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Organizational change at the edge of chaos: A complexity theory perspective of autopoietic systems

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Organizational Change at the Edge of Chaos:
A Complexity Theory Perspective of Autopoietic Systems
by
Domenico Susini III
A Dissertation Proposal Presented in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership with a Specialization in
Information Systems and Technology
University of Phoenix
February 2010
UMI Number: 3411122
All rights reserved
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UMI 3411122
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ABSTRACT
This qualitative phenomenological study includes explorations of organizational change
phenomena from the vantage point of complexity theory as experienced through the lived
experiences of eight senior level managers and executives based in Northern N.J. who
have experienced crisis situations in their organizations. Concepts from the natural
science of thermodynamics formed the guidelines for analyzing corporate events as
autopoietic systems. Findings from this study used to establish an analogy to natural
systems driven by universal order included four core themes of bifurcation stimuli and
the ensuing applied actions. Themes that emerged while applying complexity theory to a
model of organizations as autopoietic systems were categorized by repetitive suppositions
formed from the participant’s characterizations of naturally-driven organizational
changes. An objective of the study was to help IT departments and other organizational
leaders understand why they make decisions. Viewing organizational structures as
autopoietic systems driven by universal order fulfills this objective by offering
organizational leaders a new understanding of organizational change through the use of
the complexity paradigm.
iv
DEDICATION
This dissertation is about God. The analyses of this study are investigations of
how God is able to control a whole universe. I do not want to seem to claim to be able to
do more than scratch the surface of a surface but the aim was to form some idea of God’s
control mechanisms. I therefore dedicate this study foremost to the glory and honor of
God Almighty and his Son the Lord Jesus Christ. I also dedicate this study to my parents
Josephine and Domenico Susini Jr. through whom I was able to enter into this life,
making it possible for me to investigate life’s possibilities. I dedicate this dissertation to
my wife Marisa, the true love of my life, who had to put up with my time spent in the
dungeon (my office was in the basement) away from her and my incessant use of MP3
players which came with me wherever I went (MP3s stored all my ebooks). I dedicate
this dissertation to my boys who are a great joy to me: Joel, Sean, Justin, and my son
Domenico IV who is waiting in heaven, all who have added to my learning experiences
in ways that could never be found in books.
v
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This journey to a doctoral degree was a trek requiring austere dedication. No such
endeavor could be actualized without congeries of support able to set the milieu capable
of stimulating the requisite motivation. I first thank God as the prime organizer who set in
place all the necessary factors that I would need to begin, to continue, and to complete
this journey. I thank my beautiful, loving, and caring wife Marisa for the stability she
provided in my life that allowed me to fulfill the arduous demands of the program.
With guidance from my mentor Dr. Cadwallader, a hailed addition because of his
knowledge of cybernetic systems, and my committee members Dr. Rick Fenwick and Dr.
Michael Novello, I was able to construct a correct format of the dissertation. I
acknowledge the role played by my cohorts in developing learning techniques and in
developing scholarly methods for gaining erudition. In particular I acknowledge the role
of my cohorts and now close friends Thomas Chu and Edwin Goolsby.
This study could not have taken place without the efforts of the participants who
gave up their valuable time to help to provide the needed data for analysis. The
participants cannot be identified because of their upper level positions with their
companies and the nature of information needed that could create conflicts with their
company policies. A special thanks to Mark Barbara for his efforts in helping to find
qualified participants for this study.
My commitment to this effort was not without its challenges and sacrifices. The
completion of this study and the DMIST Program was supported in prayer by the Felt’s
small group Wednesday night Bible study. I suspect the prayerful support I received from
this group was instrumental in keeping me on course.
vi
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES ........................................................................................................... xiv
LIST OF FIGURES .......................................................................................................... xv
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................... 1
Background ......................................................................................................................3
Origins ......................................................................................................................... 4
Applications to Management ....................................................................................... 5
Change Perspectives .................................................................................................... 6
Change Factors ............................................................................................................ 7
Problem Statement ...........................................................................................................9
Purpose of the Study ......................................................................................................11
Nature of the Study ........................................................................................................15
Research Questions ........................................................................................................17
Theoretical Framework ..................................................................................................19
Cellular Automata...................................................................................................... 22
Transformation .......................................................................................................... 23
Dissipative Structures ................................................................................................ 24
Feedback .................................................................................................................... 25
Complex Systems ...................................................................................................... 26
Living Systems .......................................................................................................... 27
Chaos and Strange Attractors .................................................................................... 27
Definitions ......................................................................................................................29
Allopoietic.............................................................................................................. 29
Attractor ................................................................................................................. 29
Autopoietic............................................................................................................. 29
Bifurcation ............................................................................................................. 29
Causality ................................................................................................................ 29
vii
Cellular Automata .................................................................................................. 30
Chaos...................................................................................................................... 30
Complexity theory ................................................................................................. 30
Cybernetics ............................................................................................................ 30
Deterministic Chaos ............................................................................................... 30
Dissipative structure............................................................................................... 31
Edge of chaos ......................................................................................................... 31
Emergence.............................................................................................................. 31
Emergent behavior ................................................................................................. 31
Entropy................................................................................................................... 31
Far from Equilibrium ............................................................................................. 32
Free energy............................................................................................................. 32
Hermeneutics ......................................................................................................... 32
Holism .................................................................................................................... 32
Incremental change ................................................................................................ 32
Information agent ................................................................................................... 33
Manifold causality ................................................................................................. 33
Morphogenesis ....................................................................................................... 33
Morphostasis .......................................................................................................... 33
Nonequilibrium statistical thermodynamics .......................................................... 33
Organizational complexity. .................................................................................... 33
Perturbation ............................................................................................................ 33
Punctuated equilibrium .......................................................................................... 34
Revolutionary change ............................................................................................ 34
Self-organizing systems ......................................................................................... 34
Stigmergy ............................................................................................................... 34
Strange attractor ..................................................................................................... 34
Systems perspective ............................................................................................... 34
Tautology ............................................................................................................... 35
Teleology ............................................................................................................... 35
Triggering events ................................................................................................... 35
viii
Universal order....................................................................................................... 35
Assumptions ...................................................................................................................36
Scope, Limitations and Generalizability ........................................................................36
Delimitations ..................................................................................................................38
Summary ........................................................................................................................38
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW .......................................................................... 40
Literature Review Key Word Search .............................................................................42
Historical Overview .......................................................................................................43
Hierarchical Development ......................................................................................... 45
Autopoiesis ................................................................................................................ 47
Dissipative Structures ................................................................................................ 48
Cybernetics ................................................................................................................ 50
Complex Systems ...................................................................................................... 52
Living Systems and Artificial Life ............................................................................ 55
Established Order Through Bifurcations ................................................................... 55
Self-organization ....................................................................................................... 57
Organizational Transformation.................................................................................. 57
Complexity vs. Newtonian Physics ........................................................................... 58
New Paradigmatic Approach to Complex and Unstable Problems ........................... 59
Far-From-Equilibrium and Edge of Chaos ............................................................ 60
Equilibrium ............................................................................................................ 60
Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle ....................................................................... 61
Current Studies Involving Business ...............................................................................61
A paradigm shift in cognition .................................................................................... 63
Leadership Implications ............................................................................................ 63
From caring to creativity........................................................................................ 64
Human oriented management ................................................................................ 65
Significance to Business Leadership ..................................................................... 66
ix
New Developments and Current Findings .....................................................................67
Santa Fe Institute ....................................................................................................... 67
Current Research ....................................................................................................... 68
This section includes areas of research that are presently using complexity theory as
a research paradigm. The five areas of study chosen to illustrate present uses of
complexity theory show a broad range of the theory’s capabilities for examining
various phenomena of diverse disciplines. Disciplines in this section include
bioenergetics, quantum entanglement, computing networks, biology, and
psychology. ................................................................................................................ 68
Ecoinformatics. ...................................................................................................... 68
Quantum computing............................................................................................... 69
Cellular arrays ........................................................................................................ 69
Biological Solutions to Computational Problems .................................................. 69
Applications to psychology.................................................................................... 70
Social systems............................................................................................................ 70
Conclusion ......................................................................................................................72
Chapter Summary ...........................................................................................................73
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODS .......................................................................... 75
Purpose ...................................................................................................................... 76
Research Method and Design Appropriateness .............................................................77
The appropriateness of a phenomenological design .................................................. 78
Qualitative vs. quantitative ........................................................................................ 82
Population and Sampling Procedures .............................................................................84
Population .................................................................................................................. 84
Sampling .................................................................................................................... 85
Purposive sampling ................................................................................................ 85
Procedures .............................................................................................................. 86
Snowball Sampling ................................................................................................ 86
Number of participants .............................................................................................. 89
Unit of Analysis ......................................................................................................... 90
x
Sample Criteria .......................................................................................................... 90
Informed Consent and Confidentiality ...........................................................................92
Confidentiality ........................................................................................................... 92
Informed Consent ...................................................................................................... 93
Data Collection ...............................................................................................................93
Research Model ......................................................................................................... 95
Interview Techniques ................................................................................................ 96
Instruments .....................................................................................................................98
Validity ...........................................................................................................................99
Data Analysis ...............................................................................................................101
Empirical Phenomenology ...................................................................................... 102
Phenomenological Research Techniques ................................................................ 103
Moustakas (1994) discusses several human science perspectives and models. Much
of the theory and approach of Moustakas originated from Husserl’s (1971) work.
