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Knowledge Area Module 3: Principles of Social Systems

Student: William Molnar: william.molnar@waldenu.edu

Student ID # 0396053
Specialization: K-12 Leadership

Faculty Assessor: Dr. Janice Garfield: janice.garfield@waldenu.edu

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Wade Smith wade.smith@waldenu.edu

Walden University
March 14, 2009



The purpose of this KAM is to identify principles of theory relating to the art and practice of

learning organizations. A critical analysis, according to Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Amitai Etzioni,

and Peter Senge, of complex organizations and the relationship of general systems theory to

education provides information on the components of organizations and explains how the

organizational model fits the field of education. In addition, the breadth contains a description of

general systems theory and its application to education, including an analysis of differences

between open and closed systems and suggestions regarding which system best describes the

education system.



The Depth section reviews current literature concerning the role of systems thinking, general

systems theory, and open and closed systems. An analysis of the concept of systems thinking as

it relates to education, along with the general systems theory, is applied to guide school leaders

through the process of organizational change. In probing the recent literature, the intended

outcome is to find strategies to develop a better learning environment for students from low-

income areas and determine how school leaders can better address social issues as an obstacle in

the process of organizational change.




Concepts learned in the Breadth and Depth components of this KAM are utilized to develop a

PowerPoint demonstration for school administrators and staff showing the results of research on

the second law of thermodynamics and its correlation to Peter Senge’s fifth discipline (systems

thinking). The PowerPoint will explain the laws of thermodynamics and their use in business and

industry. It will demonstrate the use of entropy and organization/disorganization as laid out in

the laws of thermodynamics. Following this, the demonstration will show the impact of Senge’s

systems thinking on business and industry. The final section will demonstrate how the laws of

thermodynamics and the fifth discipline can be applied in the field of education.

Learning Organizations..............................................................................................................1

What Is an Organization?...........................................................................................................4

Structure of the Learning Organization...........................................................6

Team Learning................................................................................................7
Learning Disabilities in Organizations.............................................................8
Capacity to Learn..........................................................................................10
Society as an Organization.......................................................................................................11

Systems Theory........................................................................................................................15

Closed and Open Systems.............................................................................17

Task of General Systems Theory...................................................................19
Theory of Human Behavior............................................................................20
Systems Thinking.....................................................................................................................21

The Five Disciplines................................................................................................................22

Challenges of Initiating Change...............................................................................................25

Three Kinds of Power: A Comparative Dimension.................................................................27

Normative Power...........................................................................................27
Coercive Power.............................................................................................28
Remunerative Power.....................................................................................29
The Education System as a Normative Organizational Structure............................................30


Annotated Bibliography...........................................................................................................35

Literature Review Essay..........................................................................................................70

School as a System.......................................................................................70
Organizational Change in the Workforce.......................................................72
Organizational Mergers.................................................................................74
Organizational Reality...................................................................................76
Organizational Change in the High School....................................................78
Leadership and Organizational Change.........................................................85
Organizational Change and School Reform............................................................................87

Entrepreneurial Leadership...........................................................................91

Organizational Culture..................................................................................92
Organizational Change in Higher Education...........................................................................94




Systems Thinking Theory......................................................................................................101

Difficulties in Practicing Systems Thinking..........................................................................102

The Program...........................................................................................................................104

Second Law of Thermodynamics..........................................................................................105

PowerPoint Demonstration....................................................................................................109





In this component, I examine the roles of the learning organization and the relationship of

the general systems theory to the public education system. The Breadth component contains an

analysis and evaluation of the works of classical theorists Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Amitai

Etzioni, and Peter Senge. A comparison and contrast of the major theoretical concepts of these

authors results in a summary of the ways in which their theories impact the structure of the

education system. Included in the Breadth component is a discussion of historical and

contemporary works to give a broad range of perspectives.

Learning Organizations

Senge (1990) stated that learning organizations are places “where people continually

expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of

thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually

learning to see the whole together” (p. 3). If the members of an organization work as a group,

they will direct their efforts toward a shared goal or vision. It is through collaborative effort that

they will continue to strive for their vision. Their success or failure is not the point; rather, the

point is that they are working together to reach their desired goal. The basic rationale for such

behavior is that in situations of rapid change, only organizations that are flexible, adaptive, and

productive will excel. For this to happen, Senge argued that organizations need to “discover how

to tap into people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels” (p. 4). He also commented:

Learning organizations are possible because deep down we are all learners. No one has to teach

an infant to learn. Learning organizations are possible because not only is it our nature to learn

but we love to learn. One could argue that the entire global business community is learning to

learn together, we are becoming a learning community. (p. 5). Although all people have the

capacity to learn, the structures in which they function may not be conducive to reflection and

engagement. Furthermore, people may lack the tools and guiding principles to make meaning of

the situations that they face. Organizations that expand their capacity to ensure their future

require that their members experience a fundamental shift in their mindset. Senge (1990)

explained:When you ask people about what it is like being part of a great team, what is most

striking is the meaningfulness of the experience. People talk about being part of something larger

than themselves, of being connected, of being generative. It becomes quite clear that, for many,

their experience as part of truly great teams stand out as singular periods of life lived to the

fullest. Some spend the rest of their lives looking for ways to recapture that spirit. (p. 13)

Organizations nurture new and explorative patterns of thinking, believing that individuals

should look at situations or problems from different perspectives to find new solutions. The

desires of the group must become independent and liberated, and people must feel that they have

choices in how they intend to achieve their goal. Sometimes, this requires a change in ways of

thinking. As children, people learn; as adults, they continue to learn about new ideas, thoughts,

or processes. It is through this collaborative learning organization that people explore, exchange,

and achieve the desired goals. The organizations that succeed will know how to support people’s

commitment and their capacity to learn at all levels.

Learning organizations are different from traditional and authoritarian, controlling

organizations. In authoritarian, controlling organizations, the “who” is more important than the

“what.” One person can determine another’s professional future, and there is little recourse to

that determination. The wielding of power over others is the essence of an authoritarian

organization. In authoritarian organizations, the centralization of authority means that those at


the top of the hierarchy will be far more influential than those at the bottom, even though better

solutions to existing problems may actually lie in the hands of those with less authority. Senge

(1990) used the terms enrollment and commitment to describe the individuals who belong to

learning organizations. He felt that people must enroll in a vision if they truly believe in it.

Systems, not external forces or individual mistakes, can sometimes precipitate their own

problems. In human systems, structure includes the perceptions, goals, rules, and norms that

people use to make decisions. Structure, for example, produces behavior. The organization can

have an influence on behavior that is prompted by structure because the students are taught the

goals and norms of the organization. Perception, goals, and norms in an organization are agreed

upon by repetition and practice. Changing the structure can produce different patterns of

behavior. Because structure in human systems includes perceptions, goals, rules, and norms,

redesigning one’s own decision-making behaviors redesigns the system structure.

The world does not comprise separate, unrelated forces, but people sometimes have

difficulty seeing the whole structure. Systems thinking is a conceptual framework comprising a

body of knowledge and tools that people have developed over the past 50 years to clarify

patterns and facilitate an understanding of how to change things effectively and with the least

amount of effort. Basically, systems thinking is about finding the leverage points in any system.

One of Senge’s (1990) contributions to the fifth discipline, or systems thinking, is

personal mastery, the discipline of redefining and shaping a personal vision. Personal mastery

includes channeling energies, practicing patience, and seeing reality in a new way. This

discipline starts when people clarify what really matters to them and begin to seek their highest


Because of the pressure from people in positions of authority, individuals at the lower

level of an organization feel constrained. Deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or

images influence how they understand and take action in the world. Inner reflection can help

people to identify internal images of the world, bring these images to the surface, and hold them

up to scrutiny. When a problem arises, people often point a finger at others, but in order to bring

about effective change, they need to identify the source of the problem and reinterpret their

views of what happened.

Every learning organization has a shared vision in which everyone is enrolled and

committed to achieving. This vision is one that people are compelled to attain for their own as

well as the organization’s improvement. If the organization is seeking a vision under the pretext

of compliance, it is sure to fail because once this vision is accomplished, there is nothing else to

attain. Real learning gets to the heart of what it is to be human because it allows people to

recreate themselves. Thus, for learning organizations, it is not enough merely to survive. Senge

(1990) commented, “Survival learning or what is more often termed ‘adaptive learning’ is

important, indeed it is necessary. But for a learning organization, ‘adaptive learning’ must be

joined by ‘generative learning,’ learning that enhances our capacity to create” (p. 14).

What Is an Organization?

Organizations are systems, and living organisms are essentially open systems because

they exchange matter with their environment (Bertalanffy, 1969). Conventional physics and

physical chemistry have dealt with closed systems, which are isolated from their environment,

and only in recent years has theory included irreversible processes, open systems, and states of

disequilibrium. Physical chemistry explains the reactions, their rates, and the chemical

equilibrium eventually established in a closed vessel. The laws of thermodynamics apply only to

closed systems. In particular, the second principle of thermodynamics is that in a closed system,

a certain quantity, entropy, must increase to a maximum; eventually, the process stops when it

reaches a state of equilibrium. The second principle states that entropy is a measure of

probability. Thus, a closed system tends toward a state of most probable distribution, for

example, in a mixture of red and blue glass beads or in molecules that have different velocities.

Both are in a state of complete disorder, so separating all of the red beads from the blue beads in

a closed space, or placing, for example, all fast molecules at a high temperature on the right side

and all slow ones at a low temperature on the left in a closed container is a highly improbable


When applying the model of open systems to the phenomena of animal growth, it

becomes clear that the theory refers not to physical, but biological, units. The same is true in the

fields of cybernetics and information theory, both of which have garnered so much recent

attention. Every living organism is essentially an open system. The chemical processes within

living cells represent the fundamental phenomenon of life: metabolism. In principle, the

conventional formulations of physics are inapplicable to the living organism open system and

steady state, and one may well suspect that many characteristics of living systems that are

paradoxical in view of the laws of physics are a consequence of this.

Not only does the open system have the ability to restore its steady state after a

disturbance, but it also shows equifinality. In most physical systems, the initial conditions

determine the final state. For example, the final concentrations of a chemical equilibrium depend

on the initial ones. If there is a change in either the initial conditions or the process, the final state

is altered. Vital phenomena show a different behavior in that the final state may be attained from

different initial conditions and in different ways. Analysis has shown that closed systems cannot

behave equifinally.

Broadly speaking, Bertalanffy (1975) identified three aspects of the open system that are

not separable in content, but distinguishable in intention. The first is systems science, the

scientific exploration and theory of systems in the various sciences and general systems theory as

a doctrine of principles applied to all stems. Bertalanffy stated, “General systems theory is [the]

scientific exploration of ‘wholes’ and ‘wholeness’ which not so long ago, were considered to be

metaphysical notions transcending the boundaries of science” (p. 157). System refers to the

general characteristics of a large class of entities, conventionally treated in different disciplines.

The interdisciplinary nature of general systems theory pertains to formal or structural

communalities abstracting from the “nature of elements and forces in the system” (Bertalanffy,

1975, p. 159), with which the special sciences are concerned. In other words, system-theoretical

arguments pertain to and have predictive value insofar as general structures are concerned.

Similar considerations apply to the concept of organization. Atoms, crystals, or molecules are

organizations. In biology, organisms are, by definition, organized entities. Although there is

copious data on biological organization from biochemistry, cytology, histology, and anatomy,

there is no theory of biological organization, that is, a conceptual model that explains the

empirical facts. The characteristics of an organization, whether of a living organism or a society,

include the concepts of wholeness, growth, differentiation, hierarchical order, dominance,

control, and competition. Such notions do not appear in conventional physics.

Structure of the Learning Organization

Etzioni (1961) defined the learning organization as “an organization that is continually

expanding its capacity to create its future” (p. 2). He suggested that one should not equate formal

organizational activities such as regulations and formal communications with the organization as

a whole. Etzioni referred to social organization as “a different class of sociological phenomena,

encompassing all human behavior that is socially regulated” (p. 3). Etzioni also stated that if

organizations are to realize their goals, they must continually employ the means to do so, such as

positively orientating the participants to the organizations’ power. Senge (1990) argued, as an

introduction to systems thinking, that people create their own reality and that everyone fits into a

larger entity called an organization. He asserted that the fifth discipline, which he termed systems

thinking, is the cornerstone of any successful learning organization. Systems thinking is

discussed in more depth later in this paper.

Discipline of Team Learning

The discipline of team learning begins with dialogue that allows the members to suspend

their assumptions, engage in free-flowing communication to discover insights not attainable

individually, and recognize the patterns of interaction in teams that undermine learning. Patterns

of defensiveness often are deeply engrained in team operations. Unrecognized or

unacknowledged patterns undermine learning, but if they are recognized and allowed to surface

creatively, they can accelerate learning.

Team learning is the process of aligning and developing the capacity to create the results

that the members truly desire. It builds on personal mastery. Talented teams comprise talented

individuals, but having a shared vision and talent are not enough to assure that the team will

achieve its goal. The world is full of teams of talented individuals who share a vision, yet they

fail to learn. People who need one another in order to act are becoming the key learning units in

organizations. Each individual is an expert in a discipline, a body of theory and technique that

people must study and master to put into practice. Most people can develop proficiency through

practice, but to practice a discipline, one must become a lifelong learner. The more that people

learn, the more aware they become of their ignorance. An awareness of one’s ignorance will aid

a person in becoming a team player in the team learning process.

Learning Disabilities in Organizations

Through learning, people can recreate themselves, do something that they could not do

previously, perceive the world and their relationship to it, and extend their capacity to be part of

the generative process of life. These components are the basic meaning of a learning

organization, which is continually expanding its capacity to create its future. However, most

organizations learn poorly. Their design and management, the definitions of people’s jobs, and

the way in which people think and interact have created fundamental learning disabilities in

organizations. Undetected learning disabilities in children are tragic, but they are no less tragic in

organizations. The first step in addressing learning disabilities in organizations is to identify the

seven learning disabilities (Senge, 1990).

I Am My Position: When people in organizations focus only on their position, they have

little sense of responsibility for the results produced when all positions interact.

The Enemy Is Out There: There is in each of us a propensity to find someone or

something outside ourselves to blame when things go wrong. Some organizations elevate

this propensity to a commandment: Thou shalt always find an external agent to blame.

The enemy is out there syndrome is actually a by-product of “I am my position,” and the

nonsystemic ways of looking at the world that it fosters. When we focus only on our own

position, we do not see how our own actions extend beyond the boundary of that position.

The Illusion of Taking Charge: Managers frequently proclaim the need for taking charge

in facing difficult problems. What this typically means is that we should face up to

difficult issues, stop waiting for someone else to do something, and solve problems

before they grow into crises.

The Fixation on Events: The primary threats to our survival, both of our organizations

and of our societies, come not from sudden events but from slow, gradual processes….the

erosion of a society’s public education system,…results from slow, gradual processes.

The Parable of the Boiled Frog: If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will

immediately try to scramble out. But if you place the frog in room temperature water, and

don’t scare him, he’ll stay put. Now, if the pot sits on a heat source, and if you gradually

turn up the temperature, something very interesting happens….the frog will do nothing.

In fact, he will show every sign of enjoying himself. As the temperature gradually

increases, the frog will become groggier and groggier, until it is unable to climb out of

the pot. Though there is nothing restraining him, the frog will sit there and boil…because

the frog’s internal apparatus for sensing threats to survival is geared to sudden changes in

his environment, not to slow, gradual changes….Learning to see slow, gradual processes

requires slowing down our frenetic pace and paying attention to subtle as well as the


The Delusion of Learning from Experience: The most powerful learning comes from

direct experience. We learn best from experience but we never directly experience the

consequences of many of our most important decisions.

The Myth of the Management Team: The management team, the collection of confident,

experienced managers who represent the organization’s different functions and areas of

expertise….are supposed to sort out the complex cross-functional issues that are critical

to the organization. Teams in business tend to spend their time avoiding anything that

will make them look bad personally and pretending that everyone is behind the team’s

collective strategy, thus maintaining the superficial appearance of a cohesive team. Most

management teams break down under pressure….The team may function quite well with

routine issues. But when they confront complex issues that may be embarrassing or

threatening, the ‘teamness’ seems to go to pot. (Argyris, as cited in Senge, 1990, pp. 18-

25) . People in the same system tend to produce similar results. The systems perspective

requires that people look beyond individual mistakes, personalities, events, or even bad

luck to understand important problems. They must look into the underlying structures

that shape individual actions and create the conditions where certain types of events

become likely.

Capacity to Learn

In a learning organization, the leaders are the designers and the teachers who are

responsible for building organizations that allow people to expand their capabilities to

understand complexity, clarify vision, and improve shared mental models. They are responsible

for learning. Learning organizations will remain merely a good idea until people take a stand for

building such organizations and inspiring their vision.

For Senge (1990), real learning allows people and organizations to recreate themselves.

For a learning organization, it is not enough to survive. Senge agreed that survival learning, or

adaptive learning, is important, but for a learning organization, “adaptive learning must be joined

by ‘generative learning,’ learning that enhances our capacity to create” (p. 14). He contended

that the ability of the systems theory to comprehend and address the whole, and to examine the

interrelationship between and among the parts, is the way to integrate the five disciplines.

People often look to actions that produce improvements in a relatively short time.

However, from a systems perspective, short-term improvements may involve significant long-

term costs. For example, cutting back on research and design can bring quick cost savings, but

they also can severely damage the long-term feasibility of an organization. Part of the problem is

the nature of the feedback provided. Some of it is [self-]reinforcing, with small changes building

on themselves. “Whatever movement occurs is amplified, producing more movement in the same

direction. A small action snowballs, with more and more and still more of the same resembling

compound interest” (Senge, 1990, p. 81).

Society as an Organization

Almost 30 years before Senge, Etzioni (1961) took a similar approach to organizational

structure. In 1961, he defined an organization as a social unit devoted primarily to the attainment

of specific goals. In 1964, he asserted that society is an organization and that people are educated

by organizations. Modern society places a high moral value on rationality, effectiveness, and

efficiency. Etzioni felt that modern civilization depends on organizations as the most rational and

efficient form of social grouping. He viewed organizations as powerful social tools.

Organizations are not a modern invention. The pharaohs of Egypt used organizations to

build the pyramids, the emperors of China used organizations to construct great irrigation

systems, and the first popes created a universal church to serve a world religion. Etzioni (1964)

stated, “Modern organizations have more organizations fulfilling a variety of societal and

personal needs” (p. 2). Modern society has so many organizations that it requires a whole tier of

second-order organizations to organize and supervise them.

Not all that enhances rationality reduces happiness, and not all that increases happiness

reduces efficiency. Organizations use human resources to achieve their goals, so the less that

organizations alienate their personnel, the more efficient the employees become. Happiness

heightens efficiency in organizations; inefficient organizations cannot sustain a productive

standard of living, an elevated level of culture, and a democratic society. In many ways,

organizational rationality and human happiness are engaged in a symbiotic relationship that

provides benefits to both.

