Open systems concepts in a federal procurement environment



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Considerable research has been done over the past decade into the conditions under which large complex organizations function effectively, develop, and grow. This research has given rise to theoretical formulations which conceptualize organizations as open systems operating under conditions of uncertainty. Organizational success has been linked with organizational accommodation to the environment. These theories have been developed and applied mainly to profit-making organizations in the private sector of the economy. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationships between industrial organization and governmental focal organizations jointly involved in major government-sponsored aerospace development projects and to develop hypotheses concerning these relationships. Extensive in-depth interviews and questionnaires explored the issues of goals, change effects, coordination, uncertainty, organizational structural responses, interaction, and organizational performance in this environment. Data analysis linked organizational structures to coordination difficulties, mitigation of change efforts, increased environmental and task uncertainty and perceived environmental performance. A central finding which the study data suggested was that closely-linked organizations with task structures which did not match theoretical task structuring requirements tended to distort environmental signals, increase coordination difficulties, amplify rather than control uncertainty, and decrease perceived organizational performance and effectiveness. Hypotheses, concerning these relationships, were suggested for further analysis and comparative testing in the environment of several governmental-sponsored development projects.