Complexity theory and fuzzy logic in strategic management : searching the pattern that connects

DARWIN, John Anthony (1998). Complexity theory and fuzzy logic in strategic management : searching the pattern that connects. Post-Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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The thesis begins by discussing the Modern Paradigm, which, it is argued, forms the underpinning to much contemporary management thinking. This in turn is seen as having its own foundation, the Cartesian-Newtonian Synthesis. It is argued that this does not form an adequate basis for strategic management, and the thesis then draws upon four main streams of thinking: complexity theory, fuzzy logic, the debate on power in organizations, and critical theory. The material developed from these four streams is integrated, thereby developing a number of principles for strategic management. The context within which most of the case studies are set is also outlined, by reviewing the recent history and present situation in local government.

We then turn to the practical implications. When teaching strategic management and change, a frequent response from managers is that they are comfortable with the rational planning approach, which they find straightforward in approach, and its tools and techniques readily usable. But when we get on to all this other stuff ... what does it mean, and how is it used? This relates also to my own experience as a manager, particularly in local government. The practical implications are important, and this whole thesis can be seen as an action research programme, with practical interventions enriching the theoretical perspective, which in turn has fed back into practice.

This discussion begins by considering methodology, and identifies three interlinked methods - action research, action learning and whole systems intervention. These are related to critical theory, and it is argued that these approaches provide a practice based upon the theoretical themes developed earlier. This is followed by a discussion of action research, exploring one case study in some depth, chosen because it helps to illustrate both the strengths and the potential limitations of a critical approach to action research. The work is assessed, and its implication for contemporary management are considered, drawing also upon a current action research project concerned with the roles of trade unions in the regions of Europe.

The thesis then turns to what can best be seen as an extended action research project concerned specifically with whole systems intervention. It examines the extent to which this can be developed and undertaken on the basis of the principles developed in the thesis. Five case studies are presented in which Search Conferences and/or ColourFlow Dialogue have been used. Reflecting the original remit of the thesis, these case studies have a common link in local government. Two involve local authorities directly; one concerns local government politicians and their political party, and one involves an area of local authority activity being moved into independent Trust status. The fifth has a more tenuous link with local government: it is a voluntary body which receives significant funding from Councils, but is otherwise independent; it is included because it was the first such exercise undertaken, and brought with it significant personal learning.

Finally, the thesis reviews the findings, considers their implications, and draws conclusions. Thus the purpose of this thesis is both to present an approach to strategic management and organizational development which is richer than those premised on the Modern Paradigm, and to argue that this is more than a set of interesting or provocative ideas - it is an approach which can be put into practice.

Item Type: Thesis (Post-Doctoral)
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: Jill Hazard
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2011 08:39
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 12:24

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