Systems Design

for Organizational Change

Systems design for organizational change consists of systems theory and design theory.1

Systems theory views organizations as a system of multiple interacting and interdependent subsystems. Problems and solutions are viewed within the context of the whole system, taking into account the relationships among the subsystems.2 Given the complexity of higher education institutions, a systems approach to institutional change is likely to be more productive than an isolated, piecemeal approach.3

Design theory involves creation of a new system through a process that is holistic, iterative, and involves collaboration among stakeholders.2 The primary stakeholders in the Network are faculty. Network faculty are empowered to utilize these concepts to create lasting paradigm shifts.

This theoretical framework emphasizes that the Network’s goal is more than creation of activities, modules, or classes. Rather, our goal is to catalyze transformation within the context of the whole system, creating sustainable change that resists return to the status quo.

  1. Watson, W. R. & Watson, S. L. Exploding the Ivory Tower: Systemic Change for Higher Education. TechTrends 57, 42–46 (2013).

  2. Watson, S. L., Reigeluth, C. M. & Watson, W. R. Systems design for change in education and training. Handb. Res. Educ. Commun. Technol. 691–701 (2008).

  3. Bett, F. How systems thinking applies to education. Educ. Leadersh. 38 (1992).