Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics: The Challenge of Complexity


This text aims to provide students with a comprehensive alternative to the existing material on strategic management. The author works on the premise that organizations thrive and succeed in highly dynamic environments rather than states of stability. Rather than concentrating on the analysis of competitive positions, this text focuses on the organizations as a feedback ...
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This text aims to provide students with a comprehensive alternative to the existing material on strategic management. The author works on the premise that organizations thrive and succeed in highly dynamic environments rather than states of stability. Rather than concentrating on the analysis of competitive positions, this text focuses on the organizations as a feedback system.

The text is illustrated with mini-cases taken from named European companies including Suter Packaging Division

Potain SA

Societe Generale de Belgique

Logitech International SA

and Federal Metals Inc.

It is suitable for final-year degree students on BA Business Studies and other business studies programmes where strategic management is a core subject, and also for MBA students and other postgraduate/post-experience students covering strategic management as part of the course.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780273642121
  • Publisher: Pearson Education
  • Publication date: 2/28/2000
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 457

Table of Contents

List of figures
List of tables
1 The nature of strategy and organisational change 1
Pt. 1 Systemic perspectives on strategy and organisational dynamics 15
2 The origins of systems thinking 17
3 The foundations of strategic choice theory: cybernetic systems and cognitivist psychology 32
4 Strategic choice 51
5 The foundations of learning organisation theory: systems dynamics and cognitivism 82
6 The learning organisation 103
7 Obstacles to strategic choice and organisational learning: open systems and psychoanalytic perspectives 129
8 Knowledge creation in organisations: second-order systems, autopoiesis and constructivist psychology 157
9 A social perspective: critical systems thinking and communities of practice 186
Pt. 2 The challenge of complexity 215
10 Chaos theory, dissipative structures and synergetics 217
11 Complex adaptive systems 236
12 Systemic applications of chaos and complexity theory to organisations 265
Pt. 3 Complex responsive processes perspectives on strategy and organising 291
13 Process thinking 293
14 Strategy as the emergence of organisational identity 319
15 The narrative structure of self-organising experience 337
16 Understanding organisations as complex responsive processes 358
17 Control, leadership and ethics 389
18 The implications of understanding organisations as complex responsive processes 408
Management narratives 424
1 Innovation in a water utility 424
2 The budget meeting 431
3 Performance measurement 434
4 Consulting and culture change 441
5 Culture change at a factory 447
6 The diversity project 452
7 Global competencies 460
References 468
Index 479
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Most books on organisational strategy seek to account for superior performance in organisations and they prescribe methods by which to secure competitive advantage as the basis of improved performance. The tendency is to reify the organisation and regard it as a system. There is also a tendency to reify an organisation's strategy, defining that strategy as the direction of the whole organisation's movement into the future. The concern is then with identifying the forces operating on that direction so that the forces may be manipulated by managers to secure their desired outcome for their organisation's future.

This book differs from those just mentioned. Instead of being concerned with superior performance, it focuses on a prior concern, which is the matter of how we are thinking about organisations and strategy. For example, why do we think that an organisation is a system and what are the consequences of doing so? What view of human psychology is implicit in prescribing measures that managers should take to select the direction of an organisation's movement into the future? This book differs from many others in seeking to locate current thinking about strategy in the history of Western thought and thereby identify taken-for-granted assumptions about human psychology and human interaction. It seeks to challenge thinking rather than describe the current state of thinking about strategy and organisational dynamics.

The challenge to current ways of thinking is presented in the contrasts that this book draws between systemic and process ways of thinking about strategy and organisational dynamics. While the systemic perspective is concerned with improvement and movement toa future destination, process thinking is concerned with complex responsive processes of human relating in which strategies emerge. From this perspective, strategy is defined as the emergence of organisational and individual identities so that the concern is with how organisations come to be what they are and how those identities will continue to evolve. From a process perspective, the question of performance improvement has to do with more authentic participation in processes of communicative interaction, power relating and the creation of knowledge and meaning.

The challenge to ways of thinking presented in this book also comes in the form of insights from the complexity sciences. The book will explore the differences for organisational thinking between a way of interpreting these insights in systemic terms and a way of interpreting them in process terms.

In this fourth edition I have made a number of changes. The number of chapters on the theory of strategic choice has been reduced because that theory is extensively covered in a number of other books. The intention here is not to provide a detailed coverage of the theory but to tease out the way of thinking it reflects. This edition makes a sharper distinction between systemic and process thinking than the third edition did, particularly by including new chapters on the philosophical origins of systems and process thinking and by adding new chapters on second-order and critical system thinking. New material has also been included on the theory of complex responsive processes, particularly to do with control, leadership and ethics.

The purpose of this book is to assist people to make sense of their own experience of life in organisations. For this reason the case studies included in the third edition have been removed because they tend to be carefully structured accounts of someone else's organisational experience, usually written with some point in mind, which the reader is supposed to see. This is not consistent with the purpose of assisting readers to make sense of their own experience. So, instead of case studies, there are seven management narratives, that is, personal accounts of the experience of life in organisations. Readers are invited to think about the sense they make of this experience. The main point, however, remains for readers to use the material in this book to make sense of their own experience.

I am grateful to users of previous editions who have made helpful comments and to my colleagues and other participants in the MA/Doctor of Management programme on organisational change at the University of Hertfordshire (in association with the Institute of Group Analysis).

Ralph Stacey
May 2002


Online support materials for students and lecturers including additional references and useful weblinks, and a commentary on the text for lecturers are available.

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