4 Properties or Attributes of Organizational/Work Systems

team building leadership innovation expert michael cardus

I talk, write and read a great deal about ‘systems’, organizational, team, managerial leadership systems.

Then one day an Executive involved in my Exponent Leadership Process asked, “Mike you talk about this system, I am not sure I know what that means?” I stood there for a short time and gave a rather weak response, thanked him for his question and said, “Huh…that is a good question and I am fumbling, I know what it is but I cannot describe it SO using my own logic I must not really know what it is! And this is the challenge of Managerial-Leadership and Organizational-Development ill-defined terms.”

The team of executives and I then spent 40 minutes defining their system, creating clear and distinct understanding and wording to describe what the system they work in is; what they would like it to be; and steps to move towards achievement. 

BUT that did not answer the question, of what is a system? I researched and found the following in Steve de Shazer’s book “Putting Difference to Work” (Shazer 1991, p.21). It stems from a psychological frame exploring the ‘family’ as a system. I feel that the attributes or properties are also encompassing of Organizational Systems. I intend to explore each of the following more in depth with examples and application.

General Attributes or Properties of a System

  • 1. Wholeness: A change in one part of a system necessarily affects the whole system.
  • 2. Non-summativity: The whole is different from the sum of its parts. (emphasis added)
  • 3. Equifinality, multifinality: Equifinality means that the final state may be reached from different initial states and/or by different paths; Multifinality means that similar initial conditions, and/or routing different paths, may lead to dis-similar end states.
  • 4. Circular causality, nonlinearity: “The relationship of the progression of causes is such that the initial cause is also affected by the progression itself” (Simon et. al., p.212) which is contrasted with linearity in which “feedback processes are not involved…the cause-effect sequence does not lead back to the starting point.” (Simon et. al., 1985, p. 212)


Are you still with me? I know the above reads like a psychological nightmare. For now the important thing to know about systems, YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THEM.  In the next couple days I am going to explore the above attributes or properties of systems and hopefully make sense.


Now Your Turn;

How would you define an Organizational System? What attributes or properties would you add, subtract, change? What is one system you are involved in, how do you know?

Team Building Leadership Innovation Expert Michael Cardus

michael cardus is create-learning

image by by johannviloria

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