Mapping The Strategic Territory
The system is always imbedded in a larger system.
C. West Churchman
The Systems Approach
Strategy is a means for anticipating and internalizing the future.
Organization design must,
therefore, accommodate current situational demands as well as anticipated and unanticipated future chal-
One must understand the strategy process to ensure that strategy formulation is realistic, compre-
hensive, and sufficiently flexible to accommodate unexpected changes.
One needs to understand organiza-
tions to ensure that organization design supports selected strategies with the greatest ease, least pain, lowest
cost, and highest potential for strategic success.
Beyond this, one must understand the plural forces that
impact the organizational and strategic planning systems for either to make any sense.
Strategy and organi-
zation only have meaning relative to the force-fields within which they are designed to operate . . .
have meaning in context.
Putting Organization And Strategy In Context
Ushered in by World War II, the “Marketing Concept” in the early 1950’s, and Kenneth Boulding’s
article “General Systems Theory — The Skeleton of Science,”
Vol. 2, No. 3, April
1956, pp. 197-208), contemporary perspectives reflect the realization that organizations are not
, but are
In fact, they are
systems of systems, within systems
To fully comprehend
organizations, one cannot limit one’s concerns to elements and the dynamics of those elements, rather, one
must also consider the relationships among elements, sub-systems, and super-systems along with their
Once one departs from the unidimensional simplicity of a machine or social system model of
organization, the clarity and directionality of cause-effect relationships becomes considerably more diffuse.
Although the open systems perspective provides a more realistic vantage point than alternative views, the
observer is often overwhelmed by a far-more complex vista.
To quote organization theorist
“everything is connected to everything else” (“The Short and Glorious History of Organizational Theory,”
, Summer 1973).
For example, the issue of conflict becomes more muddled when raised to the power of an organiza-
tion, or beyond, in scale.
are those that arise among the sub-systems within
an organization and interorganizational conflicts
are those that arise between an organization and the
setting in which it operates.
The former may
result from system interdependencies, socio-technical rela-
tionships, as a byproduct of large scale operations, structure-process-goal inconsistencies, or simply as a
consequence of life-cycle contingencies.
The latter may be a reflection of inappropriate configuration, poor
interfacing and environmental scanning, disequilibrium between internal efficiency priorities and external
effectiveness requisites, or a lack of organizational “slack” for internalizing environmental shifts.