence on the efficiency of the organization. An open systems view is concerned with all three as all three are seen as having an influence on the organization.

Conceptual Model Based on Thompson’s Organizations in Action

I have created the following conceptual model to show the three levels of responsibility in their relationship to the organization and broader environment within which the organization operates: