Open Systems Planning for Managing Change

Sections of this topic

    Open Systems Planning for Managing Change

    Much of the content
    of this topic came from this book:
    Consulting and Organization Development - Book Cover

    The focus of this topic is to acquaint the reader with the broad principles
    and approaches in guiding successful change in an organization, including whether
    it is a team, departmental unit or the overall organization.

    The information in those topics is not sufficient to develop competencies
    in guiding successful significant change. Those competencies comes from extensive
    experience in applying those types of information.

    NOTE: Recently, there have emerged many opinions that Organization
    Development and change management are two somewhat different disciplines. The
    opinions are that Organization Development is focused primarily on changing
    a whole system, for example, a team, departmental unit or organization, while
    change management is focused on the necessary changes among people in the organization
    in order to accomplish the overall change in the organization. However, the
    phrase “change management” is still often associated with the nature
    of activities to improve an organization, rather than the name of a field or
    discipline. So this section in this topic in the Library considers change management
    to be an aspect of Organization Development.


    Sections of This Topic Include

    First, What is a System?
    Then, What is an Open System?
    So, What is Open Systems Planning?

    Also See These Closely Related Topics

    Related Library
    Topics

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Organizational Change

    In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which
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    of the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.

    Library’s
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    Library’s
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    First, What is a System?

    One of the biggest breakthroughs in how we understand and guide change in organizations
    is systems theory and systems thinking. To understand how they are used in organizations,
    we first must understand a system. Many of us have an intuitive understanding
    of the term. However, we need to make the understanding explicit in order to
    use systems thinking and systems tools in organizations.

    Simply put, a system is an organized collection of parts (or subsystems) that
    are highly integrated to accomplish an overall goal. The system has various
    inputs, which go through certain processes to produce certain outputs, which
    together, accomplish the overall desired goal for the system. So a system is
    usually made up of many smaller systems, or subsystems. For example, an organization
    is made up of many administrative and management functions, products, services,
    groups and individuals. If one part of the system is changed, the nature of
    the overall system is often changed, as well — by definition then, the system
    is systemic, meaning relating to, or affecting, the entire system. (This is
    not to be confused with systematic, which can mean merely that something is
    methodological. Thus, methodological thinking — systematic thinking — does
    not necessarily mean systems thinking.)

    Then, What is an Open System?

    An open system is a system that regularly exchanges feedback with its external
    environment. Open systems are systems, of course, so inputs, processes, outputs,
    goals, assessment and evaluation, and learning are all important. Examples in
    this topic are social systems, such as teams and organizations. Aspects that
    are critically important to open systems include the boundaries, external environment
    and equifinality. Healthy open systems continuously exchange feedback with their
    environments, analyze that feedback, adjust internal systems as needed to achieve
    the system’s goals, and then transmit necessary information back out to
    the environment.

    This is in contrast to a closed system in which the system does not interact
    with its external environment. Employees in a closed organization have no interactions
    with others outside the organization. Closed organization systems often fail
    because they get no diversity of perspectives and opinions from outside the
    organization, including from those that the organization is intended to serve.
    Consequently, creativity and innovation tends to decrease over time. Those organizations
    tend to stagnate.

    Organizations
    as Open Systems

    So, What is Open Systems Planning?

    Open systems planning is a type of strategic change activity (referred to as
    a type of intervention) by the field of Organization Development. Cummings and
    Worley, in their book Organization Development and Change (Fifth Edition,
    p. 171), define open systems planning as “This change method helps organizations
    and departments to systematically assess their environmental relationships and
    to plan for improvements interactions. It is intended to help organizations
    to become more active in relating to their environments.”

    In open systems planning, the organization closely examines the external environment,
    for example, political, economic, societal and technological influences on the
    organization. That also includes clarifying expectations and influences from
    stakeholders, for example, customers, collaborators and suppliers. It is critical
    that the understanding of the external environment as very accurate.

    Then it is useful to articulate a vision for how the organization can best
    operate to take advantage of opportunities and ward of threats based on that
    external information. Then the organization identifies strategies and actions
    to best align itself to achieve that vision. It is critical that key personnel
    in the organization have a common perception of the external information, the
    vision for alignment, and the actions needed to make that alignment.

    One of the best tools for starting open systems planning is to do a logic model
    of the organizational system. See the diagram in this document:
    What is an Open
    System?


    Also See These Closely Related Topics

    Guidelines,
    Methods and Resources for Organizational Change Agents
    Overview
    of the Field of Organization Development
    Competencies
    and Resources for Organizational Change Agents
    All About
    Strategic Planning


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    Change and Development

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