Thursday, June 10, 2010


The Systems Approach



The Systems approach is primarily a philosophy [called Synergism] that coordinates in an efficient and optimal manner the activities and operations pertaining to any entity which qualifies to be designated a “System”. Now the entity may be tangible or intangible, animate or inanimate, human or mechanical.

This synergistic systemic effect is epitomized in Aristotle’s classic and immortal statement: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

A System is a set of interdependent components [sub-entities] that create a whole Entity.

Whilst browsing through my bookshelves I came across an “ancient” notebook and found something interesting on “The Necessary Conditions for an Entity [S] to be conceived as a System”.

1.   S is Teleological This means that every system has a purpose.
2.   S has a Measure of Performance [MOP]
3.   There exists a client [or customer] whose interests are served by S in such a manner that the higher the MOP the better the interests are served.
4.   S has teleological components which co-produce the MOP of S. This means that a System may have sub-systems.
5.   S has an environment which also co-produces the MOP of S.
6.   There exists a decision maker who via his resources can produce changes in Measures of Performance of the components of S [sub-systems] and hence changes in MOP of S.
7.   There exists a designer who conceptualises the nature of S in such a manner that the designer’s concepts potentially produce actions in the decision maker and hence changes in the Measures of Performance of the S’s components [sub-systems] and hence changes in the MOP of S.
8.   The designer’s intention is to change S so as to maximise S’s value to the client [user or customer].
9.   S is stable with respect to the designer in the sense that there is a built-in guarantee that the designer’s intention is ultimately realisable.

This leads us to the Sufficient Conditions or the System Trinity: 

CLIENT [USER or CUSTOMER, like in the CATWOE Model]

If an entity is to be considered a System it must meet the following sufficient conditions:

1.  The entity has a User [Client or Customer] who is interested in the performance of the entity.
2.  The entity has a Decision-Maker who affects the performance of the entity by controlling its resources.
3.  The entity has a Designer whose preferences are in conformance and in harmony with the client’s [user’s] preferences and the designer designs the system so that it can be operated by the Decision-maker.
4.   The Designer wishes to maximise the benefits to the Client [User].
5.   The System is capable of executing the Designer’s plans.

Now after reading this gobbledegook (or is it gobbledygook?) please don’t ask me what is a System.

Well I will put it simply – in a System 1+1 equals more than 2, say, 1+1 = 11 or even more.

That’s the concept of Synergy or Synergism so aptly expressed by Aristotle: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

You can now examine any entity and see whether it is a system, and if not, how to transform and dovetail it into a system, so that you can apply the systemic approach and system concepts to the entity.

Look around you and observe various entities, tangible and intangible – your workplace organisation, your school, college or university, your car, your bank, your house, your family, your relationships, and see whether they satisfy the necessary and sufficient conditions for an entity to be considered a system. 

Now I’ll ask you a question – Do you think “Marriage” is a System?


Not to worry – just see whether your concept of Marriage satisfies the necessary and sufficient conditions for an entity to be considered a system.

Let’s start with the first necessary condition – Does marriage have a purpose?

Any comments?

Think about it as “homework”!

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

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