Module Two: Contemporary approaches to the study of organizations Learning objectives By the end of this module, students will be able to: • Identify the key features of three contemporary approaches to the study of organizational communication • Distinguish between the approaches of the major theorists who advanced these contemporary • Describe the research applications and methodologies of each of these approaches • Apply these distinctions and descriptions to analysis of sample situations. Module activities To complete this module, students will • Read Chapters 4 - 6 of the Miller text; the main points are summarized below. • Read the case study, ‘The Story of John Khat’. • Participate in the ‘Module Two’ conference. Chapter 4 - Systems approaches Key features: The organization as organism For systems theorists, organizations are not so much machines as complex organisms that must interact with their environment to survive. The emphasis is not on how people should behave as employees and managers but rather on how these people should be studied. A number of influential works in systems theories were written in the 1960s and 1970s. The components of systems are characterized by: • Hierarchical ordering – Any system is made up of a number of subsystems that are embedded in larger, overarching supersystems. Subsystems in turn are composed of smaller units – groups and individuals, in the case of organizations. • Interdependence – The functioning of one component relies on other components of a system. A breakdown in one results in breakdowns in others. This applies in supersystems as well as in subsystems, groups and individuals.
• Permeability – Components have permeable boundaries that allow information and materials to flow in and out. Some systems are relatively open to environmental influences and others are relatively closed. System processes At the most basic level, systems are characterized by ‘input-throughput-output’ operations. Two types of processes characterize these operations: • Exchange – All systems need to some degree to gain inputs from their environment and have outlets for their outputs. The more open the system, the more exchange takes place. • Feedback – In throughput operations, where interdependent components are acting together, feedback is the information that helps to facilitate the interdependent functioning of system components. Feedback can be o Negative, corrective or deviation-reducing, which helps to maintain system functioning o Positive, growth or deviation-amplifying, which serves to change system functioning through growth and development. In dysfunctional systems, feedback systems do not work effectively or get out of control.
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- Winter '15
- Sociology, Key features, Cybernetics, organizational members