"System Cracks are Where the Light Gets In: Models and Measures of Services in the Benefit of Context"


David Hawk and Annaleena Parhankangas


A paradox is emerging for those concerned about management theory and practice. The paradox lies with the activities and products of organizations becoming more fluid while organizational structure and management models remained fixed. Managerial emphasis favor the more "solid" aspects of organizations while their leading edges become more "fluid." Management lore and principles continue to be taught, and practiced, as if what was remains timeless. Management continues to base its decision-making on information from statistical and reductionistic analysis. The result is a noteworthy mismatch between the rate of change in the environmental and the human desire for constancy. The mismatch is showing up on the surface of situations in what we herein called "cracks." Cracks can also be seen in the surfaces of organizations, products and customer bases.

The theory behind the paper comes from the early 1940s. Cracks point to system forces that were not been reconciled within the limits of the system. “Crackage” may also be a sign of systems reaching their limits. Herein the systems of interest are social organizations and their management. The main interest thus becomes management theory, where cracks appear where a principle appears inadequate, even humorous, in the face of an organizational challenge. Such cracks are more obvious with time. Using command and control strategies to manage internet information access and use is one example. Such cracks can be seen as early indicators of larger problems looming for organizations. This point was at the center of a discussion held in the business systems interest group session of last year’s ISSS Conference. It was argued that radically different forms and norms of management were needed. One metaphor proposed from that discussion was to find more “fluid” methods of management for dealing with increasingly fluid entities and environments. This idea is used herein to describe one of the major events now taking place in economic and business systems, the transformation from goods to services. The shift from solid to fluid processes and products is clearly seen in the emergence of the importance of services. An alternative software operating system, called Linux, is presented as a leading example of why this change is different and fundamental. Linux provides a doorway into an alternative model of business management. Linux illustrating an interesting progression from problems in solids that are manageable, but tend to crack, to fluids that don’t crack but tend to be beyond understanding and management.

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David Hawk and Annaleena Parhankangas, "System Cracks are Where the Light Gets In: Models and Measures of Services in the Benefit of Context", Proceedings of the 45th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the System Sciences, Jennifer Wilby and Janet K. Allen, editors, at Asilomar, California, July 8-13, 2001.

[click here for the ISSS 2001 conference]


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