Organization as a System vs. a Machine

In the current edition of Strategy and Business, the article “Seeing Your Company as a System” ( is worth reading. It provides background (and tools) on some insightful management thinking that lays out the case that the metaphor of a machine for the organization is outmoded and that systems thinking is a more viable framing.

I find many of the ideas very compelling, from Senge’s five disciplines which center on organizational learning to Thomas Johnson’s thoughts on Quantitative Distractions.

I have often thought, in managing teams, that organizations are like organisms…and, to use an over-used phrase, that attending to the ecosystem is critical. Driving functional excellence without attending to the principles of systems thinking can be misguided at best.