Complexity and management

 

All examinations with respect to the success rate of complex change projects have shown dissatisfying results. This alludes to general problems within the determining hypothesis on organisation and change. This hypothesis is defined by a paradigm of controllability. For about ten years we have been intensively analysing the results of complexity research as a possible new frame for working in major organisations, together with Richard Pascale and Douglas Griffin.

 

Complexity research examines the interaction of non-linear factors and thereby enables an understanding of chaotic, uncertain and non-predictable phenomena. The basic applicability of well established methods is thereby not questioned; the application range of these methods is, however, clearly limited.

 

It also becomes apparent that a new hypothesis for working in organisations will be characterised by the following principles derived from complexity research:

 

  • the predictability of the development of organisations is closely limited
  • change and innovation mainly develop from local interactions of the players involved
  • the ability to innovate and change is a function of the participants' diversity
  • players within an organisation depend upon each other and are not able to act as autonomous individuals

It is interesting that these principles are very similar to the ideas the philosopher Hannah Arendt presented in her book on human behaviour of the "Vita Activa". Her understanding of power, action and politics has had a strong influence on our consulting practice.