The problem with modern organizations, according to Etzioni (1964), is that they must

construct human groupings that are as rational as possible while producing a minimum of

undesirable side effects and a maximum of satisfaction. Etzioni noted, “Organizations are social

units deliberately constructed and reconstructured to seek specific goals. Schools are an example

of an organization” (p. 3). Organizations have divisions of labor, power, and communication

responsibilities that are not random or traditionally patterned. They are deliberately planned to

enhance the realization of specific goals. Organizations have one or more power centers that

control the concerted efforts of the organizations and direct them toward their goals.

Etzioni (1964) stated:

The goals of organizations are to provide orientation by depicting a future that

organizations want to realize. They set down guidelines for organizational activity. Goals
serve as standards by which members of an organization and outsiders can assess the
success of the organization, that is, its effectiveness and efficiency. (p. 5)

Etzioni also asserted that another goal is the state that organizations attempt to realize, even

though the attempt may not be successful. If the goals are reached, they are assimilated into the

organizations or their environment. However, whose image of the future does the organization

pursue: that of top executives, the board of directors, the trustees, or the majority of the

stakeholders. Actually, organizations do not ascribe to any of these images. The organizational

goals are the future state that organizations strive to realize collectively.

There are two reasons that the leaders of organizations might seek goals that are different

from the ones that they actually pursue. One is that the leaders may be unaware of the

discrepancy because they are unaware of the true situation. The heads of some school districts,

particularly the superintendents, receive inaccurate information about outcomes to the district’s

product: its graduates. Therefore, department heads and staff in the field of science, for example,

might believe that their departments are training future scientists, whereas in practice, they

operate mainly to provide the industry with fairly capable students.

The second reason is that organizational leaders consciously express goals that are

different from those actually pursued because such masking will serve the goals that the

organization actually pursues. Therefore, an organization whose real goal is to make a profit

might benefit if it can pass as an educational, nonprofit organization. All organizations have a

formal, explicitly recognized, and sometimes legally mandated obligation to set the initial goals

and ensure the possibility of appropriate amendments. In some organizations, the stockholders

vote to set the goals; in others, such as education, the members vote.

Organizations are meant to be effective and efficient social units. The degree to which an

organization realizes its goals determines its effectiveness. The efficiency of an organization is

measured by the resources that it needs to produce a unit of output. Output is related, but not

identical, to the organizational goals. For example, the education system produces educated or

trained individuals (its output), but its goal is not the output itself but the unit of output in a

measurable quantity expressed in terms of students. Efficiency increases as costs decrease.

The same issue arises when measuring efficiency and the related concepts of output,

productivity, and costs. It is possible to compare how much it costs to make a car in one factory

to the cost of producing the same car in another, but the process becomes vague when comparing

the efficiency of two schools. One school may be more efficient than another only if it produces

the same product at a lower cost. This is difficult to establish. Frequent measuring in education

can distort the organizational efforts because as a rule, some aspects of a school’s output are

more measurable than others. High schools, which measure the quality of their curricula by the

number of students who pass the Regents Exam in the State of New York, find that some

teachers neglect the character development of their students and, instead, spend time preparing

them for the tests.

There are solutions to this problem. Organizations do their best to recognize that many

measures are far from accurate. Attributing too much importance to some indicators of

organizational success and not enough importance to others may distort the organization’s goals

and undermine the very efficiency and effectiveness that the organization seeks. An example of

the application of general systems theory to human society is a general model of organization

and states known as “iron laws,” which pertain to any organization. For example, the Malthusian

law states that the increase of a population is greater than that of its resources. This law is

applicable to urban areas, where inner-city schools are unable to supply the resources needed for

the increased population.

There also is the law of optimum size of organizations, which states that the larger an

organization becomes, the longer it takes for communication to flow through the organization.

Depending on the nature of the organization, this slowdown of communication limits the ability

of the organization to grow beyond a certain critical size. According to the law of instability,

many organizations are not in a stable equilibrium; rather, they have cyclic fluctuations that are

the result of the interactions of subsystems.


Systems Theory

Senge was not the first to identify organizations as systems. A Hungarian biologist,

Ludwig von Bertalanffy, developed the general systems theory, which was established as a

science in the 1950s. Systems theory studies the structure and properties of systems in terms of

the relationships from which new properties or wholes emerge. Systems theory unites the

theoretical principles and concepts of ontology, science, physics, biology, and engineering. The

theory has been applied in geography, sociology, political science, organizational theory,

management, psychotherapy, economics, and more. It is fitting to discuss Bertalanffy’s general

systems theory because it has made a significant contribution to organizational theory and

management, the two foci of this paper. Bertalanffy worked to identify structural, behavioral,

and developmental features common to particular classes of living organisms. According to

Laszlo (as cited in Bertalanffy, 1975), Bertalanffy opened up

Something much broader and of much greater significance than a single theory; he created a new

paradigm for the development of theories. These theories are and will be system-theories, for

they deal with systemic phenomena-organisms, population, ecologies, groups and societies. (pp.


Bertalanffy’s (1969) research evolved into the general systems theory. He defines a

general system as any theoretical system that is of interest to more than one discipline. He based

this new vision of reality on an awareness of the essential interrelatedness and interdependence

of all physical, biological, psychological, social, or cultural phenomena. The systems view

perceives the world as relationships and integrations. Systems are integrated wholes, whose

properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller units. Instead of concentrating on basic building

blocks or substances, the systems approach emphasizes the principles of organization. Every

organism is an integrated whole and, thus, a living system. In Bertalanffy’s view, human survival

was the paramount purpose for his development of the general systems theory. Because of a lack

of ethical and ecological criteria for human affairs, people seem to be concerned only with the

management of larger profits for a small minority of privileged humans.

Bertalanffy (1969) commented:

The need for a general system consciousness was a matter of life and death, not just for
us but also for all future generations on our planet. He advocated a new global morality,
an ethos that does not center on individual values alone, but on the adaptation of
mankind, as a global system, to its new environment. (p. xxi)

Models, principles, and laws apply to generalized systems or their subclasses, irrespective of

their particular kind, the nature of their component elements, and the relation or forces between

them. It seems legitimate to ask for a theory, not of systems of a more or less special kind, but of

universal principles applying to systems in general. In this way, Bertalanffy postulated a new

discipline called general systems theory, whose substance is the formulation and derivation of

the principles that are valid for systems, in general.

An organization is a system, so the general systems theory is applicable to it. Concepts

similar to that of an organization are alien to conventional physics; however, they appear

everywhere in the biological, behavioral, and social sciences, and they are indispensable for

dealing with living organisms or social groups. A basic problem facing modern science is a

general theory of organization. General systems theory is, in principle, capable of providing

definitions for such concepts and putting them up to quantitative analysis. General systems

theory is a general science of wholeness:

1. There is a general tendency towards integration in the various sciences natural and


2. Such integration seems to be centered in a general theory of systems.

3. Such theory may be an important means of aiming at exact theory in the

nonphysical fields of science.

Developing unifying principles running vertically through the universe of the

individual sciences, this theory brings us nearer to the goal of the unity of science.

This can lead to a much needed integration in scientific education. (Bertalanffy,

1969, p. 38)

Closed and Open Systems

Conventional physics deals only with closed systems, meaning that they are isolated from

their environment. However, some systems are not closed systems simply because of their nature

and definition. Every living organism is essentially an open system that maintains itself in a so-

called steady state. It is only in recent years that an expansion of physics in order to include open

systems has taken place. The theory of open systems has shed light on many obscure phenomena

in physics and biology and has led to important general conclusions. Bertalanffy (1969)


A general model of an ‘open system’ causes a contradiction between the thermodynamics

of living organisms and the second law of thermodynamics. An open system that imports

free energy or negative entropy from the outside can legitimately proceed toward states

of increasing order. (p. 52)


The theory of open systems deals with the laws governing reactions in closed systems, which do

not exchange matter with their environment. These laws are solely concerned with reactions and

steady states eventually reached in such closed systems. Bertalanffy (1975) stated:

I therefore had to elaborate some principles for reaction kinetic in open systems and they
produced some surprising results. This development was facilitated during the last 25
years by an expansion of thermodynamics, which now includes irreversible processes and
open systems in a generalized thermodynamic approach. (p. 44)

The biophysics of open systems is important for the simple reason that the conventional

theory of closed systems is not applicable to living organisms. Such studies of open systems have

promoted important generalizations of physical theory so that including living systems into

science has led to new formulations of physical laws not previously covered by conventional

physics. These generalizations have concerned problems considered beyond scientific

explanation and physical laws.

The theory of open systems teaches something completely different. It shows that an

equifinal process is always bound to occur whenever an open system is approaching its steady

state following a disturbance. A living organism, such as an organization, maintains itself in a

state of highest organization in a state of fantastic improbability. Bertalanffy (1975) commented:

The apparent violation of physical laws in the animate world disappears with the

generalization of thermodynamics and its application to open systems. For in an open

system, we observe not only entropy production through irreversible processes, but also a

transport of entropy, which may very well be negative. While the entropy change in a

closed system is always a positive, the entropy balance in an open system can be

negative. For this reason, a living system in steady state can maintain an improbable state

of high organization. It may even develop and reach levels of higher heterogeneity and

organization, as it happens in embryogenesis and phylogenies. (p. 46)


Bertalanffy also contended that civilizations are not organisms like plants or

animals. The concept and model of a system has been central to recent developments in

the social sciences, as shown by American functionalism in sociology. Prosaic

phenomena such as urban development appear to flow as life cycles and system laws that

can be represented by mathematical equations.

Task of General Systems Theory

The task of the general systems theory is to study the characteristics of general systems

and to concentrate on those aspects of reality that are inaccessible to conventional scientific

treatment: organization, hierarchy, and competition. Starting with the formal concept of system

as a complex of interacting components, and with the help of relatively simple mathematical

methods, one may not only develop abstract theorems but also apply them successfully to

concrete phenomena (e.g., the educational organization). Researchers are only at the beginning

of this new development, and a strict systematization depends on future research.

The goal of general systems theory is clearly circumscribed. It aims to be a general theory

of wholeness of entire systems in which the many variables interact and whose organization

produces strong interactions. General systems theory does not deal with isolated processes, with

relations between two or a few variables, or with linear causal relations; these are the domain of

classical science. Such a theory became possible only after researchers had overcome

mechanistic prejudices and had abandoned mechanistic metaphysics. The distinction between the

specific characteristics of open and closed systems plays a special role in general systems theory,

whose applications range from the biophysics of cellular processes to the dynamics of

populations, from the problems of fisheries to those of behavioral science, and from the problems

of psychiatry to those of political and cultural units. General systems theory is symptomatic of a

change in worldview: The world is no longer a blind play of atoms, but rather a great


Theory of Human Behavior

There have been few attempts to apply general systems theory in a narrow sense to the

theory of human behavior. Personality theory is an area of contrasting and controversial theories.

All theories of behavior lack scientific proof, and the general systems theory cannot be expected

to provide solutions. The theory will have shown its value if it can open new perspectives and

viewpoints capable of experimental and practical application. Bertalanffy (1969), when asked

whether general systems theory is essentially a physicalistic simile inapplicable to psychic

phenomena, responded:

The system concept is abstract and general enough to permit application to entities of
whatever denomination. System theorists agree that the concept of ‘system’ is not limited
to material entities but can be applied to any ‘whole’ consisting of interacting
components. (p. 105)

Bertalanffy (1969) also stated that in the field of philosophy of history, one might,

perhaps, speak of theoretical history, admittedly in its beginnings. This term expresses the aim of

linking science and the humanities, particularly the social sciences and history. The research

techniques in sociology and history are entirely different, but their objective is essentially the

same. Sociology is concerned with how human societies are, whereas history seeks to determine

how societies developed and continue to evolve. General systems theory has contributed to the

expansion of scientific theory, has led to new insights and principles, and has identified new

problems that require further experimental or mathematical study. The limitations of the theory

and its applications in different fields are evident, but the principles are essentially sound.

The hierarchical structure of mind development has its roots in Bertalanffy’s (1969)

general systems theory. The structure of mind development can be fully grasped from the

perspective of his theory. Bertalanffy became dissatisfied with reductive explanations for the

behavior of living organisms. His answer to these observations was that life is primarily a system

of self-organization, a developmental unfolding at progressively higher levels of differentiation

and organized complexity. These wholes are not reducible to their parts because the factor of life

depends upon the interaction of the parts as a system; therefore, the whole is more than the sum

of its parts (Senge, 1990).

The organization is dynamic, not static, and open, not closed. It searches spontaneously

and actively for stimulation rather than waiting passively to respond. It is not difficult to apply

Bertalanffy’s (1969) theory to the organizational structure of the public education system, which

is an open system by design. Education comprises many parts, yet the whole education system is

more than the sum of these parts. Systems thinking plays a dominant role in areas ranging from

industrial enterprise and armaments to esoteric topics of pure science. Professions and jobs have

appeared as systems design, systems analysis, and systems engineering, to name but a few.

Systems Thinking

Practicing a discipline is different from emulating a model. New management

innovations are the promising practices of leading firms; however, such a description may do

more harm than good, leading to piecemeal copying and catch-up strategies. Systems thinking is

the fifth discipline because it integrates the other disciplines of a shared vision, mental models,

team learning, and personal mastery, and fuses them into a coherent body of theory and practice.

In systems thinking, the whole can exceed the sum of its parts. A vision without systems thinking

lacks the deep understanding of the forces necessary to move forward.


Systems thinking integrates the disciplines of a shared vision, mental models, team

learning, and personal mastery to realize its potential. Mental models identify shortcomings in

the manner in which people see the world. Team learning develops the skills of people so that

they can look for the representation that lies beyond individual perspectives. Personal mastery

fosters the motivation of people to learn how their actions affect the world. Systems thinking

defines the subtlest aspects of the learning organization, a place where people can discover how

they can create and change their reality.

The Five Disciplines

What distinguishes learning organizations from more traditional organizations is the

mastery of certain basic disciplines, or component technologies. The five disciplines that Senge

(1990) identified as converging in innovative learning organizations are systems thinking,

personal mastery, mental models, a shared vision, and team learning. Senge added that people

are agents who can act upon the structures and systems of which they are a part. He asserted that

all of the disciplines are in this way “concerned with a shift of mind from seeing parts to seeing

wholes, from seeing people as helpless reactors to seeing them as active participants in shaping

their reality, from reacting to the present to creating the future” (p. 69). I will provide a brief

explanation of each discipline later in this document.

One of the key challenges in organizational management is the application of simplistic

frameworks to complex systems. People have tended to focus on the parts rather than on the

whole, and in so doing, they have failed to view the organization as a dynamic process. A better

appreciation of systems may lead to the implementation of more appropriate action. Senge

(1990) asserted, “We learn best from experience but we never directly experience the

consequences of many of our most important decisions” (p. 23). People also have tended to think

that cause and effect are related. However, an appreciation of systems thinking has led people to

recognize the use of, and problems with, such reinforcing feedback. Another key aspect of

systems thinking has been the extent to which it involves delays, or “interruptions in the flow of

influence which make the consequences of actions occur gradually” (Senge, 1990, p. 80).

Along with systems thinking are the other four disciplines mentioned previously. Senge

(1990) viewed a discipline as a series of principles and practices that people study, master, and

integrate into their lives. Senge believed that the five disciplines can be approached at one of

three levels: “Practices: what you do; Principles: guiding ideas and insights; Essences: the state

of being of those with high levels of mastery in the discipline” (p. 373). Each discipline provides

a vital dimension, and each is necessary to the others if organizations are to learn. Following is a

brief description of each discipline:

Personal mastery: Senge (1990) stated, “Organizations learn only through individuals

who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no

organizational learning occurs” (p. 139). He also contended “personal mastery is the discipline of

continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing

patience, and of seeing reality objectively” (p. 7). Personal mastery goes beyond competence and

skills, although it involves them. It also goes beyond spiritual opening, although it involves

spiritual growth. Mastery is a special kind of proficiency. It is not about dominance, but rather

about calling. Vision is vocation rather than just a good idea. Personal mastery can be very

adaptable in the teaching field. Teachers are constantly clarifying personal visions for their

students and focusing on energies by constantly motivating them to learn. Teachers also need to

develop patience when students do not fully grasp the concepts that they are teaching.

Mental models: Senge (1990) asserted that these are “deeply ingrained assumptions,

generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how

we take action” (p. 8). Teachers are always making assumptions about what students should

already know and deducing generalized statements. Teachers understand how to take action

because they know what students need to learn to succeed in the world.

A shared vision: Senge (1990) argued that if any one idea about leadership has inspired

organizations for thousands of years, it is the capacity to have a shared picture of the future. Such

a vision can be uplifting; it can encourage people to experiment and to be innovative. It can

foster a sense of the longer term, something that is fundamental to the fifth discipline, or systems


Senge (1990) also stated:

When there is a genuine vision…, people excel and learn, not because they are told to,
but because they want to. But many leaders have personal visions that never get
translated into shared visions that galvanize an organization….What has been lacking is a
discipline for translating vision into shared vision--not a ‘cookbook’ but a set of
principles and guiding practices….The practice of shared vision involves the skills of
unearthing shared ‘pictures of the future’ that foster genuine commitment and enrollment
rather than compliance. In mastering this discipline, leaders learn the counter-
productiveness of trying to dictate a vision, no matter how heartfelt. (p. 9)

In education, visions extend as the result of the reinforcing process. Increased clarity,

enthusiasm, and commitment positively impact others in the organization. As people

communicate, the vision grows clearer, and as it becomes clearer, people’s enthusiasm for its

benefits grow. There are limits to growth, but by developing the kind of mental models described

earlier, people can significantly improve the functioning of the organization.

Team learning: Senge viewed such learning as “the process of aligning and developing

the capacities of a team to create the results its members truly desire” (p. 236). It builds on

personal mastery and shared vision, but people also need to be able to act together. Senge

suggested that when teams learn together, there are good results for the organization.

Challenges of Initiating Change

Almost 30 years after Bertalanffy’s (1969) first publication, Senge (1999) identified nine

challenges or forces that oppose profound change. He broke them down into three categories:

Challenges of Initiating Change:

Challenge of Control over One’s Time: the challenge of finding enough time to devote to

reflection and practice.

Challenge of Inadequate Coaching, Guidance and Support: the support needed for

innovation within groups and of ultimately developing internal resources for building

capacity to change.

Challenge of Relevance: making a case for change; articulating an appropriate business

focus and showing why new efforts such as developing learning capabilities are relevant

for business goals.

Challenge of Leadership Clarity and Consistency: preventing a mismatch between

behaviors and espoused values, especially for those championing change.

Challenge of Fear and Anxiety: getting beyond the feeling that this is a waste of time or

that things are out of control.

Challenge of negative Assessment of Progress: the lack of connection between the

traditional ways of measuring success, both metrics and time horizon and the

achievement of a pilot group.

Challenge of the Prevailing Governance Structure: the conflict of pilot groups seeking

greater autonomy and managers concerned about greater autonomy leading to chaos and

internal fragmentation.

