Strategy-making, organisational success, emergent behaviour, Complex Adaptive Systems, leadership


Conventional organisations are continuously and increasingly becoming more complex and turbulent and there is a need for an alternative conception of strategy-making to assist them. Several strategy formulation approaches have surfaced over the years and a few have been utilised.  Conventional strategy-making has been assumed to be a decision process involving a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) followed by subsequent implementation. Research in strategy started with an interest in a single actor focusing on the characteristics and choices of top management disregarding the messiness of the process. Starting from the 1970’s, we review systematic studies that contrast the perspectives approach to strategy where the metaphor of a "messier emergent process” is preferred.  Thus, Mintzberg (1978), Grant (2003), Mason (2007) and Bodhanya (2011) view strategy-making within organisations as operating within the context of dynamical systems. We argue that for organisations to achieve organisational success in today’s turbulent and complex environment, a different approach, dissimilar to traditional conventional organisations which has proved to be incapable and unsuitable in designing strategies that are able to address complex problems in real world situations, is required.  At the same time, for strategies to enjoy the full support of middle managers and employees, remain competitive, relevant and successful in implementation in their local complex, turbulent environment, there is a dire need to adopt different ways of formulating strategy in their organisations.

This paper proposes a different theoretical perspective of managing complex, turbulent environment organisation through the Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) approach.


The authors would like to thank the University of KwaZulu Natal for funding this publication.

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