The structural school of thought took roots with the writings of F. W. Taylor in 1914 while the Human Relations school of thought started in 1927 with the experiments of George Elton Mayo. It was, however, realized later on that neither of the two theories could claim to be complete, as both the theories were correct in their propositions but each of them lacked in certain other propositions and hence were found to be complementary to each other. Hence during the last few decades, an approach has emerged which can served as a basis for the convergence of all the theories i. e. “The Systems Approach”.

The modern theory defines an organisation as, “A Structured process in which individuals interest for objectives”. Modern theorists view on organisation as an adaptive system which must, if it is to survive, adjust to changes in its environment. The organisation and its environment are hence seen as interdependent, where each is dependent on the other for its resources. This model finds greater acceptability among the contemporary scholars since it talks of the synthesis of various school of thought are Norbert Wiener, who pioneered the cybemetic model of organisation; Herbert Simon, Kenneth Boulding, Talcott Parson etc.

The Theory

According to the General Systems Theory is system is defined as an “Organised unitary whole composed of two or more interdependent parts or components or substances and delineated by identifiable boundaries from its environment”. Thus a system is an organic concept, resembling a biological cell and having like a biological cell, a cycle of birth, growth and death. Looking in the light of the above definition and facts, a business organisation or any human organisation is a social system. These organisations are, however, comparatively open systems, having permeable boundaries and hence they are in constant interaction with the surrounding environment. The closed systems on the other hand, have a rigid and almost impermeable boundaries and is virtually non-responsive to its environment. However, in the universe, there are no open or closed systems in the absolute terms. They fall on a continuum between the two extremes.

Like tissues in the plants and the biological systems, the business organisation too have specialised subsystems that perform certain specialized functions. These sub-systems are interdependent and interrelated in such a manner that the output of one of the subsystems forms the input of the other subsystems. The system itself is a subsystem of a larger system, called suprasystem. This system, hence accepts inputs from its environment, which mostly is an output of another system in the environment. The subsystems of the system then transform this input into a desirable shape and quantity, and this entire process of transformation is called as “Throughput”. The transformed contents are then transported back to the environment and is known as the ‘output’ of the system. The various systems within the supra-system are interconnected through a set of backward-forward linkages. The control and maintenance subsystems of the organisation provide a constant feedback to the system and hence the systems keeps on correcting its course of functioning.


It shows the process of Throughput within the System.

Unique Features of the Model. The model has several features that were so far uncovered by the model. For example, the environmental factors were not given importance by the earlier models. According to this model, it is the environment that plays a decisive role in deciding between the winner and the loser, when both the persons are of equal competence. It was hence for the first time that the internal organisation of an organisation was effectively linked with the external environment. The model also threw a new light on the control system of the organisation by assigning it the role of providing automatic feedback to the organisation and hence constantly correcting the course of the organisation and giving the organisation the form of a ‘cybemetic system’. The model hence defined the role of the human beings in the organisation akin to the role of cells in the biological system. Hence human being in the organisation has a functionally specific role to play. They can be transplanted to the other parts of the organisation but care should be taken while attempting transplant of individual persons as they might be rejected by the subsystem of the organisation where they are transplanted. The rejection may be due to certain technical reasons e. g. the person is unsuitable for the job or his attitude does not suit the job; or he may be rejected due to certain social reasons e. g. the informal organisation at the new work place might not accept him. Hence according to the theory, only certain specialised transplants are allowed.

The theory has wide applicability in practice. The theory provides a wide framework to analyse the complex phenomenon like efficiency of the organisation in a simple and straight-forward manner. There should be a proper analysis of the organisation about the strength of the organisation, weaknesses of the organisation, the opportunities of the organisation and the threats to its existence. Such an analysis is called as ‘SWOT Analysis’ in the terminology of the management and is very helpful in pinpointing the causes of the inefficiency in the organisation. Similarly the system and model also helps one to analyse the defects in the organisation. In case it is found that the output of the organisation is not upto the standards set by the external environment, the management can pinpoint the cause of such an anomaly and set it right with minimum possible efforts. For doing this, the management should analyse on following three possibilities;

  1. Whether the inputs to the organisation are all right i. e. whether everything desired by the organisation is available in the right amount and the right format since if inputs to an organisation are limited, then the output is automatically going to be limited.
  2. Whether the processes of the organisation are functioning all right or not. Similarly a check on the organisational structure also becomes necessary.
  3. The environment of the organisation also needs to be checked since at times, the changes in the environmental climate necessitate adjustments in the input, technology of the organisation, structure of the organisation, etc.

Hence the threefold analysis as stated above makes it easier for the organisation to adapt to the changes and remain in life for even larger periods. Similarly for the transplant of personnel, an analysis on the lines as stated above, though not so elaborate, helps in attempting successful transplant of personnel.


Comparison with Structural School and Human Relations School of Thought

The Systems Schools is the synthesis of the two approaches. It provides internal aspects of the organisation and from the point of view of functions and the social aspects of the organisation. It is hence a structural functional approach since it provides for both structures and functions in an organisation.

However, the system school of thought is more than the above two approaches. The Ecological approach to administration is inherent in the systems school of thought. It is evident from the fact that each system is visualised as the subsystem of another larger system and all the systems are connected with other systems through backward forward linkages. Hence any changes in one particular system affects the entire supra-system and vice-versa. Moreover, the systems approach also contains in it the Behavioural approach. In this approach the environment and its effects on the organisation are taken into consideration, since the environment shapes the individual behaviour which in turn shapes group behaviour and organisational behaviour. Hence the behavioural approach that studies the individual behaviour within the organisation and the factors that shape it is automatically included in the systems approach.

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