Challenge of Diffusion: when people cannot easily transfer knowledge across

organizational boundaries, making it difficult to build on each other’s success around the


Challenge of Strategy and Purpose: the challenge of revitalizing and rethinking the

organization’s intended business focus, its contribution to the community and its identity.

(pp. 27-34)

Senge (1999) also stated:

In business today, the work “leader” has become a synonym for top manager. When
people talk about ‘developing leaders’ they mean developing prospective top managers.
When they ask ‘what do the leaders think?’ they are asking about the view of top
managers. There are two problems with this. First, it implies that those who are not in top
management positions are not leaders. They might aspire to ‘become’ leaders, but they do
not ‘get there’ until they reach a senior management position of authority. In education, a
teacher must go through the ranks to become a building administrator and then a district
Second, it leaves us with no real definition of leadership. If leadership is simply a
position in the hierarchy, then, in effect, there is no independent definition of leadership.
We believe, specifically, that leadership actually grows from the capacity to hold creative
tension; the energy generated when people articulate a vision and tell the truth about
current reality. (p. 15)

If top management in organizations has limited power, why do people in organizations

continue to cling to the belief that only the top can drive change? This belief holds the top

management responsible for change. Although that view might be disempowering on one level,

it provides a convenient strategy if the real goal is to preserve the status quo. Only top

management can implement different types of change, such as reorganizing or creating a new

corporate strategy. Senge (1999) asserted, “Leaders are people who ‘walk ahead,’ people

genuinely committed to deep changes in them and in their organization. They naturally influence

others through their credibility, capability, and commitment. And they come in many shapes,

sizes, and positions” (p. 19).


Three Kinds of Power: A Comparative Dimension

In 1961, Etzioni defined power as

An actor’s ability to induce or influence another actor to carry out his directive or any
other norms he supports. In organizations, enforcing the collectivity norms is likely to be
a condition determining the power-holder’s access to the means of power. (p. 5)

People in positions of power regularly have access to the means of that power, for example,

principals have access to school superintendents. Power varies according to the physical,

material, or symbolic means employed to make the subordinates, the educators in the education

system as one example, comply. There are three types of power: normative, coercive, and


Normative power relies on the allocation and manipulation of symbolic rewards and
deprivation through the employment of leaders, the manipulation of the mass media, the
allocation of esteem and prestige symbols, the administration of ritual, and the
distribution of acceptance and positive response. In coercive power, the power rests on
the application or threat of coercion, or on such physical sanctions as the infliction of
pain, deformity, or death. Remunerative power is the control over material resources and
rewards through salaries and wages, commissions and contributions, and fringe benefits.
(Etzioni, 1961, p 5)

Normative Power

Education is a normative power. There are two kinds of normative power. One is based

on the manipulation of esteem, prestige, and ritualistic symbols; the other is based on the

allocation and manipulation of acceptance and positive response. Etzioni (1961) referred to the

first kind as pure normative power and the second as social power. Pure normative power is

more useful to the organization because it follows directly along the hierarchy. Social power

becomes organizational power only when the organization can influence the group’s powers,

such as when a teacher uses the class climate to control a deviant child. Most organizations tend

to emphasize only one means of power and rely less on the other two. Applying force, for

instance, usually results in so much alienation that the successful application of normative power

becomes impossible. This is one of the reasons teachers in progressive schools oppose corporal


Organizations must continually encourage the positive orientation of the participants to

the organizational power if they are to realize their goals. There are three zones along the

involvement continuum: support (high alienation zone), morale (high commitment zone), and

calculative (two mild zones). Controlling lower level participants is much more problematic than

controlling higher level participants because the lower the individuals are in the organizational

hierarchy, the fewer are the rewards that they obtain. Their positions are more deprived, and

organizational activities have less importance to them. Who are the lower level participants?

They can be the employees who reflect different positions on at least three analytical dimensions.

One is the nature of their involvement in the organization; Teachers fall into this category. In

inner-city schools, the clients (i.e., students) designate teachers with alimentative or calculative


Coercive Power

Coercive organizations use coercion to control their lower-level workers, and high

alienation characterizes the orientation of the lower level workers to the organization. These

organizations use force as the major means of control to ensure the fulfillment of tasks. As an

example, teachers would not be able to control many of their students if the organization were to

remove restraints regarding movement in the school. In regard to inner-city schools, the second

major task of the education system, which is a coercive organization, is to discipline the students

through the potential for or the actual use of force. Just as teachers can use coercion to control

the effect of other factors, such as the initial alienation that students bring with them to the

school setting, one also might expect to find higher levels of alienation in organizations whose

management style applies coercion to control the workers.

Utilitarian organizations, or industries, use remuneration as the major way to control

lower-level participants, and calculative involvement characterizes the orientation of lower level

participants (Etzioni, 1961). Industrial organizations can be classified as those whose lower level

participants are predominantly blue-collar workers, white-collar employees, or professionals. Is

education a utilitarian organization? There are two schools of thought on this: Some theorists

have suggested that education is a utilitarian organization, but Etzioni categorized education as a

normative organization because in a normative organization, the process of developing a

normative culture in a school first focuses on the vision of its leaders, and then aids the

community to hone a mission that is understood and relevant at all times to every teacher,

student, and parent. The degree to which this mission is experienced in every program activity

will determine the degree to which a program creates a safe, caring environment that nurtures

growth and, ultimately, academic performance.

Remunerative Power

Remuneration is the predominant way for organizations to control blue-collar workers. It

may not be a fundamental factor in determining their orientation to work in general, or their

choice of a particular line of work, but it is central in their orientation to particular jobs and to the

organization as a control structure. Other factors, including their basic values, degree of

unionization, intrinsic satisfaction from work, prestige and esteem derived from the work, and

some social relations on the job, also influence workers’ job orientation and performance.

White-collar workers such as teachers are predominantly controlled by remunerative means, but

less so than blue-collar workers. Normative controls, although secondary, play a more important

role among white-collar employees. Etzioni (1961) contended that normative organizations are

Organizations in which normative power is the major source of control over lower
participants whose orientation to the organizations is characterized by high commitment.
Leadership, ritual, manipulation of social and prestige symbols and resocialization are
among the more important techniques of control. (p. 40)

The Education System as a Normative Organizational Structure

Although there are only 2 common types of coercive organizations (e.g., prisons and

custodial mental hospitals) and 2 types of utilitarian organizations (e.g., blue-collar and white-

collar industries), there are at least 9 types of normative organizations. Five of these

organizations have a pronounced normative pattern and other patterns that are relatively minor:

religious organizations, including churches, orders, and monasteries; a subcategory of political

organizations, which have a strong ideological program; general hospitals; universities; and

voluntary associations. Less typical in the sense that coercion plays an important secondary role,

are schools, where remuneration plays an important part.

Etzioni (1961) stated:

Educational organizations employ normative controls with coercion as a secondary

source of compliance. Normative controls in schools include manipulation of prestige
symbols such as honors, grades, and citations, personal influence of the teacher “talks”
with the principal, scolding and sarcasm demanding apologies and similar means which
are based on appeals to the student’s moral commitments and on manipulation of the
class or peer group’s climate of opinion. Coercion has declined in significance over the
last decades for modern education de-emphasized “discipline” as a goal and stresses
internalizing of norms. (p. 45)

Normative controls are common in elementary schools. About half of the controls

manifest as censure, which includes scolding, sarcasm, demand for an apology, ridicule, and

similar forms of discipline. Deprivation, another means of control, is normative because it

consists of such symbolic punishments as sending the child to another seat, or sending him or her

to the corner. Verbal appeal, explanation, and coercion are other means of control.

Schools are not voluntary organizations. A gap exists between the activities that would

fulfill teachers’ internalized need dispositions and the activities in which they must participate.

Parents, truant officers, police departments, and other stakeholders coerce children who attend

school; schools make students’ participation in desired activities contingent upon adequate

performance in others. Hence, one might expect to find more alienation in schools than in typical

normative organizations. In most schools, a small minority of students require the large majority

of coercive measures that schools support. Etzioni (1961) found that 60% of the 4,270 teachers

whom Cutts and Mosely queried identified less than 1% of their students as troublemakers.

Vocational schools were a response to disciplinary problems in students who were

alienated from regular high school programs because of their social background and career

prospects. Because vocational schools rarely can accommodate their students’ needs, and

because their function often is more custodial than educational, they experience higher levels of

alienation than do regular schools. Special schools have a high concentration of disciplinary

cases. Coercion plays a more important role in these special schools than in other schools. Some

other schools regularly have police officers on the premises. Within my school district, police

officers patrol the premises of an elementary school; in addition, a special school known as zero

tolerance accepts students who have been suspended numerous times in order to “get their act


Etzioni (1964) suggested that multipurpose organizations tend to be more effective than

single-purpose ones because serving one goal often improves, albeit within limits, the service

rendered to another goal. In addition, multipurpose organizations generally have more

recruitment appeal than single-purpose organizations, in part because multiple services and high

quality often go together. It is difficult to think of many examples of single-purpose

organizations that have more prestige than their multipurpose counterparts.

There are limits to an organization’s ability to meet multipurpose goals. Loss of

effectiveness occurs when all organizations of a specific category are multipurpose. In

professions such as teaching that have a cluster of associated activities, many of the members

prefer to participate in a combination of these activities. Running an organization as a specialized

and essential activity generates problems that may not relate to the professed or original goals of

the organization. The day-to-day behavior of the group then becomes centered on specific

problems and approximate goals that have internal relevance.

Etzioni (1964) commented:

A common succession of goals exists when the service of the old one is highly
unsuccessful leaving the organization to find a new goal to serve if it is to survive. It is
even more common for an organization in such a situation to set additional goals or
expand the scope of their old ones. In doing this, the organization acts to increase the
dedication of its members and encourage the recruitment of new members.
Undergraduate colleges over the last hundred years took on the goal of graduate training,
a goal that is different from their original goal of producing gentlemen who could read
and write and stay out of jail. (p. 13)

An organization’s self-interest may lead not only to secondary goals displacing primary

goals, but also to the organization’s actively seeking new goals or acquiring additional goals.

Many organizations have two or more goals. Some add more goals to the original ones, but many

organizations had more than one goal initially. Many multipurpose organizations tend to serve

each of their goals separately, and all of them together more effectively and efficiently than

single-purpose organizations of the same category.


Etzioni’s (1964) systems model describes the relationships that allow organizations to

operate. There are two major subtypes of systems models. One is the survival model, which

requires that a set of requirements be fulfilled to allow the system to exist. In this model, each

relationship is a prerequisite for the functioning of the system. If one of them is removed, the

system ceases to operate. The second subtype is the effectiveness model, which defines a pattern

of interrelations among the elements of the system that would make it the most effective when

compared to other combinations of the same or similar elements. The survival model does not

record significant changes in organizational operations, but only that the organization is meeting

its basic requirements. The effectiveness model evaluates changes that have occurred in the

organization and their effect on the ability of the organization to serve its goal when compared to

its earlier state or other organizations of its kind.

In classical theory, or scientific management, the workers are perceived as being

motivated by economic rewards, and the organization is characterized by a clearly defined

division of labor between highly specialized personnel and a hierarchy of authority. Out of this

tradition came the characterization of the formal organization. In contrast to classical theory, the

school of human relations emphasized the emotional, unplanned, nonrational elements of

organizational behavior. It identifies the significance of friendship and social groupings of

workers for the organization. It also points out the importance of leadership in the organization

and of emotional communication and participation. From these observations arose the

development of the concept of informal organization.

In the structuralist approach, comparative analysis made a convergence of organizational

theory considerably more sophisticated. The earlier schools of thought focused their attention on

factories and public administration, and it was only later that researchers adapted their use to the

study of other organizations. The scope of the structuralist approach was much broader to begin

with in terms of the kinds of organizations and cultural backgrounds considered.


The organizational systems of Etzioni and the learning organizational changes of Senge

showed how organizations intertwine and how organizational systems can affect the field of

education. I discussed the application to organizations of Bertalanffy’s general systems theory,

along with his principles of open and closed systems. The leadership challenge of this era lies in

addressing core issues for which hierarchical authority is inadequate. Contemporary society is

afflicted with serious problems, including environmental degradation, the decline of community

and family structures, and the deterioration and inequity of the public education system. None of

these problems resulting from the industrialization process is easy to address. The primary agents

of the industrialization process are people and their collective decision-making process, mediated

through the large institutions of the industrial era: corporations, education systems, and

governmental institutions. I believe that these institutions will gradually rediscover how the

natural world operates and will then begin to understand how to reorient institutions to embody

this knowledge.


Annotated Bibliography

Awbrey, S. M. (2004). General education reform and organizational change: Integrating cultural
and structural change. Journal of General Education, 54(1), 1-21.


The role of culture in organizations has fascinated researchers who have studied the life

of the organization as well as the effectiveness of the organization. There is no specific definition

of organizational culture because culture consists of deeply embedded patterns of organizational

behavior and the shared values, assumptions, beliefs, or ideologies of the members about the

organizations or its work. In other words, culture is the way in which the organization’s members

enact their shared perceptions of reality. Organizational culture gives the members a way of

understanding and making sense of events and symbols. Organizational culture is powerful in

guiding organizational behavior.

Learning within organizations has been studied extensively, and researchers have agreed

that there are levels of organizational learning. Change that extends only to the formal

operational level usually is short-lived. Sometimes, change is transformative in that it alters the

structure of the organization and the way in which it is conceptualized by its members. As

members of the organization reach deeper levels of learning, they are more open to self-

examination, and the change they initiate becomes more sustainable because it is embedded in

the culture through dialogue. In this view, culture is not something an organization has; rather, it

is something an organization is. Cultural inquiry helps those involved in reform to recognize that

resistance can also exist as a group phenomenon and that it can operate below the level of

conscious awareness resulting in what is termed organizational defense mechanisms, which can

manifest as rejection, procrastination, indecision, sabotage, and regression.

Critical Analysis

The study conducted by Awbrey provided details regarding the application of the three-

level model to illustrate how academic culture interacts with change initiatives such as general

education reform. Awbrey also illustrated how deeper levels of cultural change may be achieved

by examining the values, beliefs, and assumptions of the reformers as well as their decisions

about general education. The majority of the article discussed the impediment to effective

organizational change and general education reform. Only a small portion of it discussed the

three-level model of change initiatives. More research needs to be implemented to validate the

author’s conclusions.


The article provided a pleasant approach to helping administrators make reforms

and organizational change to general education. Given the nature of organizational culture,

faculty and administrators form a useful picture of institutional culture. This article was based on

decades of research, culminating in one of the most useful models for cultural inquiry. The

model presented in the article showed how academic culture interacts with change initiatives and

encourages reformers to systematically unveil cultural perspectives prior to undertaking any

discussion of structural change. Administrators may benefit from this article, which offered

information on how to undertake cultural inquiry and integrate cultural and structural change

from the outset of a systemic change initiative. Administrators also may be able to analyze

organizational and system change related to education in the inner-city school system.

Bach, S., Kessler, I., & Heron, P. (2007). The consequences of assistant roles in the public
services: Degradation or empowerment? Human Relations, 60(9), 1267-1292.


This article considered how shifts in the division of labor in the context of organizational

change could lead to the empowerment or degradation of workplace roles. Periods of

organizational change provide a significant opportunity to explore issues of degradation and

empowerment. The impact of organizational change on the structure of the workforce has been

particularly apparent in the British public service over the last decade. A central component of

the organizational restructuring of this sector has been alterations in workplace roles, including

an increase in the number and prominence of assistants. To what extent are these outcomes

sensitive to organizational context?

Against such a general backdrop, notions of empowerment and degradation have

emerged as particular characterizations of generic management approaches to work organization

designed to secure employee consent. In analytical terms, the enduring nature of this

organizational dilemma has been apparent in scholarly attempts over the years. The labor

approach to alterations in work organizations has been vulnerable to accusations that it has been

partial in its view of managerial processes. Thus, degradation has been perceived as a

management control strategy at the expense of the relationship between work organization and

the search for managerial control.

The labor process theory has been used to frame debate on developments in work

organizations in the public service. This ipmlies a sense of arrested development, in which

public service managers have only recently adopted management practices. These trends

frequently have been associated with the emergence of new public management. Although there

are a number of variants of new public management, a prominent interpretation equates it with

the application of a form of work organization that undermines professional autonomy and

enhances management control. Successive waves of public service reform have been represented

as enabling a shift to more decentralized organizational structures alongside explicit attempts at

culture change, with employees being granted enhanced autonomy to direct their work and meet

the needs of customers. Outcomes can be considered a work-center dimension related to the

organization of work in terms of the tasks undertaken by the respective groups.

The emergence of the assistant role in the British public service has provided an

opportunity to explore whether and how shifts in the division of labor, particularly within the

context of broader organizational change, lead to the degradation or the empowerment of

workplace roles. This article sought to contribute to related debates in many waysFirstit explored

how the development of a specific role might influence other related occupational groups. This

issue has not been dealt with in a sensitive way by labor process theory, and although touched

upon in the public management literature and more explicitly in the professionalization literature,

has rarely placed the subordinate occupation of assistant at the center of the analysis. The focus

on public service assistants has been considered an effective way to examine the interaction

between roles as the division of labor begins to shift. It is a role typically found alongside that of

the professional, so its development is likely to impact not only assistants but also the adjacent


Second, tghere is a requirement to consider employee and managerial responses to

different control strategies. The percieved failure to fully account for agency has been a persisten

criticism of Braveman’s work, for in most critics, labor process theory provides little or not

contirbution to an understanding of either employee co-operation or restistance. Interest in


agency has been apparent in a focus on the missing subject suggesting that fuller account needs

to be taken of manager and particularly worker perceptions of work organization.

Thired, there is a need for analysis of management control strategies to be more senstive

to context. If such strategies vary, it becomees important to explore the circumstances which lead

to different approaches. In practice, much of the labor process debate has been cast in narrow

terms with a predominant focus on work reorganization in manufacturing. More recentlyk, there

has been recognition of the significance and distintiveness of context.

Critical Analysis

In focusing on the subsector rather than the organizational level, this study highlighted

the influence of structure and institutions rather than agency in shaping outcomes. The

differences between education and social care highlights the path dependent development of

assistant roles and the ways in which institutional infrastructure affects the character and impact

of these roles in their respective subsectors. It has been stressed that social work assistants, for

instance, have long been integral to the social care workforce, with institutionalized expectations

and systems in place to manage their performance management and career development. In

contrast, teaching assistants have been tied more closely to labor’s modernization agenda, with

the new systems designed to provide career opportunities.


This article described the use of organizational change in the division of labor and in the

empowerment of workplace roles. It also showed the impact of organizational change on

workforce structure in the British public service over the last decade. Using this article as a

springboard into education will help the researcher to gain insight into the use of organizational

change in the public sector and offer ideas and opportunities regarding the application of these

changes to the educational system.

Bonner, M., Koch, T., & Langmeyer, D. (2004). Organizational theory applied to school reform.
School Psychology International, 25(4), 455-471.


