Management Information Systems Quarterly


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.