Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Charles B. Keating

Committee Member

Adrian V. Gheorghe

Committee Member

Resit Unal

Committee Member

Vernon Ireland


The purpose of this research was to develop a systems theory-based contextual framework of communication functions supporting complex system governance using an inductive research design. Communication, as one aspect of Management Cybernetics (communication and control for effective system organization) constructed of channels of communication, provides for the movement of information internally and externally for a system. This flow reflecting new information, decisions, questions, and intelligence is critical for viability of a system. This research looked for communication mechanisms as developed in system theory, communication theory, management theory, and organizational theory. The literature indicates the importance of communications, but a systemic perspective of communication mechanisms and an effect on the viability of a system are not described. This gap in knowledge was addressed by this research. Specifically, the research looked at the description and system functions serviced by the development of content that flows through the channels of communication. The extensive use of grounded theory method enabled a rigorous inductive analysis of literature dealing with channels of communication. The research produced a construct of communication mechanisms that consists of an integrated grouping of the concepts; Direction, Mode, Product, and Technology (Conveyance). A communication design when developed and/or maintained suggests the communication mechanisms are subject to underlying influences; Identity (motive/intent), Variety Attenuation, Variety Amplification, and Transduction that must be recognized with respect to how Channels of Communication support the viability of the system of interest. While system emergence was not directly related to the Communication Mechanism, the role of Channels of Communication in system emergence is evident as the conduit for the emergence process. Identification of the communication functions means that communication mechanisms, beyond the identification provided by Beer (1979) and Shannon (1948) can be described based in systems theory, communication theory, management theory, knowledge management, and organizational theory. From this construct, a face validation in the form of a survey was conducted. The content of the questionnaire was aligned to the communication mechanisms with the intent to support triangulation. There was peer validation of the questions to the subject of communication, for ease of use and exclusion of private personal information. This was followed by a test run of the survey. The actual accomplishment of the survey was through a web service.

This research provides a theoretical construct of communication mechanisms when viewing a system of interest to determining the state of the system channels of communication.