MGMT 8007M: Week 1: General Systems Theory Essay Assignment Paper

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MGMT 8007M: Week 1: General Systems Theory Essay Assignment Paper

MGMT 8007M: Complexity and Applied Systems Thinking | Week 1

Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.

— Carl Sagan

What do societies, cities, ant colonies, organizations, technology, the global financial system, and the economy have in common? They are all examples of systems; sometimes, more specifically, referred to as open systems and more recently as complex adaptive or evolutionary systems. A system, in the abstract, is a collection of agents or nodes connected to other agents or nodes by links or relationships. These agents and relationships make up networks, across which flow material, information, or energy. Mobus and Kalton (2015) described a system more formally as “a system, S is a 6-tuple” (p. 75). The tuples, or elements, are the set of component subsystems, the system’s network description, the set of nodes inside and outside the system, the set of boundary conditions, the set of component interactions, and the history of the system.

The concepts of general systems theory and how these concepts may be used to inform organizational leadership and management will be covered this week. Skills include constructing a context diagram of a system by describing the primary material, information, and energy inputs and outputs of a given system.

Learning Objectives

This week, you will:

  • Analyze effects of systems theory on your understanding of leadership and management


You will develop the following skills:

  • Systems thinking

Learning Resources

Note: To access this week’s recommended library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.

Recommended Readings

Von Bertalanffy, L. (1972). The history and status of general systems theory. Academy of Management Journal15(4), 407–426.

Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Document: Coffee Shop System (PowerPoint presentation)

Document: Coffee Shop System (PDF)

Document: Final Project Template (Word document)

Recommended Media

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014a). Course introduction [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 3 minutes.

TEDx. (2011). TEDxDirigo – Eli Stefanski – Making systems thinking sexy [Video file]. Retrieved from

Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 18 minutes.

Understanding the world requires one to understand at least some of the fundamental systems contained within it, along with some of the key theories, concepts, and principles underlying them. Even a simple organization is an open system whereby material, information, and energy (MIE) are exchanged with its environment as some material or ideas are transformed into outputs or goods or services. For example, a coffee shop serves as an example of an open system. Coffee beans are purchased by the coffee shop along with water, electricity, milk, etc. Coffee is ground and expressed, milk is steamed, and coffee and milk are combined to create a drink called a latte, which is then sold to customers. Waste products include extra heat energy from the building and used water, as well as coffee grounds. This simple model of a system (MIE exchange) may be used to explore societies, cities, ant colonies, technology, and the economy in detail (see Figure 1). Modeling is an important skill to learn, as a picture is worth a thousand or so words. The journey of learning about general, complex, and evolutionary systems is just ahead.


To prepare for this Discussion, review the resources and reflect upon your perceptions of general systems theory with application to organizations.

By Day 3

Initial Post

Post an analysis of an organization you are familiar with by applying the concepts of systems theory. Include an evaluation of the effects of systems theory on your understanding of leadership and management. Think of this Discussion as a shared conversation with your peers.

Be sure to review the Objectives listed for this week and refer to the Discussion Rubric as guidance for the criteria that will be used to assess your participation in this Discussion.

Read all the initial posts of your colleagues.


  • Apply the concepts of systems theory to analyze your selected organization. This should be a brief description illustrating your ability to correctly apply the terminology. If you like, you may include a diagram for illustration.
  • Explain how you think systems thinking might affect your understanding of organizations with respect to your understanding of leadership and management.
  • Explain how you see systems thinking shaping the way you lead and/or manage.

By Day 5

Responses to your Colleagues

Respond to at least two colleagues’ posts by adding to your colleagues’ ideas or positing a different perspective to your colleagues’ ideas.

Note: Include proper APA citations to support all statements by referencing sources from relevant peer-reviewed articles published within the last 5 years.


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