Strategic Management & Organisational
Dynamics, 4th Edition

The Challenge of Complexity

By Ralph D. Stacey
Financial Times / Pearson Education
January 2003
ISBN: 0-273-65898-0
502 Pages, 7 1/2" x 9 3/4"
$87.50 Paper Original

In the fourth edition of this successful text, the author continues to focus on a radically different approach to strategic management. The central tenets of this approach are concerned with unpredictability and the limitations of control, and argue against the rational models of planning and control covered in other strategy textbooks. This is done by emphasizing the importance of narrative, conversation and learning from one's own experience as the central means by which we can gain understanding and knowledge of strategy in organizations. New to this edition: sharper distinctions between systematic and process thinking with new chapters on philosophical origins of systems and process thinking, second order and critical systems thinking; new material on theory of complex responsive processes, particularly to do with control, leadership and ethics; online support materials for students and lecturers including additional references and useful web links, and a commentary on the text for lecturers are available at

1. The nature of strategy and organisational change 1.1 Introduction 1.2 The phenomenon of interest 1.3 Making sense of the phenomenon 1.4 Key features in comparing theories of organisational evolution 1.5 Outline of the book

1. Systemic perspectives on strategy and organisational dynamics
2. The origins of systems thinking 2.1 Introduction 2.2 The scientific revolution 2.3 Kant: natural systems and autonomous individuals 2.4 Systems thinking in the twentieth century 2.5 Thinking about organisations and their management 2.6 How systems thinking deals with four questions 2.7 Summary
3. The foundations of strategic choice theory: cybernetic systems and cognitivist psychology 3.1 Introduction 3.2 Cybernetic systems 3.3 Cognitivist psychology 3.4 Brief review: how cybernetics and cognitivism deal with four key questions 3.5 Summary
4. Strategic choice 4.1 Introduction 4.2 Formulating long-term strategic plans 4.3 Evaluating long-term strategic plans: acceptability 4.4 Evaluating long-term strategic plans: feasibility 4.5 Evaluating long-term strategic plans: suitability or fit 4.6 Implementing long term startegic plans 4.7 Motivation 4.8 Leadership and the role of groups 4.9 Competitive advantage 4.10 How strategic choice theory deals with four key questions 4.11 Summary
5. The foundations of learning organisation theory: systems dynamics and cognitivism 5.1 Introduction 5.2 Systems dynamics: nonlinearity and positive feedback 5.3 Positive feedback in organisations 5.4 Systems thinking 5.5 How systems dynamics differs from cybernetics 5.6 Summary
6. The learning organisation 6.1 Introduction 6.2 Senge’s conception of the learning organisation 6.3 Mental models: single- and double-loop learning 6.4 Covert political processes and their impact on organisational learning 6.5 The impact of vested interests on organisational learning 6.6 The role of groups in the learning organisation 6.7 Summary 7. Obstacles to strategic choice and organisational learning: open systems and psychoanalytic perspectives 7.1 Introduction 7.2 Open systems theory 7.3 Psychoanalysis and unconscious processes 7.4 Open systems and unconscious processes 7.5 Leaders and groups 7.6 Summary
8. Knoweldge creation in organisations: second order systems, autopoiesis and constructivist psychology 8.1 Introduction 8.2 Knowledge management in the tradition of the learning organisation 8.3 Second order systems thinking 8.4 The move to the mystical 8.5 Autopoiesis and enactment 8.6 The application of autopoietic thinking to organisations 8.7 Enactment and sensemaking in organisation 8.8 Four questions 8.9 Summary
9. A social perspective: critical systems thinking and communities of practice 9.1 Introduction 9.2 Soft systems thinking and interactive planning 9.3 Critical systems thinking 9.4 Communities of practice 9.5 Summary Part 2. The challenge of complexity
10. Chaos theory, dissipative structures and synergetics 10.1 Introduction 10.2 Chaos theory 10.3 The theories of dissipative structures and synergetics 10.4 Implications 10.5 Comparisons with other systems theories 10.6 Summary 11. Complex adaptive systems 11.1 Introduction 11.2 Complex adaptive systems 11.3 Different interpretations of complexity 11.4 Insights into the dynamics of complex adaptive systems from a radical perspective 11.5 Comparisons with other systems theories 11.6 Summary 12. Systemic aplications of chaos and complexity theory to organisations
12.1 Introduction 12.2 Modelling complex systems in organisations 12.3 Seeing organisations as complex systems 12.4 How the above applications of complexity theory deal with four questions and focus attention 12.5 Chaos, complexity and analogy 12.6 Summary Part 3. A Complex responsive processes perspective on strategy and organisational dynamics
13. Process thinking 13.1 Introduction 13.2 Process thinking 13.3 The complexity sciences as source domain for analogies with human action 13.4 The difference between systems and process thinking 13.5 Summary
14. Strategy as the emergence of organisational identity 14.1 Introduction 14.2 The individual and the group 14.3 Complex resposive processes compared to other psychological theories 14.4 Managers as particicpants in self-organising processes 14.5 Summary |
15. The narrative structure of self-organising experience 15.1 Introduction 15.2 The organisation of experience 15.3 Conversations in organisations 15.4 Comparison with the notion of communities of practice 15.5 Summary
16. Understanding organisations as complex responsive processes 16.1 Introduction 16.2 Organising themes, power relations and ideology 16.3 Legitimate and shadow themes 16.4 The importance of diversity 16.5 The social structure of organisations 16.6 Summary
17. Control, leadership and ethics 17.1 Introduction 17.2 Control 17.3 Leadership and Ethics 17.4 Change, decision-making and the importance of conversation 17.5 Learning and knowledge creation 17.6 Summary
18. The implications of understanding organisations as complex responsive processes 18.1 Introduction 18.2 How the theory of complex responsive processes answers four key questions 18.3 Refocusing attention: strategy and change 18.4 Summary Management narratives 1. Innovation in a water utility by Jose Fonseca 2. The budget meeting by Phil Streatfield 3. Performance measurement by Phil Streatfield 4. Consulting and culture change by Patricia Shaw 5. Culture change at a factory by Patricia Shaw 6. The diversity projectby David Scanlon 7. Global competencies by Jane Blacketer. Index

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