Barnard and social systems theory

Chester Barnard and social systems theory

Social systems theory by Chester Barnard

The contributions of Chester Barnard to the management are over whelming. His book “ The Functions of the Executive “ is regarded as the most influential book on the management during the pre- modern management era. His analysis of management is truly a social systems approach. In determining the tasks of executives, he has analysed the nature of cooperative social systems, as he found non- logical factors also influencing human behaviour in the organisation.

The major contributions of Chester Barnard :

1. Concept of Organisation :

Barnard suggests that classical concept of organization does not fully explain the features of an organization.He has defined formal organization, as a system consciously coordinated activities or courses of two or more persons. He opined organization, exists in the following conditions –

  • There are persons able to communicate with each other.
  • They are willing to contribute to the action.
  • They attempt to accomplish a common purpose.

2. Formal and informal Organisations

Bernard suggested that executives should encourage the development of informal organisation, to serve as a means of communication, to bring cohesion in the organisation, and to protect the individuals from dominance and on slaught of the organization. Both the formal and the informal organisations, depend on each other and there is continuous interaction between the two. Therefore inmanaging an organization, managers should take into account both types of organisation.


3. Elements of Organisation 

 According to Barnard, there are four elements of a formal organisation they are

  •  a system of functionalisation so that people can specialize.
  • a systemof effective and efficient incentives to induce people to contribute to group action.
  • a system of power which will lead group members to accept the decisions of the executives and.
  • a system of logical decision making.


4. Authority

Barnard does not agree with the classical view that authority transcends from the top to bottom. He has given a new concept of authority known as “ acceptance theory of authority “ or “ bottom –up authority “. In his opinion, a person does not obey an order because it has been given by a superior but he will accept a communication as being authoritative.



5. Functions of the executive 

 Barnard has identified three types of functions which an executive performs in a formal organisation.

These are –

  • maintenance or organizational communication through formal interactions.
  • the securing of essential services from individuals to achieve organizational purpose.
  • the formulation and definition of organizational purpose.
  • Motivation – Apart from financial incentives Barnard has suggested a number of non – financial techniques formotivating people these are –.
  • Opportunity of power and distinction.
  • Pride of workmanship.
  • Pleasant organization.
  • Mutual supporting and personal attitudes.
  • Feeling of belongingness.


7. Executive Effectiveness 

 High order of responsible leadership makes the executive effective. Executive leadership demands high caliber, technological competence, and technical and social skills.


8. Organisational Equilibrium 

 Organisational equilibrium refers to the matching of individual efforts and organisational efforts to satisfy individuals. This equilibriumis not static but dynamic. The equilibrium of the organization, depends on the individuals working is, in it, other organizations and the changes in the society. Thus Barnard contribution show how he was concerned for the development of the organization through social systems.

Leave a Reply