Understanding Organizations: A Guide for Students

System Approach for organization
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Understanding Organizations: A Guide for Students


Have you ever wondered why people come together to form groups or organizations? It might seem simple on the surface—a group of friends starting a book club or a team of athletes competing together. But organizations are a fundamental part of our society, and they can be complex and fascinating entities. They are a unique social arrangement with a specific purpose and structure. So, let’s explore what an organization is, using a systems approach, and unpack the key elements that make them tick.


What is an Organization?

An organization is a social arrangement where people come together to achieve collective goals. But what sets an organization apart from other social gatherings, like a casual get-together or a random group of people, is its level of formalization and structure.

Think of a sports team. A group of friends playing basketball casually in the park is not an organization. But a professional basketball team with coaches, managers, and players is. Why? Because an organization has identifiable boundaries and a clear purpose. The team has a defined structure, with roles and responsibilities, and a collective goal—to win games and championships.


Key Elements of an Organization

There are several key elements that define an organization:

1. **Collective Goals**: Organizations have specific objectives or goals that are shared by its members. In our basketball team example, the collective goal is to win games and, ultimately, a championship title. Every member of the team, from the players to the coaches, works towards this common goal.

2. **Formalization**: Organizations have a degree of formalization, which means there are established rules, procedures, and hierarchies. This provides structure and order, ensuring everyone knows their role and responsibilities. For instance, the basketball team has a head coach who makes strategic decisions, captains who lead the team on the court, and players who execute the game plan.

3. **Boundary Maintenance**: Organizations have identifiable boundaries that separate them from their environment. This means they have a distinct identity and a clear sense of who is “inside” and “outside” the organization. In our example, the team has clear boundaries—the players and coaches are part of the organization, while fans and the opposing team are not.

4. **Input-Process-Output**: Organizations can be viewed as systems, where inputs are taken from the environment, processed, and converted into outputs. For a sports team, the inputs could include players’ skills, training methods, and strategic plans. The processing involves practices, games, and team meetings. The output is the team’s performance, which is then evaluated and used to improve future performance.


System Approach to Organizations

The system approach to understanding organizations is a useful framework. It sees an organization as a system with interrelated parts, each contributing to the whole. There are two types of systems in this context: closed and open.

Closed Systems

Closed systems are those that are not influenced by their environment. All inputs and outputs are internally managed, and there is little to no interaction with external factors. A simple example could be a closed-door meeting where a group of people discuss a specific topic without any outside influence. The inputs are the attendees and the topic, the processing is the discussion, and the output is the decision or conclusion reached.

Open Systems

Open systems, on the other hand, interact dynamically with their environment. They take inputs from their surroundings, process them, and produce outputs that are then distributed back into the environment. Most organizations function as open systems.

For example, let’s consider a restaurant as an organization. The restaurant takes inputs from its environment, such as ingredients, customer preferences, and market trends. It then processes these inputs by preparing meals, providing service, and creating an ambiance that appeals to customers. The output is the dining experience, which is then “distributed” back into the environment in the form of satisfied (or dissatisfied) customers.


Case Study: A Non-Profit Organization

To further illustrate the concept of an organization, let’s look at a case study of a non-profit organization, “Meals of Hope.”

**Introduction to Meals of Hope**

Meals of Hope is a non-profit organization with a mission to fight hunger and food insecurity in underserved communities. It was founded by a group of volunteers passionate about making a difference and providing access to nutritious meals for those in need.

**Collective Goals**

The collective goal of Meals of Hope is clear and concise: to provide as many meals as possible to those facing hunger. This goal is shared by everyone involved, from the volunteers who pack meals to the organizers who coordinate events.


As an organization, Meals of Hope has a degree of formalization to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. It has established procedures for packing and distributing meals, with specific roles for volunteers, such as meal packers, quality checkers, and distribution coordinators. Additionally, it has a hierarchy, with a board of directors overseeing operations and making strategic decisions.

**Boundary Maintenance**

Meals of Hope has clear boundaries that separate it from similar initiatives. Its focus is on providing meals, and it partners with other organizations that work on complementary goals, such as raising awareness or advocating for policy changes. The organization also has geographical boundaries, operating in specific communities where it can have the most impact.


Using the system approach, we can view Meals of Hope as follows:

– **Inputs**: Donations of food and funds, volunteer time, and community partnerships.
– **Process**: Packing and preparing meals, coordinating distribution events, and transporting meals to those in need.
– **Outputs**: Nutritious meals provided to individuals and families facing hunger.

The outputs are then evaluated, and feedback is used to improve the process and increase the organization’s impact. For example, if there is a need for more meals in a particular community, Meals of Hope can adjust its distribution strategies accordingly.


Stories from the Field

Stories from within organizations can often illustrate the concepts we’ve discussed and provide a human element to the theoretical framework. Here’s a story from Meals of Hope that showcases the power of collective goals and the impact an organization can have:

“One of our long-time volunteers, Sarah, shared a story that highlighted the impact of our collective efforts. She recalled a particular meal distribution event where a young boy and his mother received a week’s worth of meals. The boy, who had been too shy to speak, approached Sarah as they were leaving and gave her a drawing he had made. It depicted a happy family enjoying a meal together, and he wrote, ‘Thank you for helping us smile again.’ This story reminded us all why we do what we do and how our organization’s collective goal of fighting hunger has a direct impact on the lives of those we serve.”



“Organization is social arrangement for controlled performance of collective goals with identifiable boundary “

What is organization?

 Organization is gathering of people but different from other social gatherings because it is formalized up to certain extent. It has collective goals to achieve for which members of organization put their efforts in same direction and parameters are set to check out achievement of these goals, and prominently it has boundary which separates organization from environment.

System Approach for organization

According to this approach, organizations act as system, in which input is feed and processing is made and then output in obtained. Organization take inputs from the environment and then process it and converts them in outputs which are marketed again in an environment

The system can be of 2 types

  • Closed system  : not influenced by environment, all inputs and output is internally managed
  • Open system   :interact with environment, take input from environment, process it and convert them into output to get distributed in environment



Organizations are a fundamental part of our society, and understanding their structure and function is essential for students and aspiring professionals. By recognizing the key elements that define an organization, we can better appreciate the complex social arrangements that make up our world. Whether it’s a sports team striving for victory or a non-profit fighting hunger, organizations bring people together to achieve collective goals and make a lasting impact.