This article described an experience with organizational change, specifically a school

reform initiative spanning five years. Over the 5-year period, numerous initiatives and strategies

were implemented. These initiatives were aligned with a school strategic plan that focused on the

development of an inclusive school and were consistent with the vision and the expressed goals

and objectives of the district strategic plan. This description that follows is not intended to be

comprehensive, but rather to convey critical events, key among them a focus on a model for

special education service delivery

In the first year of the change process, the school initiated the inclusion of students with

disabilities on a small scale. Children previously educated in specialized educational settings

were included as participating members in the school’s Kindergarten classrooms. The intent was

that this innovation would gradually grow as the children progressed through the system. In the

first year, there was an initiation of service model change. Inclusion of students with signifacant

disabilities in dinergarten began at the school. Open forums occurred to encourage staff

discussion of the changing service. Connections with the University’s Institte on Community

Integration established as a way to use “best practice” resrources to inclusive education.

In the second year, the school expanded its capacity to provide support for all children by

strengthening already existing resources within the building. School-wide staff development

focused upon student-centered decision making. These student-centered decision-making efforts

were aimed at supporting the inclusion of students with disabilities more effectively. The second

year expanded efforts by building-level Inclusion Committee geginnining with an initial forcus

on dissemination of information related to Service Delivery Initiative. A formal definisition of

vision of student-centered decision-making processes that included an emphasis upon parents’

experiences and instructional modification were put into operation.

During the third year, a series of actions further defined and expanded the inclusive

education initiative. Additional staff development continued the emphasis on student-centered

decision making. Staff members engaged in discussions about identifying specific

responsibilities and duties related to students’ instructional needs. The school began to expand its

functional definition of a student support team to include any adult who played a role in a

student’s lif. The third year creatred actions to further define and develop service model concept

of staff development broadened to include a collaborative focus through trainings offered to both

parents and teachers. The school mission statement developed with goals that reflect child-

centered and team collaboration philosophies was developed.

In the fourth year, the leadership promoted and expanded the service delivery model. The

leadership group looked for and encouraged activities that would expand the school’s capacities

to use and sustain this inclusive service delivery model. The model promoted the central role of

the general education classroom. In year four, school-wide efforts continued. Expanded staff

development targeted the support of student diversity and meeting the needs of all learners

through adaptive instruction. School and Community in Partnership (SCIP) was formed that

included a Family Resoource Center and other community agencies to support families.

The fifth year of the change process brought about an opportunity to test the

sustained status of the inclusive education initiative. The school leadership pursued a federal

grant aimed at studying and supporting inclusive education. The leaders actively engaged in

reading, discussing, and applying contemporary change literature from different perspectives, as

evidenced by the preceding descriptive history. In the fifth year, federal grants were funded to

further suppport and study the school-wide inclusive practices that connected with the school’s

broader inclusive refrom efforts. Teacher interviews and support staff surveys occurred in order

to evaluate the service delivery model.

Organizational change is complex, and Bonner et al. found theoretical insight from past

literature in organization development and organizational psychology to be timeless in value.

The goal of sharing their story and lessons from reflective practice was to awaken those

interested in organizational change in schools to the interdisciplinary knowledge that needs to be


Critical Analysis

Organizational change, as manifested by school reform practices, is complex. To help

guide the actions of an individual, Bonner et al. found theoretical insight from past literature in

organization development and organizational psychology to be timeless in value. By sharing the

lessons learned, the researcher hopes to influence the nature of future research and practitioner

reflection in these areas.


This article clearly outlined how to conduct organizational change within a school over a

period of five years. The changes and initiatives were aligned with the school’s strategic plan and

focused on the development of an incisive school that was consistent with the vision and the

goals and objectives of the district’s strategic plan. This article may help administrators to

prepare a strategic plan for organizational changes by following the guidelines in this article.

Boyce, M. E. (2003). Organizational learning is essential to achieving and sustaining a change in

higher education. Innovative Higher Education, 28(2), 119-136.


Knowledge about organizational change in higher education emerges in the intersection

of sociology and organization theory. Research has suggested that continued organizational

learning is essential to sustaining institutional change. Colleges and universities are distinctive

organizations. Weick (1976, 1982) is an organizational theorist whose description of educational

organizations as loosely coupled systems was the starting point for qualtiy research and

discussion about colleges and universities. Theories of open systems (Miller, 1978; Scott, 1981)

provided the background for Weick’s (1982) observations of colleges and universities as social


Weick (1982) suggested that organizational change should be centralized when subunits’

adjustments can have discontinuous long-term effects at considerable expense, and decentralized

when adjustments have continuous abbreviated inexpensive effects. Berquist (1992) asserted that

organizational change is necessary in each of the three domains of institutions: structure, process,

and attitude. Organizational theory provides a lens for theory and research in organizational

theory, strategy, organization change, and organizational learning. Individuals and groups

provide explanations for events from their perspectives, and they construct images of the

organization rather than share a unifying perception of organizational reality. Inquiry and

dialogue enable the members of the organization to examine assumptions and strategies and to

plan, implement, and sustain organizational change. Huff and Huff (2000) developed a four-

stage model of strategic organizational change: ( stage 1) “business as usual,” with incremental

adaptation within an accepted framework; (stage 2) the process of deciding to consider second-

order change; (stage 3) the stage of envisioning second-order change alternatives; and (stage 4)

the honeymoon for a new strategic framework.

Organizational change occurs every day. How, then, is institutional change

sustained? Dialogue has been beneficial in promoting the collective interpretation of meaning in

an organization (Berquist, 1992; Dixon, 1994). Senge (1990) articulated the significance of

dialogue in facilitating organizational change and learning. Action inquiry is an organizational

practice that generates sustained organizational change and learning (Garratt, 1987; Revans,

1977, 1982). The action learning literature spans higher education and business organizations.

The literature reviewed here made an explicit connection between organizational learning

and organizational change. It suggested that continued learning is necessary to sustain change.

These ideas have provoked a focus on organizational learning that used to organizational

learning that is social, cognitive, and structural. Researchers look for organizational learning

mechanisms that can be embedded in a learning culturethat seem peripheral to institutional

change in higher education.Organizational change and organizational learning are inextricably


Critical Analysis

The literature has demonstrated that organizational change and organizational learning

are linked. The challenge of successful change is less in the planning and implementation and

more in the development and sustaining of new ways of seeing, deciding, and acting. Successful

change is about learning collectively so that institutional consequences, outcomes, and inquiry

change. Sustaining change in higher education is dependent upon sustaining the conditions of

learning in an institution. In short, those in higher education who are committed to successful

institutional change should be rigorous in inquiry, skillful in dialogue, and fearless in examining

the institution in the context of its environment.



This article pointed out that organizational change often is temporary or unsuccessful.

Here one can see a connection between education and the second law of thermodynamics by

relating the idea of entropy to organizational change. Entropy relates to a measure of energy in a

system tha is unavailable to do work. a connection to the second law of thermodynamics?. This

literature review of organizational change in higher education explored research in higher

education, sociology, and organizational studies, focusing on the problem of sustaining

successful change. Indicators of successful change were distilled from the recent research.

Establishing conditions for continued organizational learning in a college or university was

identified as an essential aspect of sustaining successful organizational change. More research

needs to be conducted on the application of the open systems theory to higher education.

Eyal, O., & Kark, R. (2004). How do transformational leaders transform organizations? A study
of the relationship between leadership and entrepreneurship. Leadership and Policy in
School, 3(3), 211-235.


This article studied the relationship between different leadership styles and alternative

entrepreneurial strategies in the not-for-profit public school system Organizations including

schools are functioning in a highly competitive global environment that is characterized by

rapidly changing technologies. The increase in complexity and competitiveness, the paucity of

resources, and the need for continual change in nonprofit and for-profit organizations have made

entrepreneurship a vital asset for organizational growth (Damanapour, 1991; Howell & Higgins,

1990). Corporate entrepreneurship has been recognized as an organization-level phenomenon.

Entrepreneurship is an organization’s constant tendency to initiate and implement radical

innovations in its internal and external environments including relationships with customers,

stkeholders, suppliers, partners and collaborators. Entrepreneurship should be examined in terms

of the internal and external organizational environments (Baron, 2002; Caruana, Ewing, &

Ramaseshan, 2002)

There is a significant relationship among leadership, organizational change, and

entrepreneurship. Transformational leaders are, according to Conger and Kamungo (1998),

entrepreneurial and organizational-change oriented by nature. Transformational leadership also

has been linked to the promotion of change and innovation in organizations. One could argue

that transformational leadership is associated with a basic component of corporate

entrepreneurship mentioned in the research: organizational innovativeness. Individual acts within

a complex organizational framework facilitate or limit the actions of the members of the

organization. Entrepreneurship is regarded as an organizational phenomenon. Although a

multidimensional conception of organizational entrepreneurship has been used in earlier

research, measurements usually have been unidimensional.

Howell and Higgins (1990) described organizational champions as entrepreneurs who use

informal organizational mechanisms to garner support for innovations. While doing so, Howell

and Higgins related the concept of transformational leadership to the literature on organizational

champions, suggesting that organizational champions support and advance innovations at the

price of confronting obstacles presented by organizational officials (Shane, 1994).

Organizational champions function as transformational leaders, developing a clear

organizational vision that may be used in order to discover opportunities. Government efforts to

control schooling and school reliance on public funds, as a structural arrangement, have made

schools slow-changing organizations. In this framework, schools are considered conservative

organizations that retain their basic characteristics across time, place, and culture (Drucker,

1985; Weick, 1976). Their patterns have been established and legitimized, and they are known to

represent the most efficient way of organizing education (Cuban, 1984).

Critical Analysis

The results that Eyal and Kark found may bridge the gap between the literature on

transformational leadership and the entrepreneurship literature. These results also may shed light

on the processes by which transformational leaders achieve superior results as the agents of

change capable of transforming schools. Future research would enhance the research-based

knowledge presented in this study by showing that transformational leadership sets the most

favorable managerial circumstances for organizational entrepreneurial activisism. Examng the

impact of leadership style on the components of entrepreneurship against the backdrop of other

contextual factors might affect these variables, such as environmental hostility, competitiveness,

and uncertainty. More research is needed to understand the relationship between the social

capital of leaders and their organizational power and ability to use certain entrepreneurial

strategies. This issue is significant because social capital can facilitate the identification of

opportunities and attainment of goals. It is important that future research examine the

relationships between the different entrepreneurial strategies and various organizational

outcomes because the leaders’ use of the different strategies identified in this study may have a

major effect on the functioning of the organization and its outcomes.


This article focused on the organizational strategies necessary to compete in a

global environment that is being bombarded by rapidly changing technologies. Educational

leaders can use the model of entrepreneurship to facilitate the process of making necessary

changes within the school environment. Entrepreneurship will allow the educational leader to

initiate innovations in the internal and external environment. Eyal and Kark’s findings on the

relationship between passive-avoidant leadership and entrepreneurship mirrored the results for

the relationship between transformational leadership and entrepreneurship. The relationship

between each component and the leadership styles showed that although the passive-avoidant

leadership style is negatively related to principal proactive and organizational innovativeness, its

negative relationship with principal proactivity is greater. Entrepreneurship should be considered

as long as it is used to advance pupils’ welfare and promote their well-being. The conceptual

framework developed in Eyal and Kark’s study may be a meaningful and effective tool that may

be used by school leaders in developing, actualizing, and assessing school entrepreneurship in

order to contribute to better schooling and education.

Gleibs, I. H., Mummenday, A., & Noack, P. (2008). Predictors of change in postmerger
identification during a merger process: A longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 95(5), 1095-1112.


This study replicated and extended past results by revealing predictors of change in

organizational identification for members of the dominant and subordinate organizations

throughout a merger process. Merging is a strategy designed to increase competitiveness, reduce

costs, create synergy, and meet changing financial and demographic challenges. Given the

prevalence of organizational mergers and their relatively low success rate, it is important to

understand what makes a merger succeed or fail. Problems regarding mergers’ success or failure

often are ascribed to resistance to change by the organization’s members who are involved in the

merger. Aside from identifying the factors describing individual reactions to a merger, one can

understand the organizational members’ reactions by focusing on the processes arising at the

group level and by considering mergers as an intergroup situation. Problems may arise because

the members perceive intergroup differences or conflicting corporate identities within the new

organization. By adopting an intergroup perspective on organizational mergers, one can focus on

identification processes and apply a social identity approach.

Social identification is related to the individual’s role in an organizational setting in

affecting attitudes toward the organization, commitment to the organization, and support for the

organization. Only a few mergers are mergers of equals. Usually, one merger partner is the

dominant, or the acquiring force. The dominant merger partner might seek to assimilate the other

organization and impose its own premerger identity on the newly merged organization. This

situation was applicable to the merger discussed here, and one can examine specific patterns of

reactions toward change according to organizational dominance in the merger. This article

examined the patterns of change in postmerger identification among organizational members of

the dominant and subordinate merger partners through a merger process. An analysis also was

conducted to determine if these associations change over time and if the patterns are different for

organizational members of the dominant merger partner compared to members of the subordinate

merger partner.

Critical Analysis

This study was restricted to one particular merger process and a student sample. On the

one hand, the specific sample could be seen as a limitation. Gleibs, Mummenday, and Noack

acknowledged that employee or staff reactions toward a merger might be different. The

organizational members who are more directly involved are expected to identify more strongly

with their previous organization and experience additional threats and uncertainty. Staff

members might be confronted with the fear of job loss, restructuring of the organization’s

workflow, and a new senior management level. Academic staff might experience changes in

terms of various roles and in administration, research, and teaching.


Educational leaders should consider conducting future studies designed in such a way

that the reactions of students and staff are assessed simultaneously, thus focusing on how

students are different from staff. It is important to acknowledge the potential differences between

staff and student samples. Additionally, further studies should be conducted in such a way that

they provide a basis for autoregressive laatent trajectory models to answer complex questions

about stability and change as well as growth. Thus, a sufficient sample size and four to five

measurement points would be advisable as well as further improvements reducing drop out to a

minimum. This leads to another important point for future research. Because the present study

was conducted within only one merger stage, it might me interesting to conduct a study over

several merger stages, preferably with a premerger measurement point and a follo-up study

taking place a considerable amount of time after the merger implementation. Leaders also can

apply further studies as the basis for latent trajectory models to answer complex questions about

stability and change as well as growth. Thus, a sufficient sample size and further improvements

Harris, A. (2005). Leading from the chalk-face: An overview of school leadership. Leadership,
1(1), 73-87.


This article was an overview of the main theoretical perspectives into the relationship

between leadership practice and organizational change. The purpose of the study was to

determine what type of leadership promotes positive organizational change and improvement..

Evers and Lakomski (2001) questioned whether leadership--as a distinct concept within

organizational change--is meaningful. Evers and Lakomski argued that leadership as traditionally

conceived is of little help in explaining change in organizations. Harris proposed that a more

productive approach is to develop further the current models of the learning organization and

introduce a new theory of organization learning and practice.

In the last two decades, there has been an increasing emphasis on the link between

leadership and organizational culture (Dalin, 1996). Leithwood and Gouis (1999) argued that

leaders have the potential to alter the cultural context in which people work; that is, leaders can

affect the commitment and capacity of the organization’s members. Sergiovanni (2001) stated

that in organizational leadership, leaders and followers are united in pursuit of higher level goals

that are common to both. Bass (1997) defined organizational leadership as an amalgam of

charisma, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. Burns (1978) described

transformational leadership as being concerned with the exploration of conventional

relationships and organization understandings such that the leaders and the followers encourage

one another to higher level of motivation and morality. Distributed leadership means multiple

sources of guidance and direction, following the contours of expertise in an organization, made

coherent through a common culture. Distributed Leadership is where leadership and

organizational growth collide and is dispersed.

A questions need to be answered.First, relatively little is known about the relationship

between leadership and long-term organizational change. The kinds of leadership required in

sustaining school development and improvement over time remains in question. Also, how

leadership is affected by cycles of organizational change remains unexplored. Research has

suggested that different stages of organizational change require different forms of leadership

(Hopkins, Harris, & Jackson, 1997). The new organizational groupings of collaboration,

partnership, and networking among schools will mean new and potentially different forms of

leadership practice. Distributed leadership theory in its analytical and normative forms offers a

powerful and alternative way of exploring and understanding the relationship between leadership

and organizational change.

Critical Analysis

This overview highlighted the main theoretical perspectives on school leadership

that are currently influencing and shaping policy, practice, and research. Although the school

leadership literature is vast and increasing, its empirical base remains underdeveloped. Whether

and how leadership is affected by cycles of organizational development and change remains

another under-explored area.

Honig, M. I. (2003). Crafting coherence: How schools strategically manage multiple, external
demands. Educational Researcher, 33(8), 16-30.


Schools thrive when they implement multiple organizational changes because each

external demand brings additional resources. A point of view was taken on the institutional

studies of organizational-environmental relationships and learning. Organizations that

strategically manage their external demands develop internal simplification systems that enable

them to draw resources from their external environments without becoming overwhelmed with

the complexity of information requirements and other features of a resource-rich environment

(March, 1994). Simplification systems also help organizational systems understand how to use

external demands in ways that advance organizational production. Such systems operate on more

than one organizational level. On an organizational level, simplification systems provide rules

and decision frames that help organizational actors such as teachers and principals translate

complex problems into manageable forms. On an organizational level, simplification systems


provide a set of familiar and tangible activities that give concrete form to ambitious complex

reform approaches. These systems guide organizational actors’ choices about day-to-day

activities and provide the basis for organizational change.

Organizations survive and increase production and efficiency when the organizational

actors are able to adjust those goals and strategies as they receive feedback on performance and

as environmental demands change. Literature on organizational relationships traditionally has

suggested that schools, as subordinate or highly dependent organizations in hierarchical systems,

should be expected to operate as relatively passive agents of their environments. Organizations

can and do play more active roles in using external demands to advance their own goals and

strategies (Oliver, 1991). Research on the diffusion of innovations has suggested that

organizations influence external demands by acting on them early. Organizations bridge their

external demands in several ways. For example, on the high end, they pull the environment in by

incorporating members of external organizations into their own organizational structures. By

“capturing” those individuals who are exerting external pressure, organizations blur the boundary

between “organization” and environment, heighten interactions between the two, and increase

opportunities to use external demands to advance internal goals and strategies.

In conclusion, one must start from the premise that at a minimum, such strict

central-office support roles involve new forms of information management, specifically that

central offices will not support schools’ goals and strategy-setting process unless they have

information about the schools’. Organizational learning theory provides an initial set of concepts

consistent with such environmental supports. How school district central offices manage to

participate in these activities in ways that help schools establish and use goals and strategies

productively is an important arena for future research.


Critical Analysis

This article drew upon theoretical and empirical research relevant to but outside

the education sector. The activities presented in this article that were derived primarily from the

experience of private firms also apply to public sector organizations such as schools and school

district central offices. The author demonstrated how these activities play out in the school

context; in particular, under what conditions do schools develop and use school-wide goals and

strategies as simplification devices? When schools and school district central offices engage in

the activities presented here, there is an impact on school management, teaching, and other

outcomes often considered in studies of policy coherence.


