System Approaches to Management

In recent years, there has been a growing tendency to recognize organization as a complex, integrated system of inter-related variables, as against the traditional practice of examining of organizational variables separately such as functions, tasks, interpersonal relationships, etc.

The systems theory looks at the organization as a whole examining all relevant organizational variables simultaneously. The approach is to identify the parts of the organization and to discover how these parts operate interdependently.

Even though the advent of systems theory dates back to the ideas of Chester 1 Barnard, who characterized all organizations as cooperative systems and defined a cooperative system, ‘as a complex of physical, biological, personal and social components which are in a specific, systematic relationship by reason of the cooperation of two or more persons for at least one definite end’.


The father of the general systems theory is considered to be Ludwing Von Bertlanfly who propagated the idea via his publication, ‘General Systems Theory’ in 1969.

According to him a system may be defined, as an orderly grouping of separate but interdependent components for the purpose of attaining some predetermined objective’. This definition leads to three important aspects:-

1. The management of components must be order and hierarchical, no matter how complex the ‘whole’ may be.

2. Since the components of the system are interdependent, there must be communication among them.


3. Since a system is oriented towards an objective, any interaction among the components must be designed to achieve that objective.

Beer defines a system as “any thing that consists of parts connected together”. According to Dalton McFarland, “a system is composed of parts of a whole related to each other in varying ways under varying conditions. The subsystems are in a state of mutual interdependence, such that a change in one part is related to changes in one or more of other parts”.

Koontz and O’ Donnell:

“A system is essentially a set of assemblage of things that are interconnected or interdependent, so as to form a complex whole. These things may be physical or biological or may be theoretical, as in the case of well integrated assemblage of concepts, principles and techniques relating to managing”.


Management through system concept develops a way of thinking which on the one hand helps to simplify some part of the complexity of management process and on the other hand, helps management to quickly appreciate and understand the nature of complex problems. The whole process of management operates within a well recognized and well perceived environment.