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Abstract

We attempt to use general systems theory (GST) to understand why resources at Texaco’s corporate information technology function consistently did not match its task during its 40-year lifetime. Our interpretation uses mechanistic, organic, and colonial systems metaphors, each with three components. The first is an analysis of a management action system made up of organizational indicators such as Texaco’s revenues, profits, employee numbers, IT budgets, and IT personnel numbers. The second is a narrative of performance versus resource needs in Texaco IT function, which shows a gap between IT's resources and its expanding responsibilities. The third is a management-perception system, which offers reasons why top management continually misinterpreted IT’s performance as inferior. Our results show that the mechanistic, organic, and colonial interpretations converge. In addition, our GST-based interpretations show how top management might have remedied the situation.

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