This article has several implications for policy and practice. First, policy efforts

and public and private investments in policy coherence typically have focused in part on the

objective alignment of particular components of schooling. Second, the definition of coherence,

including its activities, capacity, and conditions, requires confirmation from direct empirical

studies of the relationship between these aspects of crafting coherence and improved school

performance. Neither schools nor school districts acting alone will be able to remedy the effects

of multiple external demands; accordingly, district central-office administrators and schools

might choose to explore new relationships that support schools’ goals and strategy-setting


Kelehear, Z. ( 2003). Mentoring the organization: Helping principals bring schools to higher
levels of effectiveness. NASSP Bulletin, 87(637), 35-47.


Fullan (1993, 2001a); Patterson (1993, 1997); and Sarason (1993, 1996) made some of

the more compelling arguments that for authentic and significant systemic change in

organizations, leaders can anticipate at least a 3- to 5-year effort. Given that the average tenure of

today’s superintendents is two to three years, it is no wonder that schools have difficulty

maintaining change initiatives. Supporting change in schools is fraught with many challenges

and obstacles. There is a way, however, to improve the change for success. This effort is called

mentoring the organization. One assumes that the organization--that is, the school--is a living

organism of many individuals who make contributions to, as well as demands on the general

health of the group. All the individuals have forces bearing on them that foster the way they view

the world at that moment in time and for that given situation or event. Organizations, as

collections of individuals, encounter similar phases of change. Organizations, however, require

more time and effort than individuals to change because they comprise individuals who are

working at a continuum of conceptual levels.

The role of stress in change and the resulting frustration associated with those transitions

necessarily affects an individual’s capacity to manage change. By extension, organizations

undergoing change will manage change inversely in relation to the lack of stability present. Each

time that adults encounter something new, they go through a process called equilibration (Piaget,

1967, 1972), which describes the force for arriving at an adjustment to a new experience or

learning. This adjustment comes in the form of either assimilating or accommodating a new

event. In the second law of thermodynamics, this process would be a form of entropy. The

second law states that entroopy is an isolated system always increasing and that when two

systems are joined together, the entropy of the combined system is greater than the sum of the

entropies of the individual systems. Undergoing change results in entropy If the new encounter is

similar to an earlier event in an adult’s life, then it can be assimilated to an existing

understanding. With the research on stages of concern, conceptual levels and equilibration as a

foundation, it is possible to see the change process for organizations in a new light.

One of the criticisms against mentoring the organization is that principals

have little time to adjust projects and plans to individual needs. There is just too much going on

in the principal’s world.

Critical Analysis

In order for leadership to orchestrate the management of innovation, that same leadership

must be functioning at a certain conceptual level. In order to be in touch with the needs of others,

to tolerate the ambiguities of human processing, and to listen to the concerns of others and the

myriad other requirements of effective leadership, the mentoring principal needs to function at a

high level. Conversely, the demands of school leadership are likely to require that all leaders

function at the same level at some time or another. School leadership needs to exist with a clear

visionBecause the tenure of superintendents is so short and anticipated change is great, it is very

difficult to determine the results of organizational change initiatives. The idea of mentoring the

organization may help to lengthen the amount of time allotted for organizational change to occur.


The focus of this research was mentoring the organization. The key to mentoring

an organization through the change process can be narrowly defined as the leader’s ability to

balance any given situation. The way to know the appropriate balance is in understanding the

workforce’s current stage of concern and conceptual level. In coupling the research on

organizational change with mentoring, organizational mentoring offers leaders a prescriptive

model that captures the power of the group, but does not lose touch with the individuals who are

the essence of that group.


Koliba, C. J., & Lathrop, J. (2007). Inquiry as intervention: Employing action research to surface
intersubjective theories-in-use and support an organization’s capacity to learn.
Administration & Society, 39(1), 51-76.


Those involved in Koliba and Lathrop’s (2007) case study provided the reader with an important

example of the possible relationship that can be developed between action research and

organizational learning. The action research process, beginning with the early stages of

negotiating entry to the construction of interview questions, to the interviews and analysis,

ultimately led the organizational actors to approach their everyday assumptions about the

organizational reality in a more rigorous fashion. Each organizational themerepresented in the

thematic report provided a snapshot of some aspect of the school’s intersubjective theories in

use. “The more complex the problem and the greater the number of value perspectives brought to

bear, the greater was the need for localized solutions for value innovations, both of which call for

broad-based participation in the decision-making process” (Korton, 2001, as cited in Koliba &

Lathrop, 2007, p. 485).

A series of other actions were undertaken within the school over the course of the next

two years. Some of these actions were ascribed directly to the action research process. Other

actions were indirectly related to the process. Organizational life in general is made up of a series

of many actions, the overwhelming majority of which would have occurred whether the action

research process was undertaken, or not. The action research process supports an intervention

involving the researchers as organizational consultants.

It is certain that public schools are substantially different from other organizational

settings. In many respects, schools are complex public organizations with more diverse

constituencies and more ambiguous objectives than other organizations. Regardless of these

differences, the lessons learned from the analysis of this school can be extrapolated to other

organizational settings. Within the organizational themes are universal issues relating to

supervision and employee motivation, the place and purpose of the organizational mission, and

the importance of communication in the pursuit of collective action. This action research design

provided an example of how social science can aid in transforming private challenges into public

issues that can inform how an organization can learn something about itself and then use this

learning to transform itself.

Critical Analysis

The case study of this action research process provides us with an important

example of the possible relationship that can be developed between action research and

organizational learning. By focusing on methodological rigor, triangulation, and feedback to

improve validity, and by paying careful attention to the construction of intersubjective themes

relating to the school’s theories-in-use, we have responded to the author’s call for more examples

of the ways in which individual learning can be translated into organizational learning.


The action research process at the school in this article was not tied to any long-

term external support for organizational change. Koliba and Lathrop (2007) suggested that

situating the action research process within a wider school renewal initiative that includes the

action research process as the first stage of structured intervention. The action research process

may help to identify the best intervention tools to be used, given the challenges facing the

organization. Some of these tools include staff retreats, strategic planning, professional

development opportunities, and organizational change coaches.

Maninger, R. M., & Powell, D. (2007). The Lincoln middle school paradigm shift. Journal of
Cases in Educational Leadership, 10(1), 22-31.


Graduate students in educational administration presented this case study for use. The

goal was to further the students’ ability to deal with organizational change. One of the primary

roles of the building principal is to be the instructional leader and to create a school climate that

is conducive to learning. The school district designed for this program is in a large urban school

system serving more than 80,000 students. The population of the city is ethnically diverse but

has become more and more segregated within itself. The city prides itself on its country appeal,

even though its population is rapidly growing. This school district is suffering from the same

problems of similar districts in size, namely, below-standard test scores, a decline in the

attendance rate, and a rise in the dropout rate. This case provided a contemporary look at the

complexities of organizational change and the challenges faced by a new middle school principal

in this shifting social context. The case also offered an in-depth look at the challenges facing an

administrative team while it attempts to bring about improvement in state-mandated testing


The instructor of an educational administration class may choose one of several

approaches for the practical application of this case study. He or she might consider a case study

discussion approach, which could include a homework assignment of reading this case study

along with other selected articles, plus other works that discuss dealing with organizational

changes in schools, teacher supervision, relationship development, and the building of a strong

administrative team. One also may consider brainstorming possible solutions to questions listed

below. The following questions in organizational change may be used as a springboard to engage

students in discussion: (a) If you were the principal, what would you do? What could you do to

ensure the best possible learning atmosphere for the students? (b) Based on the literature, what

do cultures of effective schools look like? What could you do as the principal to create positive

organizational change within the culture of your school? (c)The literature has suggested that

organizational change is the most productive when key stakeholders are involved in defining the

vision. What factors must be addressed before organizational change can become a possibility?

and (d) If you were the principal, what specific tasks would you be willing to delegate within this

organizational change of culture to become a campus that is effective? What kind of chain-of-

command issues might arise from the delegation of these items, and how would you address


Critical Analysis

This case was a contemporary look at the complexities of organizational change

and the challenges faced by a new middle school principal in this shifting social context. The

case also offered an in-depth look at the challenges that face an administrative team while it

attempts to bring about improvements in state-mandated testing scores. After all, the principal

must create an environment where students and teachers continually grow and learn together.

Where principals are effective instructional leaders, student achievement escalates.


This article may help to guide an instructor of higher education in teaching future

administrators how to deal with culture changes in school, teacher supervision, relationship

development, and the building of a strong administrative team. The instructor could then focus

on the scenario given in the article and offer pertinent questions to evoke intelligent discussion.

Masci, F. J., Cuddapah, J., & Pajak, E. F. (2008). Becoming an agent of stability: Keeping your
school in balance during the perfect storm. American Secondary Education, 36(2), 57-68.


Over recent decades, education has had to respond to major mandates and policy changes at

the local and national levels. This article examined ways in which secondary principals can

mediate organizational change by serving as agents of stability and change. As a strategy for

self-preservation, it is not unusual for some educators to become cynical about the efficacy of

change and to simply wait for the latest fad to pass. Because of the extensiveness, rapid pace, and

relentlessness of educational change, a certain cynicism and resistance to organizational change

has developed among many teachers. Suspicion of innovation and organizational change can

originate deep within the perception of our self-efficacy and ourselves. Wagner (2001) proposed

that teachers tend to resist organizational change for three reasons: 1) risk aversion, 2) craft

expertise, and 3) autonomy/isolation.

Those promoting organizational change may simply want to improve things; that is, they

may want to help people within the school organization perform their work better, smarter, or

faster. Organizational change denotes improvement while signaling that something is wrong. It is

no wonder that organizational change often is met with resistance. Decades of relentless and

poorly conceived innovation have eroded educator confidence in the organizational change

process. Organizational change in itself does not imply progress, nor is organizational change for

the sake of change a worthwhile pursuit. If there is one lesson to be learned from change, it is

that the people who are the most affected by the proposed organizational change must be

consulted, included, and nurtured throughout the change process.

When a school contemplates change or responds to the district’s demand for change,

Masci, Cuddapah and Pajak asked, “What is worth preserving?” These two considerations,

namely, the needs of people and the need to retain what is working, are chief components in the

pursuit of stability In the second law of thermodynamics, it states that if left to themselves.

Things tend towards increased entropy. Everything affects everything else. Thermodyanmics

also states that if strong enough, systems can partially reverse the apparently inexorable process

of disorder posited in the second law of thermodynamics. In fact, there are cases where

thermodynamics has shown the opposite processes of disorder that comes with entropy-

spontaneous self-organization and growth. After all, if the members of an organization are given

some familiar touchstones, they are more likely to venture into the arena of change without fear

of being bloodied by it. There is no need to choose between organizational change and stability;

a school needs a balance of both to function well. It is important for principals to facilitate

stability by responding to changing conditions by providing predictability and attending to

continuity. People need a degree of stability to retain a sense of meaning and purpose that allows

them to do their jobs well while retaining the capacity for organizational change when it is

needed. Organizational change and stability are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are part of

the same process

Critical Analysis

Change in and of itself does not imply progress, nor is change for the sake of

change a worthwhile pursuit. Some notions about change, such as the call for continuous

improvement, can result in a relentless climate of uncertainty, a burnout of enthusiasm, conflict,

and a loss of motivation.


This article asserted that change and stability are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are

part of the same process. Changes in instruction, roles, and norms that govern behavior need time

to be internalized by individuals and integrated into the organization if they are to take hold and

make a difference. Principals should remember that while many organizations may thrive on

chaos, teachers, students, and learning require and thrive on a measure of predictability and

routine as well as variety. The results of this research indicate that schools must weather the

influence of technological, political, and economic factors that threaten or enhance them, and

that the principal and staff members of a school must determine the course of action that will

benefit the students they serve.

Murphy, J. (2006). The 2006 Willower family lecture: The evolving nature of the American high
school: A punctuated equilibrium model of institutional change. Leadership and Policy
in Schools, 5, 285-324.


Using a long lens on the development and growth of the American high school as well as

an especially robust theory of organizational change, Murphy revealed how the evolution of the

high school has been punctuated twice since its formative design was established in the 1800s,

each time recreating our understanding of secondary education. The author highlighted the

reality that “structural inertia is a property of all organizational forms” (Haveman, 1992, as cited

in Murphy, p. 50). Using the frame of organizational evolution, Murphy maintains that the

American high school is in the midst of a second major revolution.

Murphy found that Tushman and Romannelli’s (1985) punctuated equilibrium

model of organizational evolution provided the best fit for the historical data assembled. Over

the last half century, scholars have invested considerable energy in the quest to uncover answers

to the question of how industries and organizations evolve. In the mid-1980s, in an effort to bring

coherence to what were often viewed as competing and contradictory lines of explanation,

Tushman and Romannelli crafted their seminal theory of organizational evolution, namely, the

punctuated equilibrium model of organizational changeThey hypothesized that organizations


progress through convergent periods punctuated by reorientations that demark and set the

bearings for the next convergent period.

According to organizational evolution, the central mechanism of evolutionary change is

shock (Haveman, 1992). Tushman and Romannelli (1985) maintained that shock from the

environment can be addressed either through anticipatory actions or skilled work after impact

and that the internal dimensions of the organization can be brought into alignment with the new

or coming environmental context. Effective organizations have strategic orientations that

correspond to environmental demands. Tushman and Romannelli were careful to note that

organizations also may select approaches to reorientation that are inconsistent with

environmental pressures; that is, they may demonstrate “maladaptive tendencies” (Stow,

Sanderlands, & Dutton, 1981, p. 501).

Murphy discussed the complete history of the American high school from its inception in

Boston in the 1640s to the present day. In his conclusion, Murphy highlighted the two

frameworks he explored in the issue of change in the American high school: (a) a longitudinal,

historical analysis of the formation and development of secondary education, and (b) the

punctuated equilibrium model of organizational change. He found that high schools are generally

resistant to and able to deflect and accommodate reform efforts during the times when previously

turbulent economic, political, and social environment have cooled and activity domains have

hardened. Organizational change depends on major and overlapping strands of environmental


Critical Analysis

Murphy employed two frameworks to explore the issue of change in the

American high school: (a) a longitudinal historical analysis of the formation and development of

secondary education, and (b) the punctuated equilibrium model of organizational change. What

was particularly interesting is that there is truth in both understandings and that much of the

explanation rests in where and when one looks at the phenomenon known as the American high

school. Murphy concluded that No matter how hard reformers hammer secondary education

during these periods of convergence, change occurs on the margins, if at all.


Change depends on major and overlapping strands of environmental pressures. In

the last two centuries, these conditions have appeared twice. Murphy brought to the reader an

historical recreation of the American high school and how it has changed through the years. This

article may help current leaders understand where the American high school has been, where it is

now, and where it is heading. With proper guidance and leadership, the American high school

can produce students needed in academia and the workforce.

Stollar, S. A., Poth, R. L., Curtis, M. J., & Cohen, R. M. (2006). Collaborative strategic planning
as illustration of the principles of systems change. School Psychology Review, 35(2), 181-


This article described a collaborative strategic planning model grounded in understanding

schools as systems and guided by principles of organizational change. There is a need for

familiarity with relevant evidence-based practices and an understanding of the systems change

principles needed to facilitate accommodations of those practices in a specific school culture

(Carnine, 1999). The application of systems theory and organizational change principles to

schools has been explored with increasing frequency in the literature in recent years, and what is

known about essential elements in effective change efforts also has grown. The literature has

indicated that school organizational change efforts may be more likely to fail when there is no

visionary leader, when consultation is provided by an external expert who leaves the consultant

system when the innovation is not well matched to the culture of the agency or school, or when

school personnel are not concerned with the problem that the school change is intended to


The failure of school organizational change efforts also may result from the absence of

systemic support from persons in key leadership positions and policymakers. If an initiative is

not followed by continuous communication, ongoing training, on-site coaching, and time for

implementation, it is not likely to succeed. This article was meant to help school psychologists,

educators, and other child-serving professionals who are or wish to be active in bringing about

system-level organizational change in the schools with which they work.

To facilitate this endeavor, Stollar, Poth, Curtis, and Cohen summarized the foundations

of systems change literature, provide an overview of a team-based approach that uses a

collaborative planning and problem-solving process to address system-level issues, and present

an explanation and example of the two stages of problem solving within the model. Stollar et al.

reviewed school system requirements in the form of key features for use of the model and

identify the skills required of school psychologists, educators, and other child-serving

professionals to engage with others in use of this model to implement educational innovations. In

other words, one must be familiar with relevant evidence-based practices and have an

understanding of the systems change principles needed to accommodate those practices in a

specific school culture.

Critical Analysis

The model presented in this article is available to support schools that wish to apply these

advancements in problem solving. The challenge, however, remains to implement the model in a

system that is already operating within a broader service delivery system. School psychologists,

educators, and other child-serving professionals who are equipped with the knowledge of

measurement assessment and intervention are best suited for the job of initiating and

implementing this impending systems change. Because this is a daunting task, this article offered

a few recommendations. One was that being knowledgeable of systems change and the most

recent federal and state legislation is essential. The second recommendation was that school-

focused psychologists and educators with expertise in systems change should guide planning

teams through the steps of the systems analysis mentioned in the article. The last

recommendation was that school-based planning teams should seek help from local and state

consultants or university faculty who are involved in problem solving.


One challenge for those implementing systems change models is to put it into practice at

regional, state, and national levels. More research is needed to identify the models of training and

technical assistance that will make this possible. Focusing systems change efforts at the district

level rather than school level is appealing, but additional research is needed to determine the

most effective processes and tools. Future research could focus on the consultant knowledge and

behaviors that facilitate district-level support of individual school buildings and the linking of

system-level variables such as flexible use of resources and student learning outcomes.

Vaira, M. (2004). Globalization and higher education organizational change: A framework for
analysis. Higher Education, 48, 483-510.


The major aim of this article was to outline a theoretical framework to address higher

education and organizational change in a globalized age. This article described the trends

characterizing the global landscape and their relationship to higher education policies and

institutions. In terms of organizational change, the debate focuses on isomorphic change versus

idiosyncratic strategic responses, translation processes, and heterogeneity. Both grasp a part of

the truth, but they tend to offer mutually exclusive explanations of responses to wider

institutional processes and pressures.

Vaira focused on higher educational institutions’ organizational change, triggered by

globalizing pressures and conditions.Organziational change is a theoretical attempt to outline a

framework of analysis to account for homogenization and heterogeneity based on the concept of

organizational allmorphism. This concept synthesizes and blends the isomorphic pressures

produced by globalization processes and the local responses to them, thereby blunting the mutual

exclusivity of both. The globalization’s meta-myth could be conceived as a collection of

rationalized myths characterizing the world polity. These core features and the content of these

myths could be synthesized by a single point, namely, that the trend toward a more

entrepreneurial and managerialistic pattern of organizational change is tightly coupled with the

minimalist state..

