Types of Systems and Models of them BY Russell Ackoff. TYPES OF SYSTEMS based on ability to choose and, therefore, to display purpose. Parts Whole Example. Deterministic No No Clock
TYPES OF SYSTEMS based on ability to choose and, therefore, to display purpose.
Parts Whole Example
Deterministic No No Clock
Animate No Yes Person
Social Yes Yes Corporation
Ecological Yes No Nature
Animate systems have deterministic systems as their parts.
Social systems have both animate and deterministic systems as their parts.
Ecological systems contain all three types of system as their parts.
Have no purposes of their own but serve purposes of others; e.g. owners of a business with profit.
This is perceived as their function.
Their behavior and properties are determined by their structure, causal laws, and, if they are open systems, their environments.
In the early stages of the Industrial Revolution in the United States
business enterprises were conceptualized as deterministic systems - like the universe.
Their function was to provide the owner (a surrogate for God the creator) with a return on his/her investment.
have purposes of their own; principally survival and growth.
Their parts (e.g., organs) have functions but not purposes.
They are alive: display autopoiesis.
Animate systems have often been treated (modeled) as deterministic.
According to Roux there is no distinction between living and non-living entities. The animate [is]…developed from the inanimate by the operation of mechanical laws, and is governed by them.
Other biologists who thought the same way include: Reil, Lamarck, Rudolphi, Berzelius, Verworn, and Loeb.
of animate systems are not included in
deterministic models of them.
Therefore, they have very limited usefulness in treating problems involving animate systems.
modeled as animate with one exception:
the belief that a great part…of the
inanimate kingdom…is endowed with
reason, intelligence,and volition, identical
with that of man.
(Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Vol. 2, p. 53.)
business enterprises (companies) became corporations and were reconceptualized as animate systems (organisms).
Their principal objective: was taken to be survival with growth believed to be essential for it.
modeled as animate (organismic) systems,
Stafford Beer in The Brain of the Firm
and The Heart of the Enterprise.
or deterministically, e.g.,
Forrester (1961 & 1971), Haret Barcelo,
conceptualized as social systems
beginning about the time of World
This transformation is still in its
early stages, and has a long way
have purposes of their own,
have parts that have purposes of their own, and
are usually parts of larger systems that have purposes of their own and contain other purposeful systems.
Social Systems float in a sea of purposes that are often in conflict at each level and between levels.
This is the principal source of complexity in managing a social system.
It is completely ignored when treating a social system as an animate or mechanical system.
Animate (organismic) models of social systems do not take the purposes of the parts into account.
Nevertheless they may be useful in autocratic bureaucracies in which individual members have little or no freedom of choice.
However, since most subordinates today can do their jobs better than their bosses can, such modeling handicaps the manager by reducing the number and kind of alternatives he/she considers.
In a study done for Volvo, requested by its CEO, it was found that employees were generally permitted to use only 23% of what they knew that was relevant to their jobs.
From which he concluded that human resources are the most poorly used of the resources available within organizations.
In organizations in which subordinates generally can do their jobs better than their bosses (as is currently generally the case) their range of relevant choices should be as large as possible;
The organization should be organized to maximize feasible freedom of choice: democratically.
It is only by modeling social systems as social systems that management can be designed so as to maximize the utilization of its subordinates
and to take account of the effects of their behavior on implementation of any policies or decisions.
Furthermore, it is only by such modeling that attention is given to the function of a social system in the larger system of which it is a part.
The societal function of a corporation conceptualized as a social system is
to produce and distribute
Productive labor is the only way of doing both simultaneously.
Furthermore, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, it usually results in increased costs in a few years.
Clark Equipment Corporation
General Electric’s Welding Equipment business.
The step yet to be completed in this evolution of the way we conceptualize organizations (in general) and business enterprises (in particular):
We will treat them as that type of social system we call a
The dominant purpose of a corporation conceptualized as a community is to
support and facilitate the developmentof its parts
and all the systems of
which it is a part.
Social responsibility and responsibility to stakeholders should be their dominant concern.
ownership has no meaning, is irrelevant,
its organization is “lowerarchical.”