Speaking of Complexity in Management Theory and Practice

Ralph Stacey, Doug Griffin, Patricia Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes a complexity perspective on organizational life by drawing on three distinctive sources. First, we describe the way different natural scientists talk of their work in simulating complex dynamical systems. Second, we listen to the contribution of social scientists in describing the dynamics of human interaction and third, we describe group analytic practice as it illuminates the emotional, prelinguistic processes at work in the group matrix. We argue that together these insights allow us to speak of the nature of self-organization in human systems in a way that emphasizes inter subjectivity, emergence and de-centred agency in contrast to the dominant voice in much management thinking which emphasizes objectivity, control and individual agency. We then relate how the complexity perspective we describe informs our approach to organizational consulting in which we participate in networks of self-organizing everyday conversation whereby the patterned structure of organizational activity is paradoxically both sustained and changed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-339
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1998


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