Complexity List LO28136

From: Wirth, Ross (
Date: 04/01/02

Replying to LO28120 --

I have been studying complexity theory for the last couple of years and
the more I learn, the more I see its application in organizational change.
For me this has been a slow paradigm shift as I have come to see my
assumptions challenged in how organizational change can be accomplished
(or not as is most often the case). If I were to identify the key value
it would be increased understanding of the high failure rate of most
change efforts and the inability to control social systems with many
relationships representing many different vested interests. Many of these
problems are jokingly referred to by "the law of unintended consequences,"
where one problem is pushed down, only to have another problem pop up
elsewhere as the result of the earlier action. Another area where my eyes
have been opened is the concept of influencing change versus trying to
control change. To me, organizational learning is a key tool in
influencing change.

However, as in any discipline there are some who are deeper into the
theory and application than others. For these individuals, there is a
need to communicate the new concepts without the full definitions needed
by someone new to the discussion. The key is finding sources that contain
the details for someone not already familiar with the subject. After
spending 25 years in strategic planning and management positions I have to
say that I could not understand much of the subject while constrained by
my previous paradigm of control oriented management. In fact, seeing many
of my basic assumptions challenged has really shown me the power that a
paradigm has on one's mental models.

>I spoke to you earlier about the Complexity List. I'm afraid I have to
>say I still don't comprehend the basics. I suggest the idea of regarding
>management to be complex seems silly. I managed laboratories performing
>advanced scientific work for about thirty years, and found a risk
>management approach advantageous. Simply preparing policy and procedure
>manuals and allowing staff to 'self-manage', seemed to remove most
>complex situations, and the necessity for 'ad hoc' decisions.


"Wirth, Ross" <>

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