Date of Award

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Charles B. Keating

Committee Member

Mamadou D. Seck

Committee Member

Teddy Cotter

Committee Member

James C. Pyne


The purpose of this research was to develop a systems theory based framework for complex system governance using grounded theory approach. Motivation for this research includes: 1) the lack of research that identifies modeling characteristics for complex system governance, 2) the lack of a framework rooted in systems theory to support performance of complex system governance functions for maintaining system viability.

This research focused on answering: What systems theoretic framework can be developed to inform complex system governance and enable articulation of governance function performance? The grounded theory research approach utilized three phases. First, the literature in systems theory, management cybernetics, governance and enterprise architecture was synthesized and open-coded to generalize main themes using broad analysis in NVivo software, researcher note taking in EndNote, and cataloging in Excel spreadsheets. Second, the literature underwent axial-coding to identify interconnections and relevance to systems theory and complex system governance, primarily using Excel spreadsheets. Finally, selective coding and interrelationships were identified and the complex system governance architecture framework was shaped, reviewed, and validated by qualified experts.

This research examined a grounded theory approach not traditionally used in systems theory research. It produced a useful systems theory based framework for practical application, bridging the gap between theory and practice in the emerging field of complex system governance.

Theoretical implications of this research include identifying the state of knowledge in each literature domain and the production of a unique framework for performing metasystem governance functions that is analytically generalizable. Management cybernetics, governance, and systems theory are expanded through a testable tool for meta-level organizational and system governance theories. Enterprise architecture is advanced with a multi-disciplinary framework that coherently presents and facilitates new use for architecture at the metasystem level.

Methodological implications of this research include using grounded theory approach for systems theory research, where it is atypical. Although a non-traditional method, it provides an example for conducting fruitful research that can contribute knowledge.

Practical implications of this research include a useable framework for complex system governance which has never before existed and a living structure adaptable to evolutionary change coming from any related domain or future practical application feedback.