Complexity, Organizations and Change

Complexity, Organizations and Change

Complexity, Organizations and Change

Complexity, Organizations and Change


This book describes and examines ideas and insights from complexity science and their use in organizations, especially in bringing about major organizational change. It considers how to transform the way people think about major organizations, about their design, they way they operate and most importantly, the people who co-create them.


For most of my working life I have been a personnel professional. I have worked in a number of different organizations and experienced a variety of organizational cultures, management styles, and human behaviours. As I collected my professional qualifications and became more and more immersed in the ways of management so I found I was travelling on two parallel journeys. I was digesting, sometimes uncomfortably, huge amounts of data about how to do things rationally, logically, efficiently and effectively. Yet at the same time I was aware that the reality of my everyday experiences did not always match the theory I was absorbing. As a young manager I had plenty of theory and very little practice with which to hone my critical skills. However, as I became more experienced and learnt from others around me so I became increasingly more and more uncomfortable with many aspects of modern management and organization theory. Then in 1993 three events happened which were to significantly change the direction of my life and lead in 2002 to the writing of this book.

I was unexpectedly introduced to chaos theory in the novel, Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton, who refers to chaos to explain the turbulent events that unfold in the dinosaur park. A few months later I was introduced to the work of Ralph Stacey and recommended to read James Gleick’s book, Chaos. At about the same time I became involved in a strategic change intervention at the organization where I worked, the Open University. This gave me an opportunity to try out some of the ideas that were surfacing in my mind and to introduce influences from chaos, and later complexity, into a major strategic change programme.

The programme which originally had been planned for a few months, ran for four years, and as it drew to its close I was given a secondment to study full time for my doctorate and to use the programme to provide the raw data for my case study research.

Thus my life took a totally unpredictable turn and almost 10 years later I find myself working as a research fellow in the Technology Faculty and writing this book. It’s a far cry from working in the hurly burly of a busy personnel department, wrestling with budgets, strategic plans, internal politics, crises of one sort or another, and all the many demanding minutiae that make up a manager’s life - but but what proof that we live in an unpredictable world!

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.