Definition

System

A system is a whole that is defined by its function in a larger system of which it is a part. – Ackoff, Russell. Differences That Make a Difference: An Annotated Glossary of Distinctions Important in Management (p. 119). Triarchy Press. Kindle Edition.

A system is a whole consisting of two or more parts that satisfies the following five conditions:

  1. The whole has one or more defining properties or functions
  2. Each part in the set can affect the behavior or properties of the whole
  3. There is a subset of parts that is sufficient in one or more environments for carrying out the defining function of the whole; each of these parts is necessary but insufficient for carrying out this defining function.
  4. The way that each essential part of a system affects its behavior or properties depends on (the behavior or properties of) at least one other essential part of the system.
  5. The effect of any subset of essential parts on the system as a whole depends on the behavior of at least one other such subset.”

– Ackoff, Russell L. Re-creating the corporation : a design of organizations for the 21st century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

“Summarizing and oversimplifying: A system is a whole that cannot be divided into independent parts without loss of its essential properties or functions.” – Ackoff, Russell L. Re-creating the corporation : a design of organizations for the 21st century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.