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date: 20 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the history of an open systems approach to the study of management and organizations, and the way in which it has become a taken-for-granted, institutionalized part of organization theory. Its introduction in the 1960s transformed our understanding of organizations because of its concern with the organization in its environment. It led to contingency theory which became a dominant approach within organization theory. Examined here are three variants of open-systems theory: general systems theory which argues that there are general ideas that can be applied to all systems; specific systems thinking where the concept of interdependent parts is accepted without necessarily accepting that all systems are similar; and approaches that theorize the organization within an environment but without any specific use of systems concepts and metaphors.

Keywords: systems theory, environments, organizational theory, contingency theory, management

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