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The Systems Perspective

AVIA 4000, Special Projects: Human


Factors in Aviation
Raymond E. Cain, Jr., Ph.D., Instructor

Unit Learning Objectives


Explain Ludwig von Bertalanffys notion of a general
systems theory
Define the term system
Enumerate and explain the six major characteristics of
systems
Enumerate and explain the five major elements of
systems
Appraise the adequacy of a system to produce its
intended outcome(s)
Explain how Systems Theory is related to Human
Factors
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Assumptions
All phenomena are interrelated
All phenomena have common patterns,
behaviors, and properties
All phenomenal inquiry is knowledgeable
action

von Bertalanffys Systems


von Bertalanffy's objective was to bring
together under one heading the organismic
science that he had observed in his work as a
biologist
His desire was to use the word system to
describe those principles which are common
to systems in general

von Bertalanffys Systems


In GST, he writes there exist models, principles,
and laws that apply to generalized systems or
their subclasses, irrespective of their particular
kind, the nature of their component elements,
and the relationships 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
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What is the System Approach?

According to Sheridan (1988), the system


approach is merely a way of breaking some
selected slice of the real world into identifiable
pieces and looking at how those pieces interact

What is a System?
Sets of elements standing in interrelation
among themselves and with the environment
(von Bertalanffy)
A set of objects together with relationships
between the objects and between their
attributes (Hall & Fagan)
An organization of people or a group of parts
that operate together to achieve a single
purpose or goal (Wright)
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Characteristics of Systems
Systems are open and ongoingnot static; the
parts are dynamically related to one another
and to the environment
The rules governing systems complex enough
to be open and ongoing are hierarchically
structuredlayered by complexity (i.e., sub
systems, systems, suprasystems)

Characteristics of Systems
An open, ongoing system is emergent out of
the interaction of its parts; thus . . . the whole
is greater than the sum of its parts and has
qualities that cannot be deduced from the
combined characteristics of each part

Characteristics of Systems
If they are to survive as such, all ongoing
systems must regulate relationships among
elements to ensure that they are bonded
enough to maintain the systems integrity and
yet sufficiently buffered to maintain each
members integrity

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Characteristics of Systems
So, the concept of boundary is an essential
one in systems thinking; the very act of
identifying several components as a system is
equivalent to drawing a line between what is
included with the system and what is not part
of the system

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Characteristics of Systems
Boundaries define the system and represent
the interface between it and its sub and
suprasystems
Boundaries also mark the interface between
the system and its environment; that is,
everything that is external to it but in some
way directly or indirectly transacts with it

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Characteristics of Systems
If they are to remain open and ongoing, all
such systems must regulate traffic across their
boundaries so that they are able to access
necessary resources from the environment
while protecting themselves from threatening
or unwelcome incursions from that same
environment
Boundaries can be conceptualized as being
permeable
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Elements of Systems
Goals
Inputs
People
Natural Resources
Capital
Finance
Knowledge
Energy
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Elements of Systems
Processes
Outputs
Feedback
Cybernetic
Self-monitoring
Self-reflexive

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Universal Systems Model

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Key Terms

system
boundary
component
goal
input
process
output
feedback
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