Although activity and entity systems are different systems in their own right, one can nevertheless view each type of system from either an activity or entity system perspective.
For example, a manufacturing organisation is an entity system. However, if viewed within a supply chain, one takes an activity system view of it and manufacturing (e.g. of cars) is seen as a phase in the overall supply chain (e.g. the transport industry supply chain). Or one can view the manufacturer as an independent entity system that consists of outward, inward and self-directed activity systems and whose outward-directed production line is a link in the overarching transport supply chain.
Likewise, one can see parts of an entity system from an activity or entity system perspective. The activity system perspective refers to functions or projects. The entity system perspective speaks of the roles, departments or teams associated with the function or project of an organisation or the organs and tissues associated with a function of an organism.
In social systems, the self of the entity system tends to identify with a role more than a function. For example, if persons identify with their teaching function and derive a sense of self from it, they describe themselves as a teacher. By comparison, a mother who is teaching her children all the time as part of the mothering function may see teaching as an inherent function of mothering and not describe herself as teacher but rather as a mother.
Both perspectives are important, each in a different context.
relevance for the change manager
A matrix organisation requires that its members perform multiple functions. The activity system perspective enables a person to see him or herself as a bundle of different functions with multiple accountabilities.
By comparison, an entity system perspective which involves identification with a specific position within a department is less useful. This was the dominant perspective associated with “climbing the ladder” of the traditional hierarchy during the industrial age.
what is the relevance of this concept for you?