Globalization is deeply affecting higher education. The tasks for institutions of higher

education have changed dramatically in the last 20 years. The changes in the world polity toward

the neoliberalist and post-Fordistparadigms have had momentous effects on the global higher

education sector. Higher education is asserting a structure of governance based on steering at

distance and assessment that is linked to letting institutions of higher education have more

institutional, organizational autonomy. These institutions are experiencing a deep institutional

change in their task environment triggered by globalization process. This process is giving rise to

a world economy and world polity structures that are redefining institutional and organizational


Critical Analysis

The outlined theoretical framework was aimed at addressing and analyzing higher

education organizational change in the global age. Vaira claimed that organizational change is

triggered by globalizing pressures and conditions. Vaira suggested that there are only two limited

examples of how the concepts of organization allomorphism could be applied to address

contemporary higher educational change dynamics and outcomes, globalization and

organization. Other examples could be drawn from international comparison on how disciplines

are getting restratified on the bassis of the new global demands and imperatives; how curricula

restructruring follow almost the same pattern in different countries and institutions; how the

academic work, carrier and identity are reshaped by global processes of change.


The aim of this article was to outline a theoretical framework to address higher education

organizational change in a globalized and globalizing age. Vaira’s article may help the reader to

understand the trends characterizing the global landscape and their relationship to higher

education policies and institutions. The impact of these established trends on higher education

institutions is, to some large extent, ambiguous and open to diverse interpretations. The two main

points that this article made about globalization outcomes are 1) the convergence thesis, which

emphasizes the homogenization processes, and 2) the divergence thesis, which emphasizes

different pluralistic and localized responses to globalization processes. It is possible to identify a

common set of institutionalized patterns, or institutional archetypes, which structure the

organizational arrangements and behaviors.


Literature Review Essay

School as a System

Mandates through legislative changes for increased student outcome accountability have

intensified the demands for meaningful school reform and greater emphasis on empirically based

practices. Whether or not an innovation is implemented and sustained is more often related to

features of the school as a system than to features of the innovation. Tollar and Poth (2006)

described a collaborative strategic planning model that is grounded in understanding schools as

systems that are guided by the principles of organizational change.

The most recent reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB; U.S.

Department of Education [USDOE], 2001) mandated that schools must provide not only equal

educational opportunities but also a high-quality education for all students, including those with

disabilities. To demonstrate that a high-quality education is provided, schools must establish a

time line of benchmarks demonstrating that 100% of their students are making adequate yearly

progress in academic subjects by 2014, as measured by statewide achievement tests. For those

who have long advocated for the merger of regular and special education service systems,

legislative policies such as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA;

USDOE, 2004) and the NCLB (USDOE, 2001) offer renewed opportunity and promote that


The application of systems theory and organizational change principles to schools has

been explored, and current knowledge about essential elements in effective change efforts also

has grown (Fullan, 2001a; Senge, 1990). The literature has shown that school change efforts are

more likely to fail when there is no visionary leader; when the innovation does not match the

culture of the agency or school (Kame’emui & Simmons, 1998; Ringeisen, Henderson, &

Hoagwood, 2003); and when school personnel are not concerned about the problem that the

school change is intended to address (Hall & Hord, 2001 The failure of school change efforts

may result from the absence of systemic support from persons in key leadership positions and


Systems theory has been used for several decades as a framework for analyzing and

solving problems in schools. Curtis and Stollar (2002) defined a system as “the orderly

combination of two or more individuals whose interaction is intended to produce a desired

outcome” (p. 224). Examples of systems related to schools include grade-level teams,

intervention assistance teams, classrooms, districts, intermediate agencies, and state departments

of education. Each of these systems has subsystems, and they also exist within a larger system

Stollar et al. (2006) agreed that collaborative strategic planning and problem solvingoffer the

best framework to accommodate desired practice and the culture of the specific school.

The collaborative strategic planning (CSP) process involves several specific steps to

problem solving. The first stage involves a system-level analysis to identify needs or problems

related to students’ academic and/or behavioral outcomes or to any of the six key system features

necessary for successful functioning. At the second stage, once system-level needs or problems

are identified, the planning and problem-solving procedures are used to analyze and develop

intervention plans to address each need or problem.

The number of schools engaged in school reform continues to grow, but few

schools seem able to sustain efforts long enough to produce lasting change The CSP process is a

strategy for maintaining focus and applying practices that are consistent with those identified in

the systems change literature. By applying the principles of systems change, school or district

teams may be able to analyze key factors of the system that impede or enable student learning.

Cyclical evaluation of student performance outcomes as indices of system health may promote


Organizational Change in the Workforce

Bach et al. (2007) focused on the emergence of assistants in the British public service and

they sought to determine whether this leads to the deprivation of those who fill the role of the

professionals with whom they work. Bach et al. supported the argument that changes in the

division of labor result in blended and potentially contradictory outcomes for the workers

involved. Their findings also suggested that outcomes are contingent upon context, proposing

that subsector conditions can be influential. The emphasis placed by successive new Labor

governments on user-centered services allied to a performance agenda underpinned by targets

has encouraged national policymakers to challenge traditional working practices.

Debate on management and organizational control, framed in terms of poverty, assumed

particular prominence in the 1970s when Braverman (1974) traced the transformation of work in

the 20th century and asserted that capitalism degraded work by using scientific management

principles that cheapened the labor process. Employers sought to establish detailed control over

the work process. This process was best accomplished by separating the conception of work

from its execution, with managers designing work roles and establishing a monopoly of

knowledge over the labor process. Work was degraded as workers surrendered their interest in

the organizational process.

In general terms, the --as an employer--faces the same issue of control as private-sector

employers because it seeks to pursue in public policy its goals in the context of the employment

relationship. Nonetheless, the substance and implementation of management control strategies

might be expected to differ from those in the private sector as the consequence of differences in

the nature of organizational objectives, the type of workers employed, and differences in their

motivations (Carter, 1997). As mentioned in the annotated bibliography, labor process theory has

been used to frame debate on developments in work organization in the public service.

Analysis in the private sector has concentrated on the ability of management to pursue

control strategies in the face of residual employee resistance. The centrality of the professions in

the public service has encouraged an interest in the ability of well-organized occupational groups

to impose preferred forms of self-regulation on the state. Recently, attention has focused on the

degree to which managerial ascendancy and organizational power have eroded professional

power in education (Gleeson & Knights, 2006). One organizational change that the business

sector has influenced in the education sector is the reflection in the national workload agreement,

which designates 24 administrative tasks to be delegated from teachers to teaching assistants to

ensure that teachers devote themselves to what they do best: teach (Morris, 2001). This type of

delegation has long been considered a professionalization and organizational strategy with group

members discarding dirty work (Hughes, 1993) or tedious routine work that threatens their status

as they move up the occupational hierarchy.

Over the last quarter century, the American high school, like the larger educational

industry in which it is embedded, has been subjected to critical analysis. In particular, the decade

of discontent fueling the current redevelopment of secondary schooling saw the publication of a

series of books that laid the foundational critique of the existing institution and provided initial

insight about how the struggle to overhaul this American institution could be engaged. There is

an accepted belief that the nation has gained no ground in its efforts to reform its high schools.

Murphy (2006) provided an analysis that not only confirmed the deep-seated

stagnationseen by reviewers who study many aspects of the high school but also exposed the

more fundamental changes that have unfolded over the last two centuries. The evolution of the

high school has been punctuated twice since its formative design was established in the 1800s,

each time fundamentally recreating our understanding of secondary education. Given the long-

sequenced historical inspection of America’s high schools, Murphy concluded that prevailing

views of secondary education as a hopelessly stuck institution are basically wrong. The

American high school is in the midst of a second major revolution, or upheaval, which promises

to overhaul secondary education in the United States as dramatically as the first recreation

between 1890 and 1920.

Organizational Mergers

Gleibs et al. (2008) conducted a longitudinal study on the predictors of change in

postmerger identification during a merger process. The first questionnaire was distributed 4

months after the implementation of the merger; the following two were distributed after 6

months and one year, respectively. With its longitudinal design, the study replicated and

extended past results by revealing predictors of change in organizational identification for

members of the dominant and subordinate organizations throughout a merger process. The focus

of Gleibs et al.’s study was the developmental and dynamic aspect of identification by means of

a longitudinal field study conducted during the course of a university merger.

Patterns of change in postmerger identification over 3 points of measurement were

investigated. Throughout the merger of two higher educational institutions, student samples were

followed over the course of one year. Systematic changes in postmerger identification during the

merger process were analyzed, and an exploration was conducted into whether or not any

discrepancies were identified over time, as predicted by the research of Amoit, Terry,

Jummieson, and Callan (2006).


It is assumed that the goal of a successful merger is to have the new organization serve as

the basic source of identification and to encourage its members to disidentify with the previous

organization and reidentify with the new one. Mergers are not always implemented in such a way

that premerger organizations are fully abandoned. To maintain an identity in a new environment

successfully, a person must develop a new persona for supporting that identity while detaching

from the old environment The perception of continuity has an impact on postmerger

identification. Perceived continuity from premerger group to postmerger group implies that the

former group is seen as typical of the newly merged organization. The dominant merger partner

will be perceived as typical, whereas the subordinate partner will be perceived as atypical or

deviant from the shared postmerger group. Gleibs et al. (2008) supposed that premerger

identification and in-group typicality would be predictors of postmerger identification. In

addition to variables explicitly derived from the social identity approach, they assumed that the

perception of fairness concerning the merger process would be an important predictor of

postmerger identification. The perception of fairness taps into individuals’ beliefs about how

resources and outcomes are redistributed within the newly merged organization, how

organizational members are treated, and how the change is implemented within the newly

merged entity.

Gleibs et al. (2008) examined postmerger identification in the course of a merger by

using a longitudinal design that allowed them to assess the development and growth of

postmerger identification among students involved in a university merger, as well as the effects

of time-valiant predictors. Time was included as an essential variable that determines patterns

concerning when and how specific psychological factors can predict change during a merger.

Only a few mergers are mergers of equals. Usually one merger partner is dominant and

becomes the acquiring force. The dominant merger partner might seek to assimilate the other

organization and impose its own premerger identity on the newly merged organization. Higher

education mergers are a special case of organizational merger. They often are characterized by

their involuntary nature and are used by authorities to restructure the higher education sector.

Higher education mergers have become common in the past 30 years. Gleibs et al. (2008) tested

how the outcome variable postmerger identification was affected by change during the merger

process. In general, time and change are fundamental aspects of human existence and pose

theoretical and methodological challenges for research.

Organizational Reality

Koliba and Lathrop (2007) gave an account of an action research process as it unfolded

within a public school. The thematic report provided an intersubjectively (Radigan, 2002)

constructed picture of the school’s theories in use (Argyris & Schon, 1996). The picture was then

presented back to the school in an effort to identify problems, recognize successes, and make

decisions about future actions. This process would help members of the school’s workforce

become conscious of their taken-for-granted assumptions and dispositions about their school and

the people and practices in it. In some cases, this consciousness led to changes in behavior,

attitude, and practice.

A set of approaches has been derived for rural contexts, with terms such as rapid rural

appraisal (Beebe, 1995); applied rural research (Whittaker & Banswell, 2002); and

participatory rural appraisal (Campbell, 2001), used to describe different variations of action

research. In one way or another, these forms of action research seek to transform individuals’

perceptions of a given problem, practice, policy, program, or organization into data that can be

used by practitioners to guide, dictate, or transform their practice.


Argyris and Schon’s work (as cited in Koliba & Lathrop, 2007) was a central analytical

framework that explained and judged the action research process. It explained how the research

process undertaken by the consultants provided the organization’s members with an opportunity

to reflect on their actions and advance the organizational learning process. This exchange was

grounded in the assumption that the action research process was understood as a collaborative

process. Although future iterations of this action research process would combine quantitative

measures with qualitative methods, the process highlighter employed only qualitative methods, a

series of semistructured interviews with school personnel, students, and a cross-section of

parents, school board members, and other volunteers; focus groups with students; and participant

observations of school events and routine activities.

Qualitative researchers rely on triangulation to ensure the validity of their analysis.

Koliba and Lathrop (2007) relied on the triangulation of two categories of observers to construct

generative themes, with the first being the reflections and perceptions of active participants who

experience the organization firsthand, and the second being the researchers’ observations of and

reflections about the organizational members’ firsthand accounts. They constructed themes by

triangulating the observers’ stories and perception. After the researchers separately generated a

series of themes, they compared their reconstructed triangulated themes.

Koliba and Lathrop (2007) believed that the process outlined here could be improved

along several lines. Future iterations of this design might include the triangulation of different

data-collection methods. In addition to the qualitative data-collection methods, they suggested as

also using school climate surveys and self-assessment rubrics. The data collected from these

instruments could then be compared with the qualitative observations, or vice versa, to improve

the validity and generalizability of the themes as they are reported. Quantitative measures would

diminish the grounded theory approach to creating generative themes.

Organizational Change in the High School

Maninger and Powell (2007) studied organizational change and the role of the

administrative team as instructional leaders. The school in their study was a middle-high school

in a large urban school system. They stated that the school was located on the verge of the “wild

West”; in fact, tourism advertisements for the city referred to it as “where the West begins.”

Industry continues to pour into the city as civil governmental officials have extended tax

abatements to encourage this growth. The principal was in his first year there, having been

transferred from a Grade 6 campus. Having been an assistant principal at one of the district’s

high schools, he had 9 years of teaching experience at the high school and middle school levels

in English language arts. This new principal had two assistant principals who were in their

second year at this middle school and who came from totally different paths. One assistant

principal spent 15 years as a Grade 1 teacher, and the other was a former high school social

studies teacher and football coach.

The test scores deemed by the state-mandated testing results were acceptable in the

statewide accountability system from the previoust school year; however, the school needed

dramatic improvement to progress to the next higher level of recognition, which was the

principal’s charge from his supervisors. There are six tests in the state-mandated testing system.

These, along with appropriate attendance and dropout rates, are the criteria on which the school

is ranked in the state system. The school has performed poorly in the categories of attendance

and dropout rate, primarily because the previous administrators and staff had not been attentive

to these issues. The state requires an 80% passing rate among all test takers and an 80% passing

rate on all subpopulation groups that meet the minimum numerical requirements to achieve the

expected level. Last year, the students had scored 70% in Grade 8 reading and 54% in Grade 8

math. The only score on the accountability data falling in the range of scores required for the

advancement sought was the Grade 8 social studies test.

There also are other ongoing problems. Along with the below-standard test

scores, a decline in the attendance rate, and an increase in the dropout rate, the school faces

serious discipline issues. Last year alone, 93 students were sent to alternative placement schools

because of disciplinary problems. Two themes were consistent in the discipline referrals to the

assistant principals: (a) A disproportionate number of referrals were Black or Hispanic students,


(b) 150 fights had been recorded during the school year. The discipline referrals of students of

color seemed to bear witness to the unstated philosophy by the faculty that ”difficult” students do

not belong at this middle school. This case is a contemporary example of the complexities of

organizational change and the challenges faced by a new middle school principal in this shifting

social context. The case also offers an in-depth look at the challenges facing administrators as

they attempt to improve state-mandated testing scores. After all, the principal must create an

environment where students and teachers continually grow and learn together. Where principals

are effective instructional leaders, student achievement escalates.

Over the last quarter century, the American high school has been subjected to

critical analysis. In particular, the 1980s, which was the decade of discontent fueling the current

redevelopment of secondary schooling, saw the publication of influential books that laid the

foundational critique of the existing institution and provided initial insights into the struggle to

overhaul this American institution. Murphy (2006) provided an analysis that confirmed the deep-

seated inertia identified in studies on the many aspects of the high school. Murphy conducted

research on the development and evolution of the American high school. Tushman and

Romannelli (1985) crafted their seminal theory of organizational evolution, emphasizing the

equilibrium model of organizational change. Tushman, Newman, and Romannelli (1988)

developed a framework to examine the evolution of organizations, particularly during

reorientation, by building on an understanding of organizations as structured systems of routines

embedded in a network of interactions with the external environment.

In his analysis of change in education, Cohen (1988) observed that over time, the

process produces a significant amount of organizational sediment. The formative era of the

American public high school came to be defined by well-defined perspectives on the key activity

domains outlined by Tushman and Romannelli (1985). Tushman and Romannelli felt that it was

at the high school level that students would become prepared to survive in the world outside of

education. In the early part of the 20th century, a complex set of social, economic, and

educational conditions shaped the modern high school for service to a broader range of the

population. The economic and social changes set in motion by scientific and industrial advances

necessitated a complete transformation of the school. During the first two decades of the new

century, high school administrators were aware that a momentous, revolutionary change was in

the offing and that they were engaged in a debate that would determine the course of American

secondary education for decades.

As the 21st century approached, the American high school found itself in the midst of

economic, political, and social changes. A new convergence that is emerging in the American

high schools parallels in scope the changes seen in that institution from the early days of high

school (i.e., 1890-1920). Three central alterations are visible: a) at the technical level, a change

from behavioral to social constructivist views of learning and teaching; b) at the organizational

level, a change from a bureaucratic operational system to more communal views of the high

school; and c) at the institutional level, a rebalancing of the equation that adds more weight to

market and citizen control while subtracting influence from government and professional actors.

Murphy (2006) was interested in reconciling what he could find out about fundamental

shifts in the basic of secondary education with the almost universal belief that high schools are

impervious to change. There also is evidence that the equilibrium that defines American

secondary education is subject to destabilization and reformation. In the last two centuries,

changes have been the result of overlapping strands of environmental pressures. These

conditions have appeared twice. One occurred as the 19th century turned into the 20th century and

the comprehensive high school was formed to respond to the needs of an industrial economy.

The second arose as the 20th century moved into the 21st century and secondary education began

to recast itself consistent with the political, social, and economic structures of an information

societyIn educational literature, mentoring represents one model for helping novice and

experienced teachers develop higher levels of effectiveness. Specifically, the mentoring process

supports increased conceptual development through the balance of reflection and experience.

Kelehear (2003) stated that through the mentoring process, teachers become more autonomous as

professionals who are reflective of their experience and keenly aware of their students’ needs.

Kelehear presented a conceptual framework that applies the findings from the best practices of

mentoring to organizational theory. For example, at a local high school, a history teacher attends

a faculty meeting only to find that the agenda is block scheduling for next term. Being

introduced to something new and different from the 7-period schedule creates a certain level of

stress. Because the teacher’s stress level already is high, he or she tends to make order and sense

of the new knowledge in a concrete, specific, orderly fashion. Stress and concern are daunting

realizations for a leadership team that knows that all of the individuals in the school are at

different levels of conceptualization.

It is important to look at three forces that come to bear on individuals and then try to

understand those forces in a way that might enable leadership to mentor the organization to

higher levels of effectiveness. Fuller (1969), and then researchers Hall and Loucks (1978) and

Hall and Rutherford (1990) later on, presented a model of the necessary and sequential stages of

concern that come with innovation. In general, these researchers set in motion an understanding

of the stages through which all individuals travel as they engage in change. Following Fuller’s

framework, block scheduling in a high school could be perceived as the innovation confronting

the principal and teachers. The principal is interested in block scheduling, so the first order of

business is to make the staff members aware of block scheduling. The staff members then have

an immediate need to know more details about block scheduling, so they seek out more out

information. These teachers move ahead, only to be frustrated by questions and arguments

coming from those left behind who did not have the requisite data to move beyond awareness

and information. Whatever the source, the principal cannot move ahead until information is

provided that outlines the essential elements of block scheduling. Faculty members may consider

how they, collectively and individually, will fit block scheduling into the existing schedule.

