Jack, I think that the reference from Gibbs via Warfield helps clear
this up. *System* is just a linguitic device for understanding a
chosen chunk of the world. There are no limits to the chunks, their
overlaps or their size except our ability to relate the elements.
I don't agree with what you say (following) but I'm having trouble
unpacking it. I think it might be because I don't have a systems
background and the presuppositions are somewhat hidden from me. But
I'll try to do something useful by inserting my comments.
> In my way of thinking, I do not think of a team as a system (but it
can be a system a la Gibbs where the members of a team are more like
its distributed agents and the team is a phenomenon in its own right
which has emerged from interaction but isn't any summation of the
dynamic of interpersonal relationships.)
>-- except for
> the dynamic of interpersonal relationships it contains. That dynamic, as
> though it were a single personality, interacts with the activities of the
> team in a systemic way. (I can agree with this but it doesn't affect
> any of the other possibilities.)
> In this sense, the team leader cannot be both in
> the team and in its environment. To the extent that the leader can
> abstract herself from the team (as part of her relationship with the
> larger organization), that is merely an attribute of her part of the team
> dynamic, and it represents power within the team.
The above is too simplified. The leader *can* be part of the team
and not part of the team. Just not at one and the same time. Just
like a parent can be a friend and a parent or ...... This is a
difficult distinction to maintain for many individuals but not
impossible and very useful when done well. A manager can be the
environment of the team some of the time and part of the team at
other times. (But this is often not a good idea.)
Are you implying that one must be only a member of a single team? If
not, then as a member of more than one team, I'm likely to be part of
the environment of many teams as well as a member of some of them.
> Now, if we were to examine the functioning of the team in its environment
> by trying to discern how the outputs of the team impact other things and
> are in turn impacted by the changes they create, the role of the team
> leader and her relationship to the external environment might be critical
> data for understanding the system
I think this is the unnamed presupposition that is the problem. I am
not approaching this from a linear view or singular cause & effect.
I presume that "how outputs" impact and are impacted presupposes
something more linear than I'm speaking of. Emergence, co-evolution
and complex adaptive systems imply a different causality than the one
that you're using.
>- and we might actually come to
> different conclusions if we looked at her only as team participant, or
> only as external to the actions of the team, but of course neither is the
It may be that "neither is the case" but what counts isn't what *is*
the case but what useful ways we might think about things.
> Perhaps I'm being obtuse here. I find myself *arguing* as I try to
> understand, so I wonder if I am really trying to understand. I'm clearly
> missing something in the way you see it, but I can't wrap my mind around
> it. It's somewhere in the description... "we can only see what we can
I don't think you're being obtuse nor does what you say come across
as *arguing*. I take it to be a clear expression of your own
thinking in contrast to what you see in mine so that we can
deconstruct to discover what is mutual, what is not and what might
emerge from the dialogue. For my own part, I'm delighted by your
response and the reason it took me so long to respond was that I
wanted to do it justice.
> Please help me, Michael (or anyone else who can see around us). I want
> very much to grasp this sense you seem to have that knowledge will emerge
> from careful distinctions, which I experience only as (please forgive the
> unintended pejorative overtones) hairsplitting...
They're not *careful* distinctions but useful ones - or not. I'm not
looking for truth but validity determined by pragmatic tests. I
would expect that you are limited when working with teams when the
conditions of "team" or the environment for "team" don't match a set
of pre-existing standards. The above, if they're useful, might be
useful to give you more flexibility and effectiveness in those
situations where you currently are not satisfied with generating
teams in your own work.
-- Michael McMaster Michael@kbddean.demon.co.uk