Uncertainty and the need to rethink management after the collapse of investment capitalism

Research Cluster

Speaker:Professor Ralph Stacey, Professor of Management and Director of an innovative Master and Doctoral program in complexity, leadership and organizational change at the Business School of the University of Hertfordshire
Date: Monday 7 June 2010
Time: 4pm until 5.30pm
Location: Xfi Conference Room 2

Further details

Approaches to leadership and management are still dominated by prescriptions – usually claimed without any evidence to be scientific – for top executives to choose the future direction of their organizations. The global financial recession and the collapse of investment capitalism – surely not planned by anyone – make it quite clear that top executives are simply not able to choose future directions. Despite this, current management literature mostly continues to avoid the obvious – management’s inability to predict or control what will happen in the future. The key question now must be how we are to think about management if we take the uncertainty of organizational life seriously. Ralph Stacey will appeal to the sciences of uncertainty and complexity to suggest an understanding of leadership and management as the ordinary politics of daily organizational life. He will suggest that organizations are complex responsive processes of relating between people as a way of seeing organizational reality for what it actually is – human beings engaged in many, many local conversational interactions and power relations in which they negotiate their ideologically based choices. Organizational continuity and change emerge unpredictably in the interplay of these many, many local plans and choices rather than being the result of any overall plan. This is a radically different picture from the one painted by most of the management literature which explains “organizational continuity and change” as the realization of the global plans and choices of a few powerful executives within an organization.

Ralph Stacey has devoted many years to addressing the theoretical foundations of how the complexity sciences are used to understand sources of stability and change in organizations. His work on complex responsive processes elucidates a view that shifts our understanding of complexity from adaptive systems to responsive processes of relating. He is the author of a number of books and articles which include Complexity and Organizational Reality: the need to rethink management after the collapse of investment capitalism (Routledge, 2010), Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics (5th edition, Pitman, 2007), Complexity and Group Processes: a radically social understanding of the individual (Brunner-Routledge, 2003), Complex Responsive Processes in Organisations (Routledge, 2001), Complexity and Management: Fad or radical challenge to systems thinking (with Griffin & Shaw, Routledge in 2000), Complexity and Creativity in Organizations (Berrett-Koehler, 1996), Managing the Unknowable (Jossey-Bass, 1992), and Chaos Frontier (Butterworth-Heinemann, 1991).He is a co-editor of the book series Complexity and Emergence in Organizations as well as the series Complexity as the Experience of Organizing which includes Experiencing Emergence in Organizations.