Systems Theory in Business

Systems Theory

“The system functions at whatever level it needs to in order to accomplish the goal. This is systems theory in action.”

Your System is Functioning-Even if it Doesn’t Seem Like it.


The biggest “Ah Ha” moment, when it comes to understanding systems, is that your system IS achieving a goal. It may not be the goal that the system is intended to achieve, but there is a result. 

David Stroh, a systems expert, says “Systems are perfectly designed to achieve the results they are currently achieving. In other words, no matter how dysfunctional a system appears to be, it is producing benefits for the people who participate in it.” Is your business system meeting the goals or values you have set for it, or are there other results you are seeing?

For example, if your system goals are elite customer service, best-in-class performance, and luxury, the people in your system would constantly focus on how these goals would be achieved. There would be practices in place to ensure that your employees exude all of those qualities. They would love supporting the customer, conduct themselves in a way that gives the customer the feeling that they know performance and luxury. You would invest all of that for your employees.

But often that is just a marketing ploy. What you end up with is a system that is focused on making as much money as fast as possible with high sales volume and pressure sales tactics. The system functions at whatever level it needs to in order to accomplish the goal. This is systems theory in action.

People in the above system end up with cognitive dissonance by speaking one way and behaving differently. This is a toxic system, but, honestly, name a human system that does not do this. 

Systemic Forces

The leaders of a system have the most control over how the system operates. These leaders rise to the top because they are the best at reinforcing the system goals and values. They have proven over and over again that they behave strongly in the unspoken agreements rather than the marketing agreements (the values put out to the public).

This might seem like a pessimistic view of the system, but if you take the time to really observe your system, you will see that it is true. You cannot rise to the top of a system unless you truly behave in the way the the system is designed. 


Systems in The Future


Currently, we are in an unprecedented “bucking of the system.” It has been labeled the Great Reshuffle, or the Great Resignation. People are beginning to realize that they can actually leave toxic systems. They can move off of social media platforms that do not align with their values. They are understanding their purchasing power and the value of “things” by buying less and becoming minimalists.

Businesses will start to see high turnover as they are used in the way they have used people for hundreds of years. People will work for them, see if the system promotes people who actually live in the spoken values of the system, and decide if it’s the right fit for them. 

“Currently, we are in an unprecedented ‘bucking of the system.'”

In the end, this great social experiment will soon be decided. People will either be put in the position of having to work for unethical or toxic systems through market (system) forces such as inflation, higher interest rates, high gas prices, etc. Or they will continue to create their own systems that are not dependent on these forces and thrive in a re-imagined way. It’s a gamble for businesses.

In my many observations and studies of these systems, I have found that there are leaders in the systems who are well aware of what is happening. They are scrambling to hoard money and power before their business systems collapse, looking out only for themselves.