Much of the current writing on organizations adopts the language of systems thinking - although what this means in an organizational context differs considerably from writer to writer. And management theorists and practitioners are not alone in viewing organizations in this way. Journalists, politicians, inquiry chairmen, and other commentators regularly refer to "the system", or "systemic failure" when pronouncing on events that hit the headlines. So seeing organizations as systems, which have the capacity to act in some way separately from the actions of ordinary people, appears natural and straightforward. But is it?
From an informal coalitions/complex social process perspective, what people think of as an organization comprises people interacting together for a purpose - or, more accurately, for a diverse range of purposes. Some of these are explicit, seen as organizationally legitimate and openly acknowledged. Others are implicit and/or covert. Some are mutually supportive. Others are in conflict. As people interact from moment to moment, both in conscious pursuit of these several purposes and habitually, various formal artefacts (such as policies, strategies, structures, processes, procedures, and the like) are constructed, named, and announced, before being interpreted, drawn upon, adapted, or ignored by others. The characteristic patterning of people’s thinking and acting (often reified as "the culture") similarly emerges from this same conversational process.
Organization (or rather the ongoing process of organiz-ing) is therefore an act of co-creation between human beings in the normal course of their everyday interactions. And this process is in constant flux. In other words, the reality of organization is being continuously (re-) constructed in the currency of people’s present-day interactions: A dynamic network of self-organizing conversations, which does not respect boundaries – whether those implicit in the notion of a formal organization or others which define the supposed limits of this or that "system".
Judging by comments made in many on-line and real-world exchanges, though, this conversational construction of organization seems to present two fundamental difficulties for those who see, think and talk of organizations in "systems" terms.