When faculty members begin to consider the effect of block scheduling on student achievement,

then the inward focus on the innovation moves outward; that is, the principal and the faculty

members cease to think primarily of themselves and more about the students. The discussion

about block scheduling might progress to the consequence on student scheduling or student


If teachers are asked to change from teaching six periods a day to teaching in a block

schedule, they are likely to accommodate this request because the learning is significantly

different from what the teacher already knows. This accommodation requires a type of

reconceptualization by the learners. As leaders engage innovation, it is important that they

consider how similar the change is to what is already in place. In so doing, leadership can

anticipate the stress level and appropriately adjust the speed and substance of change.

Mentors know when to take on extra challenges and when to decline. They

recognize that the high levels of stress in their professional or personal lives require that they

conceptualize at a low level and necessarily slow the pace through the stages of concern. Fuller

(1969) asserted that “creating growth-oriented learning conditions of others in the organization”

is foundational in change processes (p. 15). The way to know the appropriate balance is found in

understanding the group’s current stage of concern, conceptual level, and degree of

disequilibrium. In coupling the research on organizational change with mentoring, it is clear that

organizational mentoring offers leaders a prescriptive model that captures the power of the

group, but does not lose touch with the individuals who are the life essence of that group.

Masci et al. (2008) stated that a practical disadvantage of the heroic change agent image

is the principal, who must constantly strive to overcome the potential resistance to change among

reluctant staff members. Rather than attempt to overcome resistance through willpower or force,

high school principals can succeed and preserve organizational health by deliberately instituting

an element of stability to support individuals and the school community during the difficult

stages of implementation and institutionalization. If high school principals learn to function more

like the gyroscope of a ship rather than the engine that pushes forward or the rudder that steers in

a predetermined direction, they can provide stability as the vessel proceeds. The gyroscope takes

its cue from the external influences on the ship and provides balance and stability.

Masci et al. (2008) gave a hypothetical situation to a functioning subcommittee to

prove their point. The principal of a comprehensive high school with an enrollment of 1,800

students located in an urban suburb of a major U.S. city asked that the team consider creating a

change and stability subcommittee (CSS). The committee would be responsible for monitoring

the effect of various school reform initiatives on students, staff, and community in three broad

areas: promoting unity, providing support, and increasing satisfaction among all members of the

school community. The first task of the CSS was to develop a plan to increase trust among its

members and through the school. They adopted procedures ensuring that all communication

issued by the CSS would be plain and direct. The committee members listened carefully to what

people at all levels in the school and community had to say.

A less obvious but effective way that the CSS increased staff satisfaction was by

celebrating success frequently. Subcommittee members found that such celebration validated

individual and group efforts, and contributed to a stable, trusting, pleasant environment that was

more productive. The principal, assistant principals, peer coaches, and department chairs also

helped to improve satisfaction by adopting a form of clinical supervision that honored each

teacher’s style of teaching (Pajak, 2003). They used the conferences that followed observations

to validate individual successes and feelings. The CSS encouraged feedback that legitimized the

teachers’ feelings and preferred instructional styles in an effort to support an organizational

culture conducive to individual and collective learning. The high school was managing change in

ways that were the least disruptive to classroom and school functioning and the most reassuring

to the staff and community, thereby furthering stability and commitment.

Masci et al. (2008) concluded that principals need to remember that even though

many organizations thrive on chaos, teachers, students, and the learning environment require and

thrive on predictability, routine, and some variety. Schools must weather the outside

technological, political and economic influences that serve to threaten or enhance them, and the

principal and staff of a school must determine the actions that will benefit the middle and high

school students they serve.

Leadership and Organizational Change

Renewed interest in school leadership is fuelled by a belief in the potential of head teachers--not

principals--to deliver improved educational outcomes. Leadership development has retained a

consistently high profile in education in recent years, despite the rise and fall of other initiatives.

Harris (2005) concentrated on the type of leadership that promotes positive organizational

change and improvement. Research has shown that leadership makes a difference to a school’s

ability to improve by influencing the motivation of teachers (Fullan, 2001b; Sergiovanni, 2001).

Senge (1990) stated, “Crucial design work for leaders of learning organizations concerns

integrating vision, values, and purpose, systems thinking, and mental models--or more broadly,

integrating all the learning organization to major breakthroughs in learning disciplines” (p. 343).

Bush and Glover (2003) explored the dominant leadership theories through four major lenses

with limitations. Managerial leadership, the first lens, is close to a formal model of leadership

characterized by the assumption that organizations are hierarchical systems in which managers

use rational means to pursue agreed-upon goals. This form of leadership supports a series of

transactions within an organization and is termed transactional leadership

The second lens, transformational leadership, is associated with improved

organizational and student outcomes. Transformational leadership is a leadership approach that

focuses upon people rather than structures. Any leader who brings about change is

transformational. This has been shown to involve the building of school cultures or the

promotion of cultural behaviors that contribute directly to school improvement

The third lens, interpretive leadership, has fueled contemporary debate about leadership

and organizational development in schools (Gronn, 2003; Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond,

2001). These researchers viewed distributed leadership as predominantly interpretive rather than

normative. Etzioni (1964) stated, “Personal power is always normative power; it is based on the

manipulation of symbols and it serves to generate commitment to the person who commands it”

(p. 61). He also stated:

The use of symbols for control purposes is referred to as normative. Normative power is
exercised by those in higher ranks…Normative power is used indirectly, as when the
higher in rank appeals to the peer group of a subordinate to control him like a teacher will
call on a class to ignore the distractions of an exhibitionist child. (p. 59)

Distributed leadership means multiple sources of guidance and direction following the contours

of expertise in an organization, made coherent through a common culture. The researchers

distributed perspective focuses on how leadership practice is distributed among formal and

informal leaders. The

fourth lens, instructional leadership, assumes that the critical focus for attention by leaders is the

behavior of teachers at they engage in activities directly affecting the growth of students. Bush

and Glover (2003) highlighted the differences between narrow and broad conceptions of

instructional leadership, where the latter also involves variables such as school culture, which

may have important consequences for teachers’ behavior. The narrow definition focuses on

instructional leadership as a separate entity from administration. In the narrow view, instructional

leadership comprises actions that are directly related to teaching and learning. In the broad view,

“instructional leadership entails all leadership activities that affect student learning” (Sheppard,

1996, p. 326).

Little is known about the relationship between leadership and long-term organizational

change and improvement. Whether or not leadership is affected by cycles of organizational

development and change remains another unexplored area. Distributed leadership theory offers a

powerful and alternative way of exploring and understanding the relationship of leadership to

organizational change and development.

Organizational Change and School Reform

Within school reform, organizational change is manifested by a complex system. Bonner

et al. (2004) described their experiences with organizational change and analyzed its use in

organizational change theories common in education, such as Senge’s (1990) fifth discipline and

Bertalanffy’s (1969) general systems theory. Previous evaluations of the reform initiative had

yielded unexpected problems related to sustainability; as a result, Bonner et al. revisited the

assumptions from the organizational change literature that have guided change strategies. This

reflection led to the discovery of key theoretical ideas that are less familiar but may have more

practical utility for those engaged in organizational change within schools. After reviewing the

initial five years of this reform effort, Bonner et al. analyzed it using two frames of reference for

organizational change common to education. They also reflected on the critical analysis of

change theory using less common psychology theories, which may offer better descriptive and

predictive utility for those involved in organizational consultation.

Bonner et al.’s (2004) leadership expanded by creating an inclusion committee

comprosed of additional staff and interested parents. The principal, building special education

coordinator, district inclusion facilitator, and school psychologist publicly presented a model

formalizing the service delivery process. The delivery model comprised problem-solving and

decision-making formats intended to represent the organizational capacity to support all students

inclusively. The actions that occurred as a result of the grant took three forms: (a) inquiry into

the school’s implementation of past initiatives; (b) use of this information in the facilitation of

continued adoption of best practices in inclusive education; and (c) sharing of findings and

community members’ perspectives on inclusive education and comprehensive educational

reform with interested local, state, and national audiences, as well as the school community


Here is how the broad organizational change theory that highlighted the confidence of the

reform leaders was rational and seemingly justified. As the leaders sought to develop inclusive

education, their practice was informed by school change literature as well as their direct

experiences. The leaders actively engaged in reading, discussing, and applying contemporary

change literature from different perspectives, as evidenced by the preceding descriptive history.

In their daily collaboration, the leaders shared perspectives and incorporated their knowledge

through their influence in decision making about the reform process. This section of Bonner et

al.’s experiment represented an analysis and interpretation of how the actions and approaches

that the reform leaders took were consistent with organizational change literature..

The first used was Bolman and Deal’s (1997) four organizational frames: structural,

human resources, political, and symbolic. The second used Chin and Benne’s (1994) three types

of general strategies for change: empirical rational, normative reductive, and power coercive.

Each frame of reference illuminates some of the theoretical underpinnings, major goals, and

propositions of the inclusive education reform efforts at this elementary school. Bonner et al.

(2004) were aware of the tendency to cite the transition to a new principal as the obvious

explanation the initiative had less sustainability than originally believed. There is no denying that

an organizational leader who supports a practice, be it new or old, will be helpful in its


Several organizational and change theorists have been relevant in expanding current

understanding of the lack of acceptance or quick demise of the reform (Harrison, 1970; Nadler,

1981; Perrow, 1972). Harrison and Nadler are recognized as organizational change specialists;

Perrow is known as an organizational sociologist focusing on the formal organization. The hope

of this researcher is that by analyzing the school’s inclusive education initiative in the context of

these theories, others will understand the relevance of these concepts in the implementation of

current and future organizational changes.

In regard to crafting coherence, Honig et al. (2004) defined coherence as a process that

involves the collaboration of schools and school district central offices to craft or continually

negotiate the fit between external demands and schools’ goals and strategies. Senge (1990) made

reference to coherence or reason, stating that “the systems perspective illuminates subtler aspects

of personal masteryespecially: integrating reason (coherence)” (p 167). In addition, Senge stated,

“People with high levels of personal mastery do not set out to integrate coherence and intuition.

Rather, they achieve it naturally— as a by-product of their commitment to use all resources at

their disposal” (p. 168). Scholars have linked the convergence of multiple external demands on

public schools to the schools’ inability to help all students achieve high performance standards;

they have referred to these effects as a heightened state of policy incoherence (Fuhrman, 1993;

Hatch, 2002; Nemann, Smith, Allenworth, & Bryk, 2001).

Remedies for policy incoherence generally have taken one of two approaches:

a)generation systemic reforms address the challenge from the point of policy origin, typically in

district central offices, state and federal agencies, and in other institutions framed in the

education policy literature as outside schools; and b) generation systemic reforms have focused

on solutions within schools. Neither approach has remedied the harmful effects of policy

incoherence in practice because each stems from a limited conceptualization of what coherence

entails. Experience with each approach provides insights that may inform a fuller picture of

policy coherence. Coherence depends on how implementers make sense of policy demands and

on the extent to which external demands fit a particular school’s culture.

Etzioni (1961) discussed coherence in relation to communication, stating,

“coherence is a symbolic process by which the orientations of lower participants to the

organization are reinforced or changed” (p. 137). The premise is that policy coherence is an

ongoing process that requires schools and school district central offices to work together to help

schools manage external demands. Honig et al. (2004) called this process crafting coherence, and

using schools and district central offices as a starting point, they described two activities that

crafting coherence entails: a) Schools must establish their own goals and strategies that typically

are specific, open-ended, adaptable, and developed through sustained and managed school-based

participatory activities, and b) schools must use their goals and strategies as the basis for

deciding whether to bridge or buffer external demands.

Coherence may be productively viewed not only as the objective alignment of

curriculum, instruction, and assessments by internal or external agents but also as an ongoing

process. Some schools thrive when multiple demands converge on them because multiple

demands mean additional resources for educational improvement. Multiple external demands do

not represent a problem, but an ongoing challenge to be managed; a potential opportunity for

schools to increase necessary resources; and an important arena of organizational activity.

Neither schools nor school districts acting alone will be able to remedy the effects of multiple

external demands; accordingly, district central office administrators and school leaders might

explore new relationships to support schools’ goal and strategy setting. The best stewards of

crafting coherence at the school and district levels may be those who can tolerate and navigate

such highly collaborative and independent terrain.

Entrepreneurial Leadership

Eyal and Kark (2004) asserted that transformational leaders are needed to transform

educational organizations at the elementary, secondary, or higher education levels. There must

be a relationship between leadership and entrepreneurship. Both are discussed in the research

literature (Drucker, 1985; Pinchot, 1985). Czariawska-Joergens and Wolff (1991) differentiated

between the two and claimed that although leadership is responsible for clarifying causality,

simplifying reality, and strengthening control over it, entrepreneurship is an action that can be

related to generating new realities.

In line with the conception of charismatic and transformational leadership, Howell and

Higgins (1990) described organizational champions as entrepreneurs who use informal

organizational mechanisms to garner support for innovations. While doing so, they related the

concept of transformational leadership to the literature on organizational champions, suggesting

that organizational champions (i.e., entrepreneurs) support and advance innovations at the price

of confronting obstacles presented by organizational officials (Shane, 1994). They concluded

that organizational champions function as transformational leaders, developing a clear

organizational vision and mechanisms that may be used to discover opportunities.

Government efforts to control schooling and school reliance on public funds, as a

structural arrangement, have made schools slow-changing organizations. In this framework,

schools are considered conservative organizations that retain their basic characteristics across

time, place, and even culture. Their patterns have been suggested to be well established and

legitimized, and are known to represent the most efficient way of organizing education.

However, increases in diversity among pupils, as well as other rapid technological, legal, and

societal changes in the school environment, have exposed schools to greater uncertainties

(Hargreaves, 1997a, 1997b). Drucker (1985) asserted that by not being entrepreneurial, schools

might lose their relevance, allowing alternative entrepreneurial agencies to take over their

fundamental functions, leaving them drained of substance. This can lead to the limitation of

children’s equal access to education and endanger the role of schooling as a mechanism for

reducing social-economic gaps.

In studying the relationship between leadership and entrepreneurship, it became clear to

Howell and Higgins (1990) that leadership is associated with entrepreneurship; however, this

relationship is complex. The results of the research showed that transformational leadership sets

the most favorable managerial circumstances for organizational entrepreneurship activism.

Research is needed to understand the relationship between the social capital of leaders and their

organizational power and ability to use certain entrepreneurial strategies. This issue is significant

because social capital can facilitate the identification of opportunities and the attainment of

goals. It is also important that researchers examine relationships among different entrepreneurial

strategies and various organizational outcomes because the leaders’ use of different strategies

identified in Howell and Higgin’s study is likely to have a major impact on the functioning of the

organization and organizational outcomes.

Organizational Culture

There is growing concern that individuals in the education field are not supporting

organizational change in education. Awbrey (2004) stated, “The reform of general education is

one of the most prevalent and complex challenges facing colleges and universities” (p. 5).

General education has not always been a part of higher learning, and when universities were first

founded in the United States, classical education provided unity and coherence. As the

curriculum changed, faculty faced the challenge of integrating new forms of knowledge with

older forms and defining what was essential to the education of undergraduate students. Because

of the organizational change that took place, the potentially damaging effects of unsuccessful

general education processes also were reported, including deeply divided and embittered faculty

as well as increased tensions between faculty and administration (MacDonald, 2003). Johnson

(2002) studied changes in general education between 1989 and 2000 in a national survey of more

than 500 chief academic officers and directors responsible for general education at various

institutions among the membership of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Johnson found that the structural strategies used to create more coherence had not achieved their

aim of a more coherent curriculum.

A mistake that faculty and administrators sometimes make when beginning the

organizational change of general education is their belief that they are simply engaged in the

structural task of curricular reform. Although campus-wide general education efforts in changing

the organizational structure may focus on what is best for students, recognizing why faculty

members hold the beliefs they do about what is best is a much more complex task that involves a

systematic examination of the cultural context in which the change is taking place. The

perception that organizational change involves only the task at hand is not unique to higher

education. These organizational changes include elements that are observable, rational, and

related to the structure of the organization, including span of control, hierarchy, mission, goals,

objectives, operating policies, and practices. Organizations focus most of their time and energy

in this realm.

Resistance is a normal part of the change process. Individuals engage in active or passive

forms of resistance. Trader-Leigh (2002) identified several factors that contribute to resistance to

change: Change threatens perceived self-interest, changes in status and security have negative

psychological impacts, ingrained traditions present barriers, change does not fit the

organization’s values and beliefs, and change threatens individuals or groups with a loss of

power. Understanding the values, beliefs, and assumptions that underlie the culture and

subcultures of an organization can assist in understanding the institution’s patterns of resistance

to organizational change. Cultural aspects of change often are overlooked in systemic change

initiatives--such as general education reform--because of the time required to unveil the values,

beliefs, and assumptions of the institution’s members, and to engage in dialogue that leads to

reflective, deep-level learning. It is this deeper change that fosters future growth and

development and that can open the institution to continuous learning and improvement. The

success of initiatives such as general education reform should be assessed not only by the

structural operational changes achieved but also by the cultural change and learning that takes

place within the organization. The deeper the level of cultural awareness and learning, the richer

is the organizational changeprocess and the more likely it is that the organization will continue


Organizational Change in Higher Education

Vaira (2004) outlined the theoretical framework to address higher education

organizational change in a globalized age. The contemporary world has entered a globalized age,

and the globalization process affects almost all facets of social life. Globalization works as a

concept underpinning a new round of the world rationalization process, yet the concept and idea

of globalization are multifaceted. There is no definition of the fundamental features, content, and

outcomes of globalization. The task environment of institutions of higher education has changed

dramatically in the last 20 years. The changes in the world have had momentous effects on

higher education sector worldwide.

Institutions have had and continue to have a major role in defining and promulgating

particular strategies, recipes, archetypes for higher education policy, organization, and curricular

structures. For the more developed countries, this has meant a deep process of institutional and

organizational change of the national higher education sector and organizations since the 1980s.

The entrepreneurial model has become the basic and legitimate organizational principle, or

archetype, deemed able to assist institutions of higher education in coping with the challenges in

their new task environment and constituting the pathway to restructuring processes. The most

recent debate has recognized these features and trends in higher education sector . Virtual

universities constitute a relevant challenge for traditional universities in terms of competition for

students on a global level because they constitute the organizations now entering the higher

education organizational field. A student of any given country can enroll in another country’s

university without moving away from his or her own home, but at the expense of his or her own

national universities. Given the socially attached high value of information and communication

technologies (ICTs) universities are pushed to incorporate them into their educational structure to

make their courses socially appealing, modern, and accessible.

