A Model of the Environment of Organizations: Theory and Evidence of Regulating “Jumpy” F-Sets

  • A. M. Tinker
  • E. A. Lowe
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 5)


In 1956, Kenneth Boulding described the quest of General Systems Theory as “the need for a body of systematic theoretical construction which will discuss the general relationships of the empirical world [1].” Boulding suggests that the appropriate role for General Systems Theory is one that lies between highly generalized constructions and specific theories of particular disciplines. This suggestion allows for some variance in the role of General Systems Theory across broad catagories of knowledge; according to the degree of maturity of the sciences belonging to each category.


Organization Theory Coalition Structure Organizational Goal Contingency Theory Productive Possibility 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    K.L. Boulding, “General Systems Theory—The Skeleton of Science,” Management Science, Vol. 2, pp. 198–199.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    R. Cyert, and J. March, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1963.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    P. Georgiou, “The Goal Paradigm and Notes Towards a Counter Paradigm,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 18, No. 3, 1973, pp. 291–310.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    E.A. Lowe, “Comments on Georgiou’s ‘The Goal Paradigm and Notes Towards a Counter Paradigm,’” Administrative Science Quarterly, 19, 1974, pp. 253–254.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    R. Steers, “Problems in the Measurement of Organizational Effectiveness,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 20, No. 4, 1975, pp. 546–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    The feedback loop in Figure 1 through the environment by which each participant transaction reflects the influence of the level of inducements in one period to the level of contributions in subsequent periods.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    This is illustrated by the number of alternative technical combinations underlying a production function.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The analysis applies equally well to non-business coalitions. Thus the opportunity cost of participation of a prisoner are the prospects he associates with an escape attempt. For a hospital patient, the best opportunity foregone may be learning to live (or die) with his problem.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    The size of the F-Set is indicative of the “comparative advantage” or “slack” enjoyed by a particular enterprise, relative to the best alternatives available to coalition members.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    C.I. Barnard, Functions of the Executive, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1971.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    H.A. Simon, “A Comparison of Organization Theories,” Review of Economic Studies 20, No. 1, 1952–53.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    As March and Simon observe, it is the perceived foregone opportunities that are of relevance here. J. March, and H.A. Simon, Organizations, J. Wiley and Sons, New York, 1958.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    T. Burns and G. Stalker, The Management of Innovation, Social Science Paperbacks, London, 1961.Google Scholar

Model of the Environment of Organizations

  1. 14.
    F.E. Emery and E.L. Trist, “The Casual Texture of Organizational Environments,” Human Relations, 18, 1965, pp. 21–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 15.
    P. Lawrence and J. Lorsch, “Differentiation and Integration in Complex Organizations,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 12, 1967, pp. 1–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    S. Terreberry, “The Evolution of Organizational Environments,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 13, 1968.Google Scholar
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    M. Aiken and J. Hage, “The Organic Organization and Innovation,” Sociology, 5, No. 1, 1971, pp. 63–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 18.
    R.B. Duncan, “Characteristics of Organizational Environments and Perceived Environmental Uncertainty,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 17, 1972.Google Scholar
  6. 19.
    H.K. Downey, D. Hellriegel and J.W. Slocum, Jr., “Environmental Uncertainty: The Construct and its Application,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 20, 1975, pp. 613–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 20.
    R. Whitley, “Organizational Control and the Development of Authority Patterns in Systems of Power Relations,” Working Paper, Manchester Business School, 1975.Google Scholar
  8. 21.
    A.M. Tinker, “A Note on ‘Environmental Uncertainty’ and a Suggestion for our Editorial Function,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 21, No. 3, 1976.Google Scholar
  9. 22.
    These two sets the present employment and the set of alternatives, are intended to be collectively exhaustive of the various possible uses of a “resource” or opportunities available to a participant.Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    Whether change is internally or externally induced, the consequences may be traced through the interactions of the sets in the Venn diagram.Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    In so far as market prices encapsulate a significant portion of the relative value of an opportunity, so the variability of an array of those prices in which an enterprise interacts could provide an operational measure of environmental variability. Further, each member of the array could be weighted by its quantity (of resources) in order to obtain a measure of variability on one dimension. Similarly, the feasibility or effectiveness (in the sense used here) of a coalition might be assessed in terms of whether a budgetary equation can be formed that meets the opportunity cost expectations of participants.Google Scholar
  12. 25.
    These additional role opportunity sets are circumscribed by dotted lines.Google Scholar
  13. 26.
    Figure 3 may also be related to more traditional models of an enterprise. For example, the F-Set would be very small in perfect competition and larger in imperfect conditions. However, such models say nothing about environmental dynamics; the F-Set may be either very “jumpy” or stable over time.Google Scholar
  14. 27.
    W.R. Ashby, Introduction to Cybernetics, University Paperbacks, Methuen, London, 1964.Google Scholar
  15. 28.
    A.M. Tinker, An Accounting Organization for Organizational Problem-Solving, Unpublished, Ph.D., University of Manchester, 1975.Google Scholar
  16. 29.
    E.A. Lowe and A.M. Tinker, “An Educational Design for ‘Shifting’ Degenerate Social Science Paradigms: An Application of General Systems Theory,” International Journal of General Systems, 2, 1976, pp. 231–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 30.
    For a substantial part of this three year period, between one and three researchers were “resident” at the firm. This degree of contact together with many opportunities to meet some employees out of working hours, represented a most important source of data and means of attempting cross-validating.Google Scholar
  18. 31.
    A copy of the questionnaire can be obtained from the authors on request. This ten-page document was pre-tested before circulation. It contains approximately one-hundred and fifty data measures. Questions were structured to elicit interval (or higher) scale measures wherever possible. There was a 75% response rate to the two-hundred and forty-three questionnaires distributed to managers.Google Scholar
  19. 32.
    Over eighty taped interviews varying in length from one half-hour to over three hours were conducted with managers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. M. Tinker
    • 1
  • E. A. Lowe
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Business AdministrationUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Accounting and Financial ManagementUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldEngland

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