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Cybernetics, Loose Coupling & Open and Hierarchical Systems

Define and provide examples from an organization illustrating cybernetics, loose coupling, open systems, and hierarchical systems. Briefly interpret the role that each example you cite plays in an organization.

Scott says that three predominant schools of thought have contributed to the open systems model of organizations: systems design, contingency theory, and Weick's model of organizing. Which of these three schools of thought do you find most useful in helping you interpret what goes on in an organization in which you work or another organization you know well? Why?

What aspects of organizations are best understood from a structural view, and which aspects of organization are best seen from a process view? Give an example of an organizational problem where problem solving is best approached from one view or the other. Support your choice with relevant literature.

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I also attached extra information, some of which this response is drawn, for further consideration.

(1) Define and provide examples from an organization illustrating cybernetics, loose coupling, open systems, and hierarchical systems. Briefly interpret the role that each example you cite plays in an organization.

A. Cybernetics:

Although most organizations do not function as tightly run cybernetic systems, it has a role to play in an organization. Open system perspectives see organizations as hierarchical systems (and as loosely coupled systems), such as the human resources department and the administrative department in a hospital setting. Open systems tend to have some semblance of clustering and levels -- multiple subsystems that specialize in certain system activities. Interdependencies and connections within a subsystem tend to be tighter than between subsystems. Role: These "stable subassemblies" of tightly run cybernetic systems give a distinct survival advantage to the entire system (http://faculty.babson.edu/krollag/org_site/scott_org/chap4.html).

The main insight that cybernetics has contributed to the understanding of organization is that of the control system. A control system is involved in a negative feedback cycle, so that its output (actions) influences its input (perception), in such a way as to bring the perception as close as possible to its goal. Role: Cybernetics has shown that all forms of goal-directed action are based on such cycles (see more detail at http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/evolcyb.html).

B. Loose coupling:

In loosely coupled groups and organizations, work units are autonomous, share few or weak interdependencies, and collaborate infrequently (see http://hci.usask.ca/publications/2004/pinelle-depth-paper.pdf).

For example, often normative structures are only loosely connected to actual behavior, at both the individual and group level. Pfeffer and Salancik note that "The organization is a coalition of groups and interests, each attempting to obtain something from the collectivity by interacting with others, and each with its own preferences and objectives "(Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978 p. 36). Role: This loose coupling can be useful in itself (Weick, 1976) by improving adaptability (http://faculty.babson.edu/krollag/org_site/scott_org/chap4.html).

C. Open system theory:

It was initially developed by Ludwig von Bertanlanffy (1956), a biologist, but it was immediately applicable across all disciplines. It defines the concept of a system, where "all systems are characterized by an assemblage or combination of parts whose relations make them interdependent" (Scott p. 77). As one moves from mechanical to organic and social systems, the interactions between parts in the system become more complex and variable. Role: The systems approach was quickly applied to the study of organizations, and with it an acknowledgment that the environment surrounding and permeating ...

Solution Summary

This solution defines and provides examples from an organization illustrating cybernetics, loose coupling, open systems, and hierarchical systems, including the role that each example you cite plays in an organization. It also explains systems design, contingency theory, and Weick's model of organizing and applies one theory to an organization. By example, it also explores what aspects of organizations are best understood from a structural view, and which aspects of organization are best seen from a process view, including an example of an organizational problem where problem solving is best approached from one view or the other. Supplemented with two informative articles on structural and process theories.

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