Chapter 3: Organizations as Natural Systems

The natural system perspective largely developed from critical reactions to the rational system theorists. Natural theorists point out that the definining characteristics of organizations stressed by the rationalists are often not the most important features of organizational dynamics. They focus more on organization behavior and implementation than on decision-making.

Natural theorists claim that "the specific output goals of organizations are often undermined or distorted by energies devoted to the pursuit of system goals, chief among which is the concern to survive" (Scott p. 73). There are several reasons why both rational and natural perspectives evolved and are so different.

There were four main schools in the natural system perspective:

Mayo and the Human Relations School

Barnard's Conception of Cooperation

Selznick's Institutional Approach

Parson's Social System Model

Two major differences between rational and natural systems theories concerned the importance of goal complexity and informal structures. Often there are multiple goals in organizations that are complex and conflictory, and sometimes the informal social structures are more important than formal ones in understanding and predicting organizational behavior.