Systems practice

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 53–70 | Cite as

The road to emancipation is through organizational development: A critical evaluation of total systems intervention

  • Haridimos Tsoukas
Redesigning the Future


Total Systems Intervention (TSI) has been claimed to be the “practical face” of critical systems thinking. This article reviews the central principles of TSI, describes its theoretical base, and outlines its logic. It is argued that, far from being the way forward for management science, as its supporters claim, TSI is beset by logical and conceptual problems which render its use problematic. More specifically, TSI appears to confuse logical types; its use of metaphors tends to be circular and unnecessary; and its avowed complementarism is insufficiently thought out. It is also argued that TSI is only contingently linked to critical systems thinking and that the latter's assumptions are not followed through in practice. TSI, in the final analysis, appears to be relying on commonsense, eclectically drawing on other problem-solving methods, but in itself unable to present a distinctively new, theoretically sound, and methodologically consistent approach.

Key words

critical systems metaphors paradigms problem management 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Haridimos Tsoukas
    • 1
  1. 1.Warwick Business SchoolUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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