5. Limitations and Conclusions
Limitations of Taking an Open Systems Theory Perspective
In terms of empirical research on organizations, the open systems theory has had negligible impact. Though the open systems model has been widely used to label and legitimize organizational studies, it has seen little use as a research guide. The organizational researchers have not been able to exploit the potential contributions of this theory in empirical research (Ashmos & Huber, 1987: 610). Few researchers have the tools or the ability to take into account all the various components that must be included in even a relatively simple open systems model(Hall, 1977:59).
To appraise the effectiveness of an organization with the aid of systems theory one must measure its performance with respect to the four systemic processes - inputs, transformations, outputs and feedback effects - as well as their interrelationships. Measurement of the various forms of organizational inputs and outputs is pretty much undeveloped. Moreover, unlike the preoccupation with achieving equilibrium condition, the organizational system is seeking to maximize or minimize one or more values, whether they be profit, cost, influence (Evan, 1993). The more commonly accepted approach for organizational research is the goal approach which considers goal achievement or the degree to which an organization attains its goals. As an exception, Evan (1993) has demonstrated the operationalization of the four systemic processes in a study of interorganizational relations among hospitals using the systems theory approach. He suggests the possibility of developing organizational effectiveness measures without directly and explicitly identifying their goals but indirectly by measuring dimensions of inputs, transformations, and outputs of an organization. The problems encountered in defining an organization's goals can be avoided by indirectly deriving the goals by using Evan's approach. In sum, open systems theory presents a "wholisitc" approach to the research of organizational problems, but the researchers will need to be more creative with the operationalization of the goals. Further, they would need to conduct a more systematic inquiry of the various properties of open systems enumerated by Miller (1965: 193-237) and Katz and Kahn (1966).