The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments – Emery and Trist, 1965

 

Source: Ackoff Center Weblog: The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments

 

The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments

F.E. Emery and E.L. Trist, ‘The causal texture of organizational environments’, Human Relations vol.18 (1965), pp. 21-32. Reprinted with Permission

A main problem in the study of organization change is that the environmental contexts in which organizations exists are themselves changing, at an increasing rate, and towards increasing complexity. This point, in itself, scarcely needs labouring. Nevertheless, the characteristics of organisational environments demand consideration for their own sake, if there is to be an advancement of understanding in the behavioural sciences of a great deal that is taking place under the impact of technological change, especially at the present time. This paper is offered as a brief attempt to open up some of the problems, and stems from a belief that progress will be quicker if a certain extension can be made to current thinking about systems. In a general way it may be said that to think in terms of systems seems the most appropriate conceptual response so far available when the phenomena under study – at any level and in any domain – display the character of being organised, and when understanding the nature of the interdependencies constitutes the research task. In the behavioural sciences, the first steps in building a systems theory were taken in connection with the analysis of internal processes in organisms, or organisation, when the parts had to be related to the whole. Examples include the organismic biology of Jennings, Cannon, and Henderson; early Gestalt theory and its later derivatives such as balance theory; and the classical theories of social structure. Many of these problems at the social level. It will show how a greater degree of system-connectedness, of crucial relevance to the organization, many develop in the environment, which is yet not directly a function either of the organization’s own characteristics or of its immediate relations. Both of these, of course, once again become crucial when the response or the organization to what has been happening is considered.

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