Human Services Technology by Dick Schoech, Published by Haworth Press

Chapter 7: Applying Systems and Decision Making Theories

Web sites Additional review & discussion questions Exercises Additional readings

Web Sites relevant to sections of this chapter

Systems Decison making Implications
Site Relevance

Section 1:  Systems Web dictionary of cybernetics and systems Description of systems theory


Section 2: Decision making



Section 3: Implications of systems and decision-making theories Diffusion of Innovation research

Additional Review and Discussion Questions

  1. none

Additional Exercises

Exercise 1: Discussing systems theory

            Divide into small work groups.  The task of each group is to think of an existing system that exhibits minimal systems characteristics and an existing system that exhibits maximum systems characteristics.  Groups will have 20 minutes to complete the exercise before reporting their choices to the class.  For the “minimum” and “maximum” system, define the system, its environment, its subsystems, and the inputs, processes and outputs of the system.  Each group should also justify their choice of the “minimum” and “maximum” designation by ranking both systems as high or low on systems characteristics such as integration, synergy, goal directedness, feedback, and control.

Exercise 2: Applying systems theory to a previous chapter

            Divide into two groups.  One group will use the stereo system described in Table 2.2.  The other group will use the computing system described in Table 2.2.  Each group will discuss what makes the group of components a system.  What feedback channels exist?  What control mechanisms exist? How could each be optimized?  What impact would optimizing each component have on the performance of the total system?

Exercise 2: The impact of system goals

            This exercise illustrates the impact of optimizing a system on different goals and the tradeoffs involved.  The class divides into three groups.  Each group designs the same agency with the intent of optimizing that agency on a different goal.  The agency developed will be the subject of future exercises.  A real agency could be used instead of Community Counseling, Inc., which is described below.

  1. Group #1: Group one will design the agency to produce maximum efficiency, i.e., maximum output for minimum input

  2. Group #2: Group two will design the agency to produce maximum effectiveness, that is, goal achievement

  3. Group #3: Group three will design the agency to produce maximum accountability, that is, maximum ways for clients, funding sources and the general public to be aware of what they want and need to know about the agency.

To design the agency based on the goals above, use the description below to do the following.

  1. Staff the agency, i.e., determine the number of staff needed, their titles, and their qualifications.

  2. Set up a general budget that includes the salaries for all staff.

  3. Specify the key report(s) that the agency will produce.  Specify the type of information on the reports, the intended users of the reports, and how often the reports will be produced.

Each group will present their agency's organizational chart (staff, qualifications, salaries), budget, and reports, and the rationale behind each.  Determine how the goals influence the differences between the findings of the three groups. 

The agency, Community Counseling, Inc., has the goal of helping those with mental health problems.  Its purpose is to provide counseling, to reintegrate discharged clients into their families and the community, and to prevent the need for more expensive and extensive intervention by other agencies, for example, inpatient hospitalization.  Agency funding is as follows:

  1.  $40,000 in client fees.

  2. $40,000 in private and government insurance.

  3. $80,000 from the State Department of Mental Health.

  4. $40,000 from a private trust.

Exercise 4.  Applying decision-making theory

            Consider your decision to take this class or read this book.  Using Tables 7.5, map the attributes of the decision.  Using Table 7.6, map the attributes of the information associated with making the decision.  Using Figure 7.7, map the attributes associated with you, the decision maker.  Does this mapping help you better understand the decision?

Additional Reading

As of May 99, you are visitor:  Hit Counter