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Journal cover: Management Decision

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747
Incorporates: Journal of Management History (Archive)

Online from: 1967

Subject Area: Management Science/Management Studies

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The external environment's effect on management and strategy: A complexity theory approach

Document Information:
Title:The external environment's effect on management and strategy: A complexity theory approach
Author(s):Roger B. Mason, (Durban University of Technology, Kwa Zulu-Natal, South Africa, and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK)
Citation:Roger B. Mason, (2007) "The external environment's effect on management and strategy: A complexity theory approach", Management Decision, Vol. 45 Iss: 1, pp.10 - 28
Keywords:Chaos theory, Complexity theory, South Africa, Strategic management
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/00251740710718935 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – This paper seeks to investigate the influence of the external environment on the choice of strategic management activities, from a chaos and complexity perspective, since a business environment is a complex adaptive system.

Design/methodology/approach – The study in this paper was of an exploratory nature, using the qualitative techniques of case study, depth interviews and document analysis to collect data from two companies each in the IT and packaging industries, namely, more successful/less successful companies.

Findings – The paper finds that first, it was proposed that more successful companies in turbulent environments would use radical, fast and disruptive strategies. Furthermore, strategy making should be a democratic, bottom-up process and should be organic, self-organising, adaptive and emergent. The results confirmed these propositions. Second, it was proposed that more successful companies in stable environments would use more traditional management and strategies and more formal strategy planning activities. The findings did not confirm this proposition, probably due to the fact that in reality a truly stable environment does not exist in South Africa.

Originality/value – This paper is of benefit to managers and strategists by emphasising a new way to consider the future management and strategies of their companies. Since businesses and markets are complex adaptive systems, using complexity theory to increase understanding of how to cope in complex and turbulent environments is necessary, but has not been widely researched.

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