"It’s not credible to say in one breath that the dynamics of organisation are complex and then, in the next, to suggest that the use of specific concepts, tools or techniques will enable managers to predict, choose or control what emerges."
This is the central theme of the argument that I shall put to participants at an evening Think Tank organized by London Metropolitan Business School's Centre for Progressive Leadership (CPL) on 1 July.
The event is intended to be highly interactive, with only a relatively short input from me to provoke the ensuing small-group conversations. And so I've produced a more in-depth statement in support of the view that we need to take organizational complexity seriously. This has just been published as a White Paper on the CPL's website.
The Abstract from the paper is reproduced below, followed by a link to the full text.
"Life in organisations is unavoidably messier and more uncertain than the formal strategies, structures, systems and processes imply. And yet most discussions of organisational management and leadership practice remain firmly rooted in mainstream presumptions of certainty, predictability and control. Complexity is too often consigned to the “too difficult” box.
Most managers find it highly liberating to discover why there is a mismatch between their everyday lived reality and what conventional management ‘wisdom’ suggests should be happening. Understanding the complex social reality of organisational life – arising from their own and everyone else’s participation in it - provides a crucial first step in releasing them from the suffocating grip of the dominant management discourse.
This enables them to reframe their task in ways that resonate much more strongly with their sense of what’s actually going on; and with what they find themselves doing in practice. And it helps them to participate more insightfully in the everyday conversations and interactions through which organisational outcomes – including those associated with a “progressive leadership” agenda - emerge in practice.
In setting out a view of organisational dynamics that takes complexity seriously, and identifying practical ways in which leaders might respond to this challenge, I also suggest that we need to think carefully about using systems-based approaches in an organisational context."
A copy of the full text of the White Paper can be downloaded here.