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Seb Anthony

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Chaos and Complexity


Does anyone out there know, understand and can explain ‘Managing in Complexity’?

I am somewhat dazzled and unclear about this and the company I am involved with is talking about implementing it.

Many thanks.


6 Responses

  1. Theories
    To put it simply it started with studies in perception along the lines of
    ‘the more you know the harder it gets. In contrast, the more you know the easier it gets.’

    What is studied is now almost irrelevant (it started with IT), applying the theory to the business shows that human perception of the complexity of any problem is key to how quickly it can be solved or resolved. Hence why we get called in so often when consultants have operated a ‘change management’ programme without looking at the employment/HR issues! The workforce can be almost on strike because of the handling and have been bruised to the point of work output being reduced to under 20% in some cases we have seen.

    The observation of how teams react together and share information/problem solve can shed light on how to mirror activities in newly formed teams by replicating ‘good’ ( i.e productive and business-healthy) behaviour. You can also still apply the theory to an IT installation to compare say microsoft against novell.

    Without knowing how your own organisation is intending to use the theory and to what purposive end I cannot help you further. If it is IT then they will probably look at how,
    when introducing new technology into a work setting it is important that actions and activities normally accomplished by the workforce are taken into account; otherwise, an innovation might cause interruptions which are unfamiliar which in their normal day to day operation they are able to avoid as part of the job.

    We use the theory discretely when organising change programmes, or fallout from them so that familiar workpatterns are preserved until the new embeds. By utilising the knowledge of the best areas and conditions the workforce thrives in now the future can be planned for.

    Good luck with this!

    Lime One Ltd
    0870 240 4325

  2. Stacey and Wheatley
    You can get a good introduction by looking at ‘Leadership and the New Science’ by Margaret Wheatley and ‘Managing Chaos’ by Ralph Stacey. These and other authors apply recent developments in science to thinking about organisations. Contact me directly if you would like short notes on the under-pinning principles.

  3. Chaos and quantum theory
    Hi Robert

    Your question is a fascinating one, and one that it appears many leading thinkers are wrestling with.

    I recently produced a paper for a postgraduate HRD qualification which discusses the growing obsolescence of management, and uses chaos theory and quantum mechanics as a starting point. It’s florid and verbose (everything I write tends to be…), but you are welcome to a copy. Let me know your email address and I’ll send one through.

  4. What does ‘introducing it’ mean?
    I add my recommendations to those who suggst tracking down Ralph Stacey’s stuff. Since I came across this a few years ago it has proved to be one of the most useful frameworks for understanding when to apply which particular style of management/leadership.

    At its’ simplest, you might imagine a 2-dimensional field into which all the challenges we face can fit. One dimension represents the degree to which we agree WHAT needs to be done, the other the degree of agreement on HOW to do it.

    What concerns me is the prospect of ‘introducing it’ to organisations. My experience is that it is not one of the latest ‘management fixes’. It is a conceptual framework attached to which are some ideas for influencing decision making and promoting effective working in different degrees of environmental and personal complexity.

    Please DO read up on it, I view this work as one of the few really original areas of management ‘theory’ to emerge in the last 20 years!


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