It is the obligation of secondary education to prepare students for what lies ahead.

The confluence of federal mandates; budget cutbacks; increased standardization; high-stakes

testing; and greater awareness of students’ diversities, technological advances, and political

uncertainty has resulted in significant challenges for secondary public school administrators and

teachers. Successful secondary principals must possess a vision and a clear sense of purpose, and

they also must be able to work collaboratively with faculty and staff. If society desires an

innovation to affect all levels of personnel over time, then an alternative to the heroic change

agent is needed.

Sustaining successful change in higher education is no small feat. Change efforts are

seldom successful, in spite of the tremendous resources that are available. Colleges and

universities are loosely coupled systems with diffused decision making as well as goal

ambiguity. Cameron and Smart (1998) and Clarke (1996, 1998) conducted separate analyses of

the external environment of higher education and responses to environmental change by

institutions. The shift from a time of growth in the economy and higher education to one of

particularly challenging conditions for higher education in a post-industrial environment was the

focus of Cameron and Smart’s work. Society’s demands on higher education are increasing at

the same time that institutional resources are diminishing.

How do institutions develop enough coherence among their parts to allow

deliberate strategic change? Denis, Lamothe, and Langley (2001) observed that although loose

coupling may encourage local incremental adaptation, it does not facilitate conscious collective

action. Change in higher education is complicated by autonomy and independence among units

and by diffused decision making. Strategies for large-scale change arising from the American

Council on Education Project on Leadership and Institutional transformation included “a) using

change teams charged with strategic purpose; b) engaging the campus community; and c)

aligning time, resources, and attention with a major change effort” (Denis et al., 2001, pp. 121-


Research in the sociological and organizational literature is relevant for higher education.

Other work conducted with perspectives informed by institutional and organizational theories

has emerged as useful for learning about sustainable institutional change. Using Van de Ven and

Poole’s (1995) rubric, institutional theory is an evolutionary theory, and organizational theory is

dialectical. A significant feature of recent writing with an institutional theoretical perspective is

attention to institutional context. Because institutions function within the context of larger social

and political trends, the focus is on maintaining legitimacy and support of multiple

constituencies. Although institutional theory is more often a theoretical lens for studying stable

structures than a lens for studying change, successful radical change within a higher institution

requires vision, initiative, structures, systems, and new competencies and skills to design and

carry out the transition to a new template.

University and college administrators understand that planning and implementing change

are distinct from sustaining it. The ideas of continued learning and sustained change provoke a

focus on organizational learning that, prior to now, seemed peripheral to institutional change in

higher education. The challenge of successful change is less planning and implementing, and

more developing and sustaining new ways of seeing, deciding and acting. Successful change is

about learning enough collectively so that institutional consequences, outcomes, and inquiry

change. Sustaining change in higher education is dependent upon sustaining the conditions of

learning in an institution. In short, those in higher education committed to successful institutional

change, should be rigorous in inquiry, skillful in dialogue, and fearless in examining the

institution in the context of its environment.


The Depth section integrated the concepts of classical theories, particularly those of

Bertalanffy, Etzioni, and Senge, and with current research-based knowledge on organizational

change and social systems in the public schools. Discussions included contemporary theories in

relation to current management strategies and management theories that are being implemented

within schools that have student populations representing various socioeconomic backgrounds.

Ideas emerged to modify organizational and managerial practices in these areas so that students

may have an education that is more conducive to their individual learning styles.

The notion of improving organizational change has introduced new areas for

exploration relating to environmental, social, and educational conditions in schools that wish to

incorporate smooth organizational changes that will improve the quality of education and

provide a better teaching and learning environment for the staff. The concept of general systems

theory and the fifth discipline dominated the conversation concerning the need for children to

succeed in school. In addition, the concepts of the various models have laid the foundation for

copious discussion on movement through various changes to achieve a better education.

Finally, a discussion of modern organization and the nature of organizational goals

aligned many of the theories developed by classical theorists with the results of current research

and explained the effort to help local schools to become motivated and utilize the decision-

making theory. Changes made with the utilization of the entire staff may decrease the risk of

poor efficiency later on when organizational changes need to or have been made.

The Application component of this KAM will utilize PowerPoint to show

teachers, administrators, and other staff the second law of thermodynamics and explain how

Senge utilized this principle in his theory of the fifth discipline. As a result of participating in this

presentation, teachers and administrators will come to an understanding of how they can conduct

organizational changes in a smooth and seamless manner. Inspirations from the Breadth and

Depth sections have developed into a need to facilitate and support change in the organizational

structure of public schools, especially those in the inner-city districts of urban centers.



The Application section of this KAM utilizes information from the Breadth and Depth

components to prepare a PowerPoint demonstration designed to assist participants in

understanding the role of systems thinking and the general systems theory. Systems thinking, as

proposed by Senge, is the fifth and most important element of the five disciplines. In the general

systems theory, Bertalanffy proposed that models, principles, and laws apply to generalized

systems or their subclasses, irrespective of their particular kind, the nature of their component

elements, and the relationship of the forces between and among them. This subject matter is the

formulation and derivation of those principles that are valid for systems in general.


Educators who understand that schools are complex, interdependent social systems are

able to move their organizations forward. Unfortunately, many education leaders fail to grasp the

interconnectedness of these components, resulting in little or no progress. As such, many planned

changes address only the symptoms, not the underlying root causes of the problems. The result is

that meaningful and sustained improvements do not occur. On the other hand, a number of

outstanding education leaders are slowly moving toward approaches that consider schools to be

organic organizations capable of learning and continuous improvement.

The notion of a school capable of learning has become increasingly prominent in recent

years (Senge et al., 2000). Central to this idea is Senge’s fifth discipline, an element of systems

thinking. The systems view is based on several fundamental ideas. First, all phenomena can be

viewed as a web of relationships among elements, or a system. Second, all systems--be they

electrical, biological, or social--have common patterns, behaviors, and properties that can be

understood and used to develop greater insight into the behavior of complex phenomena and to

move closer to a unity of science.

Leadership decisions often cause many complex and unforeseen reactions. “Systems

thinking are the ability to understand and sometimes to predict interactions and relationships in

complex, dynamic systems: the kinds of systems educators are surrounded by and embedded in”

(Senge et al., 2000, p. 239). Systems thinking encourages leaders to use such concepts as

continuous incremental improvement, organizational learning, and feedback loops. Systems

thinking requires leaders to see the whole school as a complex organization with many

interdependent components. Hung (2008) defined systems thinking as an essential cognitive skill

that enables individuals to develop an integrative understanding of a given subject at the

conceptual and systemic levels. Yet, systems thinking is not usually an innate skill. Helping

students develop systems-thinking skills warrants attention from educators.

Systems Thinking Theory

Systems theory is an interdisciplinary field of science and the study of the nature of

complex systems in nature, society, and science. More specifically, it is a framework by which

one can analyze or describe any group of objects that work in concert to produce some result.

This could be a single organism, an organization, or society. Systems theory originated in

biology in the 1920s from the need to explain the interrelatedness of organisms to ecosystems.

As a technical and general academic area of study, it predominantly refers to the science of

systems that resulted from Bertalanffy’s (1969) general systems theory, among others, in

initiating what became a project of systems research and practice.


Interrelationships are a distinct characteristic and a major focus of systems thinking. The

parts in and the whole of a system are interdependent. The emergent properties of a system are

determined by the characteristics of each part, the intercausal relationships, and the intercausal

effects among the parts and the whole. Conversely, the behaviors of the parts and their impact on

the whole are determined by the emergent properties of the system as well.

Difficulties in Practicing Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is one of the most important higher order thinking skills in advanced

learning, and it is the most difficult one to master. Kali, Orion, and Bylon (2003) found that

possessing general awareness or knowledge about the holistic aspect of a system did not

necessarily foster the application of systems thinking among Grade 7 students. Several possible

factors may have contributed to the problem. First, a systemic understanding of a system or a

subject is the deepest conceptual understanding. Conceptual knowledge is an understanding of

the essential part and the cause-and-effect relationships within a system. However, these

intercausal relationships are normally highly abstract.

Another possible factor is complexity (Kali et al., 2003). It has been suggested that the

primary concern in trying to understand a system is how to depict the system’s complex

intercausal relationships. The complex nature of relationships, such as feedback and time delays,

is viewed as highly counterintuitive. Hung (2008) found that after one semester of studying

systems thinking and its practical applications, the students in his study showed a statistically

significant increase in their utilization of systems thinking by reasoning through the

interrelationships, causal relationships, and feedback processes. This result supported the

conclusion that systems thinking skills can be acquired through appropriate teaching methods.

The students in both studies exhibited a general awareness of the fundamental concepts of

systems theory and systems thinking.

A systems perspective enables educators to make decisions related to improvement in

student achievement and understand the impact of each decision on the organization. However,

the NCLB (USDOE, 2001) has interrupted the status quo of schools and has forced education

leaders to reconsider various methods of organization change. The NCLB has mandated all

public schools to develop clear definitions of achievement that provide the basis to evaluate

regress. Throughout this paper, Senge (1990) identified five disciplines that learning

organizations consistently exhibit: personal mastery, mental models, a shared vision, team

learning, and systems thinking. The fifth discipline, systems thinking, is especially appropriate

for schools that are attempting to improve student achievement. In previous publications, Senge

presented his model of systems thinking and the allegories that define the laws of systems

thinking. These allegories illustrate common pitfalls that prevent systems thinking within


1. Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions

2. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back

3. Behavior grows better before it grows worse

4. The easy way out usually leads back in

5. The cure can be worse than the disease

6. Faster is slower

7. Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space

8. Small change can produce big results, but the areas of highest leverage are often

the least obvious


9. You can have your cake and eat it too, but not all at once

10. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants

School administrators can avoid these barriers to systems thinking in relation to their

efforts to improve student achievement. Leaders can best understand, recall, and apply principles

of systems thinking if the common errors are associated with stories and examples. The ultimate

message is that systems thinking is a useful tool to initiate organizational change and continuous

improvement. The use of systems thinking to improve organizational productivity is a relatively

old idea. More than 20 years ago, theorists presented models of systems thinking and discussed

effective ways to improve organizations. These experiences can help current education

organizations progress toward their goals by sharing their frames of reference. Our ongoing

efforts to improve education could benefit from systems thinking. Systems thinking should be a

vital component of the ongoing efforts to improve educationTo succeed, educators need to focus

on making changes to the system, identifying high-leverage improvement, and aligning feedback

with learning goals. When systems thinking becomes an integral part of the instructional process,

the benefits of systems thinking as a method for improving student achievement will yield

significant benefits for students, schools and society.

The Program

The Application section of this KAM discusses the fifth discipline (Senge, 1990) and

explains how the second law of physical thermodynamics is applied to this discipline. The

intended outcome of the Application component is to develop an understanding of systems

thinking and thermodynamics and its effect on the students in the public elementary schools in

Jersey City, New Jersey. These public schools serve approximately 39,000 students in 26

elementary schools. In 2004, this elementary school became a failing school for the first time. As

a result, new programs were initiated to improve student achievement in the core subject areas.

This researcher believes that if the school applies the concepts of systems thinking (i.e., the fifth

discipline), along with the laws of thermodynamics and the general systems theory, it will no

longer be a failing school. There is an emerging global interest in sustainability education. A

popular and promising approach is the use of systems thinking. However, the systems approach

to sustainability has not been clearly defined, nor have approaches to the systematic

implementation of systems thinking modelsfollowed any rigor, resulting in confounded and

underspecified recommendations. There are three broad approaches to systems thinking:

functionalist, interpretive, and complex adaptive systems. Embracing one approach does not

imply rejecting the others, however, it does reveal circumstances in which some methods may

yield excellent results, while others may not. In situations where there are predefined goals about

sustainability, or identified needs for improvement, the use of functionalist systems methods can

be of great help.

Learning emphasizes ways to address sustainability and deal with specified issues. The

purpose of these issues is to design and test promising methods and practices. In other contexts

where engagement is preferred and sustainability is a process, the interpretive framework

effectively addresses issues of negotiation, accommodation, and competent communication.

Here, perceptions and purposes depend on the eye of the beholder, and building and discussing

models of meaning-making systems sharpen debate skills. Any arrangement leads to the

exclusion of some parties as well as underlying conflicts that cannot be made to disappear.

Second Law of Thermodynamics

The second law of thermodynamics, or entropy, is a powerful aid to explain why the

world works as it does; why hot pans cool down; why our bodies stay warm even in cold

temperatures; and why gasoline makes engines run. It is the basis upon which the chemical

industries have kept the world from starvation for the past half century (fertilizer is manufactured

through a process that uses nitrogen from the air) and have kept us healthy and in less pain (via

life-saving and pain-relieving pharmaceuticals).

Entropy also is simple to describe and explain. However, for those who prefer

conclusions before explanations, the second law of thermodynamics states that energy of all

kinds in the material world disperses or spreads out if it is not hindered from doing so. Entropy is

the quantitative measure of that kind of spontaneous process; that is, the measure of the amount

of energy that has flowed from being localized to becoming more spread out. However, the

concepts of entropy and the second law of thermodynamics have been muddled by well meaning

but scientifically naïve philosophers and writers of fiction and non-fiction. Search engines have

correctly called a popular Web site on entropy “puzzling.” Its author is an architect, not a

scientist. The only best-selling book on entropy ever published was filled with errors leading to

illogical statements. Whenever information “entropy” is discussed, especially in the same article

as thermodynamic entropy, that mathematical “entropy” should be in quotation marks to

distinguish it from thermodynamic entropy.

This confusion about disorder and entropy is the result of a statement made in 1898 by a

brilliant theoretical physicist whose mathematical contributions to thermodynamics and entropy

remain valid. However, his attempt to interpret entropy in simple language was incorrect because

only after his death in 1906 did an understanding of molecular behavior appear. Order/disorder

became increasingly obsolete in reference to entropy and the second law of thermodynamics

when the existence of quantized energy levels in physics and chemistry was generally accepted

after the mid-1920s.


Although information about order/disorder is still present in some chemistry texts as a

teaser for guessing about entropy changes, it is misleading for beginners in chemistry. It has been

deleted from most first-year university chemistry textbooks in the United States. In the

humanities and popular literature, the repeated use of entropy in connection with “disorder” has

caused significant intellectual harm. Entropy has been dissociated from the quintessential

connection with its atomic/molecular energetic foundation. The result is that a 19th-century error

about entropy’s meaning has been generally and mistakenly applied to disorderly parties,

dysfunctional personal lives, and even disruptions in international events. This may make pages

of metaphor, but it is totally unrelated to thermodynamic entropy in physicochemical science that

impacts our daily lives.

The second law of thermodynamics is based on the common human experience. It did not

begin with complicated apparatus or complex theories, but rather with thinking about how old-

fashioned steam engines worked. The first important equation to emerge from this work was

very simple: q/T. The second law of thermodynamics is probably the most powerful aid in

helping to explain why the world works as it does in simple and complex ways.

The science of thermodynamics is a product of the Industrial Revolution. At the

beginning of the 19th century, scientists discovered that even though energy can be transformed

in different ways, it could never be created or destroyed. This is the first law of thermodynamics,

and it is one of the fundamental laws of physics.

In 1850, Robert Clausius discovered the second law of thermodynamics, which is, as

stated previously, entropy (i.e., the ratio of a body’s energy to its temperature). Entropy always

increases in any transformation of energy, for example, in a steam engine. Entropy is generally

understood to signify an inherent tendency toward disorganization. Every family is well aware

that a household system, without some conscious intervention, tends to pass from a state of order

to disorder, especially when there are young children in the family. Iron rusts, wood rots, dead

flesh decays, and the water in the bath get cold. In other words, there appears to be a general

tendency toward decay.

According to the second law of thermodynamics, atoms, when left to themselves, will

mix and rearrange themselves as much as possible. Rust occurs because iron atoms tend to

mingle with oxygen in the surrounding air to form iron oxide. The fast-moving molecules on the

surface of the bath water collide with the slower moving molecules in the cold air and transfer

their energy to them. This is a limited law, which has no bearing on systems, consisting of a

small number of particles or to systems with an infinitely large number of particles (i.e., the

universe). However, there have been repeated attempts to extend applications well beyond the

appropriate sphere, leading to various false conclusions.

In the middle of the last century, Clausius attempted to apply the second law of

thermodynamics to the universe as a whole and arrived at a completely false theory, known as

the thermal death theory of the end of the universe. This law was redefined in 1877 by Ludwig

Boltzmann, who attempted to derive the second law of thermodynamics from the atomic theory

of matter, which was then gaining support. In Boltzmann’s version, entropy appears as a function

of the probability of a given state of matter, that is, the more probable the state, the higher its

entropy. In this version, all systems tend toward a state of equilibrium, that is, a state where there

is no net flow of energy. Thus, if a hot object is placed next to a cold one, energy in the form of

heat will flow from the hot to the cold, until the items reach equilibrium, or have the same


The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system always

increases and that when two systems are joined, the entropy of the combined system is greater

than the sum of the entropies of the individual systems. However, the second law of

thermodynamics is not like other laws of physics, such as Newton’s law of gravity, precisely

because it is not always applicable. Originally derived from a particular sphere of classical

mechanics, the second law is limited by the fact that Boltzmann did not take into account such

forces as electromagnetism or even gravity, allowing only for atomic collisions. This gives such

a restricted picture of physical processes that it cannot be taken as generally applicable, although

it does apply to limited systems. It is the reason that the law of thermodynamics, the joining of

two systems to create a system greater than the sum of the entropies of the individual systems,

draws us to Senge’s (1990) theory of the fifth discipline.

PowerPoint Demonstration

The Application component consists of a PowerPoint demonstration on the practice of

systems thinking (the fifth discipline) and the second law of thermodynamics as described in this

essay. The demonstration begins with an explanation of the second law of thermodynamics and

its application in business and industry. Part 2 of the PowerPoint demonstration discusses

systems thinking and its use in business and industry. Part 3 demonstrates how these two theories

can be applied in the field of education.


Many factors affect the structure of a school system. Senge’s (1990) systems thinking can

be utilized as a fifth discipline in school organization, and Bertalanffy’s (1969) general systems

theory can help to establish a smooth connection between individual schools and the central

office, or a hierarchical system within the system. Many of the studies discussed in this essay

highlighted areas of weakness within the education system that do not facilitate the proper

management of schools. There also are many factors that educators cannot control, such as

environmental factors. We need the assistance of various techniques, such as systems thinking,

general system theory, and the laws of thermodynamics to aid our understanding.

Public officials at all levels of government have engaged in spirited debate about the best

way to run a school district so that there is a clear vision of the hierarchical system. Research has

supported the proposition that utilizing the theories of Bertalanffy and Senge can improve the

learning environment within the school. Parents expect their children to receive a well-rounded

education, but teachers cannot accomplish this alone. In spite of the studies on systems thinking,

general system theory, and the laws of thermodynamics, more work needs to be done to create

the high performing school. With support from all stakeholders—faculty, staff, and parents—

children will have improved opportunities to achieve academically at the proper level and at the

proper time.



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