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Complexity in organisations: a conceptual model: executive summary

By Carlos H. Mena


Industrial organisations face uncertainty created by consumers, suppliers, competitors and other environmental factors. To deal with this uncertainty, managers have to coordinate the resources of the organisation to produce a variety of behaviours that can cope with environmental change. An organisation that does not have sufficient internal complexity to adapt to the environment cannot survive, while, an organisation with excessive complexity would waste resources and might lose its ability to react to the environment.\ud The main objective of the research was to create a model for dealing with complexity and uncertainty in organisations. The initial ideas for the model originated from the literature, particularly in the fields of systems and complexity theory. These initial ideas were developed through a series of five case studies with four companies, namely British Airways, British Midlands International (BMI), HS Marston and the Ford Motor Company. Each case study contributed to the development of the model, as well as providing immediate benefits for the organisations involved. The first three case studies were used in the development of the model, by analysing the way managers made decisions in situations of complexity and uncertainty. For the final two case studies, the model was already developed and it was possible to apply it, using these cases as a means of validation. A summary of the case studies is presented here, highlighting their contributions to the creation and testing of the model. \ud The main innovation of the research was the creation and application of the Complexity-Uncertainty model, a descriptive framework that classifies generic strategies for dealing with complexity and uncertainty in organisations. The model considers five generic strategies: automation, simplification, planning, control and self-organisation, and indicates when each of these strategies can be more effective according to the complexity and uncertainty of the situation.\ud This model can be used as a learning tool to help managers in industry to conceptualise the nature of complexity in their organisation, in relation to the uncertainty in the environment. The model shows managers the range of strategic options that are available under a particular situation, and highlights the benefits and limitations of each of these strategic options. This is intended to help managers make better decisions based on a more holistic understanding of the organisation, its environment and the strategies available

Topics: HD
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1257

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