Discussion Topic: Respond to the below student posting by challaging using more resources;
In this week’s readings you will see that each author approaches the topic of complexity theory from various perspectives. Wheatley (1992) makes the topic very accessible. Thietart and Forgues (1995) present us with some of the fundamental theoretical constructs of complexity through their discussion of chaos theory. Plsek and Wilson (2001) examine the way health care organizations are managed through the lens of complexity. After reading these works, please discuss how leaders tend to deal with complexity, while supporting your arguments with citations from this week’s readings. The question around which you should construct your discussion is “Are there absolute rules that govern complexity or do leaders make up their own rules based on patterns they observe over time?”
Student #1 –
Thietart and Forgues (1995) contrast the organization with nature. Unlike nature where laws are immutable (and absolute rules apply), organizations are dynamic entities that change subject to the action of actors inside and outside of the organization. An organizations changes based on the experiences of its leaders and their learning.
Wheatley (2006) introduces the concept of self-organizing systems to describe entities that have an ability to reorganize themselves based on new information. Organizations that eliminate physical (i.e., structures) and psychological (i.e., rules) rigidity are more able to adapt to change. These organizations simplify roles, eliminate barriers and create environments where “people, ideas and information circulate freely” (p.82).”
Healthcare leaders have historically worked in environments that created detailed procedures and targets in an attempt to control process or overcome perceived resistance to change. Leaders who wish to encourage innovative approaches to complex situations should identify a small set of rules based on observation of changes in the external environment and an understanding of the optimal approach to effecting change within an organization. Plsek and Wilson (2001) refer to these rules as minimum specifications that provide direction, boundaries, resources and permission. As an example, they cite the simple rules used by the Institute of Medicine to contrast healthcare in the US in the 21st century with prior traditions.
In my current company, rules are kept to a minimum and are primarily used to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Associates are encouraged to make decisions based on what is right for the client and aligns with company values. By doing so, leaders are developed and supported at all levels of the organization.
There are no absolute rules governing complexity as each situation requires its own recipe for success. I however side with a mixture of Wheatley (2006) and Plsek and Wilson (2001).
Wheatley (2006) believes in change. Without change, there is stagnation and ultimately death. Wheatley colorfully explains equilibrium as being a negative term and uncertain why companies and people are striving to die.
Thietart and Forgues (1995) believe an organization is not an organization when it is in flux. Organizations must maintain order and certainty as the survival of an organization relies on equilibrium.
Plsek and Wilson (2001) explain a good leader can inspire change as change can be naturally recognized in an organization for a variety of reasons. If a well-oiled machine didn’t need a new carburetor, then a jump start wouldn’t be required.
It is through my observation positive change is required for success. However, a good leader is required to motivate his staff to ensure the staff is committed to the change and ensure it is implemented successfully.
Wheatley (1992) really explained some of the key items around equilibrium, one which most leaders wind up going through during complex decision making sessions. Leaders make the mistake that this balance is beneficial without ascertaining the definition and what it would result in. However, on that point, Wheatley (1992) also expands on this regarding equilibrium being something that’s not understood, “And I don’t believe it is a desirable state for an organization.” Therefore, one of the takeaways from Wheatley has the point that non-equilibrium is the mode most organizations should be in, because it provides an imbalance and pushes for continuous change and growth. (Wheatley, 1992) One last point taken from Wheatley is that “Disturbances could create disequilibrium, but disequilibrium could lead to growth” (1992).
Understanding that complex decision making has its own custom formulas and ad-hoc organizational needs; how a leader reaches a decision requires strategic steps to propagate a fine-tuned outcome. Thietart and Forgues (1995) describe equilibrium as three distinct elements, which are stability, explosive instability and chaotic instability. Understanding when to implement chaos theory elements depends on the variables causing the chaos. “Chaotic behavior is likely when the number of variables is equal to or greater than three” (Thietart and Forgues, 1995). A leader needs to then understand each of the variables present in need of change and its chaotic dynamic involvement.
Simplicity may be the key over complete specificity. One of the key pointed described by Plsek and Wilson, which state that this mentality of specificity “fails to take advantage of the natural creativity embedded in the organization, and fails to allow for the inevitable unpredictability of events” (2001). Personally, I found the minimum specification criteria to be quite a change from most of the change requirements within my own organization.
In all cases, all three articles provided some great points of view around complexity. Understanding how equilibrium is not what it seems, as described by Wheatley (1992). Also, Plsek and Wilson (2001) are focused on the simple factors and building from that level can create innovative elements within organizations.
Looking forward to reading what others thought to be key.