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What are likely results of taking a systems approach in organizations?

What positive and negative results are likely effects of taking a systems approach?

Can these be safely predicted?


  • The culture of the organization is built around the people within the organization.
  • Organization goals are supported by the skills, goals, and development of their employees.
  • Managers critically and carefully analyze their decisions before taking action.
  • Manager actions are focused on the cause of a problem, not the symptoms.
  • All people in the organization have an analytical view of the organization.
  • Requires a comprehensive view of the complexity of the organization’s system.
  • Identifies the causal relationships of the separate parts of the system.
  • The subsystems of the larger system are identified, even if they are unofficial and not part of the org chart.
  • The process of the complete system may be defined and improved.
  • Acceptance of the possibility of negative outcomes and unintended consequences.
  • Short- and long-term consequences are transparent and tracked in relation to each other.
  • Support for multiple means to achieve goals.
  • Supports a whole-person view of employees.
  • Accepts and supports individual differences.
  • Requires uncovering, understanding, and accepting different perceptions.
  • Motivates behavior of the employees through engagement, empowerment, and transparency.
  • Provides employees with opportunities within the organization, supporting the desire for involvement.
  • Values people beyond mere tools to achieve the organization’s goals.


  • The multiple variables of the system–those identified–may be in conflict.
  • Managers may disagree on the variables of the system because of its complexity.
  • Managers and employees may disagree on the causal relationships of “separate” parts of the system.
  • The subsystems of the larger system may be misidentified and misinterpreted.
  • Members of a subsystem or unofficial group may misrepresent that subsystem or group.
  • The larger system may be divided into too many subsystems, with too many overlaps, to the extreme that there is little by which to identify the larger system.
  • Because processes are dynamic, their changes may not be known or understood by separate parts of the organization.
  • The nature of input-process-output may be assumed, incorrectly, to be self-sustaining.
  • There may be great disagreement on the causes of negative results–many individuals involved, some may become very defensive.
  • There may be great disagreement about the actions to take to avoid further negative results because many managers and employees are involved in the approach.
  • Short- or long-term consequences may be viewed out of balance–too much attention on one or the other.
  • Equifinality may cause divisions between the different parts and echelons of the organization.
  • Disagreement and conflict may result from many people working independently to identify causes.
  • Cost-benefit analyses may be in direct conflict.
  • Managers might abuse the approach, even unethically, by making decisions and taking actions, then reverse-engineering an analysis such that it only supports them.
  • Explaining the approach, holistic view, and processes to stakeholders and shareholders could be extremely difficult given their separation from the machinery of the system.
  • May cause and support behavioral bias.

These positive and negative results can be safely predicted if

  • The entire organization understands the approach and the reasoning behind its application.
  • The entire organization is aware of the potential positive¬†and negative results.
  • All members of the organization are actively involved in the approach.
  • All members of the organization are honest, transparent, and take responsibility.
  • The organizational structure is generally flat, and all parts may freely communicate with each other.

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