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Handbook for Strategic HR by OD Network

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CHAPTER 35

Organizational Circulatory Systems

An Inquiry

Art Kleiner

OVER THE PAST 30 years, the idea has been floated again and again that organizations are “living systems:” they aren’t mechanistic and shouldn’t be thought of as machines. Among the writers who have put this idea forward are Gareth Morgan (in Images of Organizations), Arie de Geus (in The Living Company), Peter Senge (in The Fifth Discipline), and Eric Trist (in his various papers). And there’s good reason to believe they’re right. After all, as anyone who has ever tried to intervene in an organization can tell you, they don’t react as machines would when you try to fix them.

When approached with change, in other words, they do not respond like clocks, automobiles, engines, ...

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