It is often said that we live in an increasingly complex world, the pace of change, the degree of connectivity and the scale of operations are leading to rapidly escalating complexity in many domains. As our industrial age systems of organization are ending their life cycle, globalization, and information technology are taking us into a much more complex world and enabling the emergence of new forms of networked organization. This transition is in turn driving a fundamental transformation in our theory and methods of management, one that goes beyond our traditional paradigm designed for dealing with relatively static, hierarchical organizations within relatively stable and predictable environments, to more complex networked organizations that are adapted to operating in a so-called VUCA world of volatility, uncertainty and rapid change driven by innovation.
This course is a first of its kind bringing together some of the latest ideas from complexity theory and emerging approaches to the management of complex organizations. During this book we will explore many of these new ideas including, network organizations, co-evolution, systems thinking, platform organizations, agile development, and the adaptive cycle to name just a few. The book is broken down into five main sections.
Complexity & Management We will start the book off with an overview of complexity and management, talking briefly about what we mean by the practice of management before going on to take an introduction to the basic concepts from complexity theory that we will be using throughout the rest of the book such as self-organization, networks, evolution, and systems. We then combine our new understanding of both to take an overview of how complexity theory is being applied to management.
Systems Thinking The second section is dedicated to systems thinking. The paradigm of systems thinking is at the heart of managing complexity as it helps us to see the whole and not simply the parts, a key requirement for understanding and managing these highly interconnected and interdependent systems. We firstly give an overview of systems thinking, we talk about the key concept of emergence before going on to explore the system dynamics modeling framework that helps us to understand the nonlinear feedback loops that drive change in complex organizations.
Networked Organizations In the next section we explore this new type of networked organization that we see emerging in post-industrial economies, new types of platform organizations that go beyond the industrial age model, enabled by information technology, they are networked in structure, collaborative by nature, open and self-organizing. In this section, we explore the DNA of these new forms of organization contrasting them with our more traditional form to understand their key attributes.
Complex Project Management In the fourth section to the book, we will see how a very different approach to our traditional linear project management methods are needed when projects reach a high degree of complexity. We will look at so-called “wicked problems” a new breed of very complex challenges such as climate change, inequality or cybersecurity, all of which share the key characteristics of complexity. We will look at the methods presented by complexity management designed for managing these large projects, under volatile and uncertain conditions.
The VUCA Framework The net result of the complex environment that we explored in the previous sections is what the business world calls VUCA. VUCA is an acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity; it captures the most salient challenges faced by leaders operating in complex environments. In this last section, we introduce the concept of VUCA and give an overview to strategies for navigating these challenging environments, through the development of adaptive and agile organizations. Readership This book is designed as an introduction to the subject, concepts are explored in non-technical terms, and it will require only a basic background knowledge of management and economics. The book should be relevant for those engaged in all areas of management both public and private.