A Sideways Look at Systems: Identifying Sub-Systemic Dimensions as a Technique for Avoiding a Hierarchical Perspective

Steve Eugene Wallis


Many observers view organizations in terms of their components. We might say, for example, that the ISSS is an organization comprised primarily of SIGs, and individuals. Such a view, however, might be considered “atomistic” or “hierarchical.” This paper suggests that such views may distract organizational theorists from developing new insights into the nature of systems.

The technique developed and used in a case study for this paper is called Reflexive Dimensional Analysis (RDA). RDA uses what might be called a “reflexive” process of theory re-creation, rather than the more traditional categories that we might call priori (intuitive) and posteriori (empirical).

A case study is presented where RDA is used to analyze a body of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) theory that has been developed by scholar-practitioners. The RDA method results in a description of CAS that consists of sub-systemic and co-emergent dimensions. This method suggests the opportunity to understand organizational and systems through a new perspective.


Robust; Reflexive Dimensional Analysis; Complex Adaptive Systems; organizational theory; theory of theory

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