Before we progress, it will be useful to briefly summarise what I have suggested so far. In Chapter 1 I looked at the way in which we interpret and construct 'reality', at the way different paradigms arise and take on the appearance of 'common sense' as they become an automatic part of our presuppositions and how wisdom in management differs from pure knowledge or technique. In Chapter 2 I examined the existence of rationality in management, the limits to the rational approach and the source of that approach in our largely unexamined adoption of concepts drawn from classical science. I then proposed the adoption, alongside not instead of the classical approach, of a new paradigm that might help us understand more of the processes that occur in our own schools, and consequently give us more choice in our actions. This paradigm was based on systems thinking and complexity science, in general, and complex adaptive systems in particular, and I outlined some concepts in these areas briefly.
In Chapter 3 I examined the limits to the control we can exert on the forces that act in a school, suggesting such limits existed at both the operational and the strategic levels. I tried to show some of these forces in action as I examined the emergent self-organising effects in three schools in Chapter 4. Chapter 5 moved the argument of earlier chapters forward by showing how leaders are at the centre of a web of interacting forces, of which they are part, but that they have also to be able to see this configuration from the outside, and that working on coherence is a key feature of the leader's role. I also suggested that the complexity of this configuration of forces is irreducible. That is, to understand it and work with it you have to work with the whole thing and not some general model of it. For this reason, schools are unique, and generalised prescriptions may be inadequate.
If we cannot fully control a complex adaptive system, and if we have to keep all the forces involved in alignment, how then can we move the school forward? The answer suggested by some complexity theorists is that you so design the system that the emergent outcomes of the various interactions are optimal, though still not entirely predictable, of course. This means