The Application of an Extended Hierarchy Theory in Understanding Complex Organizational Situations: The Case of FIReControl

Date

2015-07-15

Advisors

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

ISSN

1099-1743

Volume Title

Publisher

John Wiley

Type

Article

Peer reviewed

Yes

Abstract

Hierarchy theory is a fundamental systems approach that offers rich perspectives in understanding the flow of matter and information between different levels of control. This paper offers an extended view of hierarchy theory, which can be used to illuminate complex organizational environments. Firstly, the characteristics of a hierarchy are explored, and the flow of information and resources, the perception of space and time and changing purposes and perspectives are explored. Secondly, the importance of networks, nodes and hubs is examined as a necessary element of understanding hierarchies. Thirdly, the properties of boundaries, which act as filters both maintaining the hierarchy and enabling effective organizations, are discussed. A context for exploring the application of extended hierarchical theory is provided in an exploration of a large-scale information technology failure in the UK government. The failure of FIReControl, a project which was to provide a nationwide system to manage disasters and terrorist attacks, is explored using the range of extended hierarchy theory concepts. The paper offers an iterative process for applying extended hierarchy theory and calls for a greater attention in systems research to boundaries, filters and networks.

Description

Keywords

hierarchy theory, networks, boundaries, information systems failures, FIReControl

Citation

McBride, N. (2015) The Application of an Extended Hierarchy Theory in Understanding Complex Organizational Situations: The Case of FIReControl. Systems Research and Behavioural Science, 33 (3), pp. 413-436

Rights

Research Institute

Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)