This paper shows that the three organizational systems still have their place in today's environments. Each system has their own unique capability and provides structure to processes that address the specific need of the organization. Rational systems are applied in organizations that need structured processes, formal hierarchy, and defined focus on efficiency rather than worker needs. Natural systems were developed in response to rational systems to address the needs of the worker to create greater productivity through motivated workers. Open systems are more complex and the approach was developed as the organizations need for flexibility and response to issues that can impact the relationship between the organizations, its environment, and the organizational workers.
The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the three predominant organizational paradigms; rational, natural and open systems. Each paradigm has its own unique characteristics and understanding these paradigms can best be understood through real-life examples of the paradigms in use. Before the paradigms are described and related, the term organization and organizational theory must be defined.
Applying a specific definition to organization is a difficult task. Organizations must be differentially idealized and separated from other social institutions. Schein (1970), as cited by McAuley, Duberly, & Johnson (2007), provides a working definition or organizations as "the rational coordination of the activities of a number of people for the achievement of some common explicit purpose or goal, through division of labor or function, and through a hierarchy of authority and responsibility (p. 9)" (p. 12). The key distinction between organizations and other systems is the issue of "goals" to organizations. Jones (2010) defines organizational theory as "the study of how organizations function and how they affect and are affected by the environment in when they operate" (p.7). Organizational theory maintains a master relationship with organizational structure, organizational change and design, and organizational culture. Organizational structure is "the formal system of task and authority relationships that control how people coordinate their actions and use resources to achieve organizational goals" (Jones, 2010, p. 7). Organizational change and design is "the process by which managers select and manage various dimensions and components of organization structure an culture so that an organization can control the activities necessary to achieve its goals" (Jones, 2010, p. 8). Organizational culture is "the set of shared values and norms that controls organizational members' interactions with each other and with suppliers, customers, and other people outside the organization" (Jones, 2010, p. 8). The terms are essential in describing the three organizational paradigms and further providing valid comparisons and differences between each.
Organizations associated with the rational system perspective, as defined by Scott (2007), are "collectivities oriented to the pursuit of relatively specific goals and exhibiting relatively highly formalized social structures" (p.29). Rational system theorists accentuate specific goals and high formalization because these two elements are important contributors to an organization's rational action (Scott & Davis, 2007, p. 36). Rational systems can be identified through four distinct approaches to rational organization; Taylor's scientific management, Fayol's administrative theory, Weber's theory of bureaucracy, and Simon's discussion of administrative behavior.
Taylor's scientific management is an approach derived from Frederick Taylor (1911) who insisted it was "possible to scientifically analyze tasks performed by individual workers in order to discover those procedures that would produce the maximum output with the minimum input of energies and resources" (Scott & Davis, 2007, p. 41). Taylor's scientific management approach not only sought to alter workers procedure but to transform management as well. Taylor wanted to replace the menial and varied activities of managers with a more scientific approach. Taylor's design was to rationalize the activities of managers and workers through a scientific regimen (Scott & Davis, 2007).
Fayol's administrative theory is a rational approach developed by Henri Fayol. Administrative theorists work to rationalize an organization from the "top down" instead of from the "bottom up". Fayol's theory addresses management efficiencies by developing broad administrative principles through two types of activities: coordination and specialization (Scott & Davis, 2007). The two activities heavily imply formalization in that careful specification of work activities and concern for their grouping and coordination are the hallmark of formalized structure (Scott & Davis, 2007). Fayol's theory was subject to much criticism yet he was a pioneer in identifying fundamental features of formal organizational structure and raised the level of analysis to focus on the structure of the organization instead of individual behavior (Scott & Davis, 2007)
Weber's theory of bureaucracy provides another perspective on rational systems through his conception that "bureaucracy refers to a particular type of admin structure developed from the rational-legal mode of authority" (Scott & Davis, 2007, p. 48); one of three types of authority distinguished by Weber. Weber's theory is composed of many factors that all relate to an ordered bureaucracy yet Weber's own analysis of his theory focused on "organizations as systems of power or domination in that the leader exercises control over the through a hierarchy of officials" (Scott & Davis, 2007, p. 50). The administration is based on discipline and that discipline ...