A system is the interrelation of components that produces an output. “Systems theory advocates that the researcher treat systems as wholes, composed of related parts.” (Stewart, 2001) It looks at the common thread and relationship of those components, attributes, internal and external factors of the system in its entirety. System theory states that “the problem cannot be understood separately from its solution.” (Stewart, 2001) There are myriad areas to apply systems theory. For example, in the automobile industry, analyzing how an automobile works and how one is assembled. What would happen if we used this type of engine and those tires, how does the automobile drive? What type of resources would we need to make those changes? System theory can also be applied to an individual family problem by observing and studying the dynamics of a family as a whole. In an organization, one can breakdown the system to analyze processes or to determine the cause of a problem thus answering the question, why do we do what we are doing and is it working to achieve our vision, mission and goals.
An Austrian-born biologist, Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy, introduced in 1940 the System Theory. Bertalanffy was a scholar and a scientist who developed this new way of thinking and performed research to better understand his theory. He believed that there was a natural connection between natural science and humanities. He “emphasized that real systems are open to, and interact with, their environments, and that they can acquire qualitatively new properties through emergence, resulting in continual evolution.” (Heylighen & Joslyn, 1992) One of many precursor to his theory is from the Greek philosopher Aristotle who said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” One component independently of the system cannot explain the system.
System theory is often applied in business and management when making decisions. “Managers often have been focusing attention on particular functions in specialized areas, they may lose sight of the over-all objectives of the business and the role of their particular business in even larger systems.” (Johnson & Rosenzweig, 1964) A systematic approach to decision making helps managers retain sight of the big picture.
At a staff level, decisions are made using what they remember, what they...