This section lists four of the research techniques that were used as a guideline for
this present study. .................................................................................................... 103
Epoché.................................................................................................................. 103
Phenomenological reduction................................................................................ 104
Imaginative variation ........................................................................................... 105
The Van Kaam Methodology .................................................................................. 108
Summary ......................................................................................................................108
CHAPTER 4: RESULTS AND FINDINGS................................................................... 110
Problem Statement .......................................................................................................110
Purpose Statement ........................................................................................................111
Participants ...................................................................................................................112
Procedure ................................................................................................................. 112
Interviews ................................................................................................................ 113
Profiles .........................................................................................................................115
xi
Preparations for Analysis .............................................................................................118
Data Analysis ...............................................................................................................119
Bifurcation Descriptors ................................................................................................121
Themes .........................................................................................................................125
Micro-level Perturbations .............................................................................................127
Cash Flow Issues ..................................................................................................... 127
Obey Management Dictates..................................................................................... 128
Meeting Time Constraints ....................................................................................... 129
Inadequate Technologies ......................................................................................... 129
Macro-level Perturbations ............................................................................................129
Downturn in Global Economics .............................................................................. 130
Effects of Global Economics ................................................................................... 130
Accommodate Cultural Differences ........................................................................ 131
Respond to Salespeople ........................................................................................... 131
Respond to Global Regulations ............................................................................... 132
Responses to Internal Perturbations .............................................................................134
Implement Improved IT........................................................................................... 134
Improve Internal Information Flow ......................................................................... 135
Reduce Levels of Management ............................................................................... 136
Inform Workforce of Company Goals..................................................................... 137
Create a sense of ownership among workers........................................................... 137
New Management Dictates...................................................................................... 137
Improve Internal Processes...................................................................................... 138
Empower Project Teams and Distribute Authority ................................................. 138
Responses to External Perturbations ............................................................................139
Improve Information Flow ...................................................................................... 140
Reach New Global Markets..................................................................................... 140
Improve Global Processes ....................................................................................... 140
xii
Consolidate IT ......................................................................................................... 141
Consolidate redundant processes and duplicate efforts ........................................... 141
Move Toward Natural Processes ............................................................................. 141
The Findings New to the Literature .............................................................................143
Summary ......................................................................................................................144
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS ... 146
Summary of Research Procedures................................................................................147
Brief Summary of Findings ..........................................................................................149
Interpretations...............................................................................................................150
Information Flow ..................................................................................................... 150
Feedback .................................................................................................................. 153
Perturbations at the Edge of Chaos.......................................................................... 156
Natural Systems ....................................................................................................... 157
Operating at the Edge of Chaos ............................................................................... 162
New Dissipative Structure ....................................................................................... 166
Bifurcations ............................................................................................................. 167
Tautologies .............................................................................................................. 168
Guiding Forces - Attractors ..................................................................................... 170
Free Will versus Boundaries.................................................................................... 171
Implications ..................................................................................................................172
Phenomenological Reductionism ............................................................................ 172
Intuition and Universal Order .................................................................................. 173
Emergence of Macro Entities .................................................................................. 174
Implications to Leadership ...................................................................................... 175
Recommendation ..........................................................................................................176
Summary ......................................................................................................................177
REFERENCES ............................................................................................................... 179
APPENDIX A: CELLULAR AUTOMATA .................................................................. 195
xiii
APPENDIX B: BIFURCATION ANALYSIS ............................................................... 196
APPENDIX C: CONSTRUCTION OF BÉNARD CELLS ........................................... 202
APPENDIX D: PARTICIPANT REFERRAL FROM ................................................... 204
APPENDIX E: INFORMED CONSENT FORM .......................................................... 205
APPENDIX F: INTRODUCTORY LETTER ................................................................ 207
APPENDIX G: INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ................................................................. 208
APPENDIX H: INTERVIEW SCHEDULE ................................................................... 215
APPENDIX I: CATEGORIES OF RELEVENT EXPRESSIONS ................................ 216
xiv
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1 Breakdown of Research Material .......................................................................43
Table 2 Summary of Stimulus and Algorithmic Responses ..............................................54
Table 3 Demographic Information ..................................................................................116
Table 4 Bifurcation Stimuli ..............................................................................................121
Table 5 Result of Bifurcation Decision ............................................................................122
Table 6 Micro-level Perturbations (Internal Stimuli) ......................................................125
Table 7 Macro-level Perturbations (External Stimuli) ....................................................126
Table 8 Responses to Internal Perturbation ....................................................................131
Table 9 Responses to External Perturbations..................................................................132
xv
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1. Fractal created using Tiera-Zon software. .......................................................19
Figure 2. Flow Diagram for Finding Subjects .................................................................88
Figure 3. Research Model................................................................................................96
Figure 4. Flow Chart of Phenomenological Model used for this Study ..........................106
Figure 5. Model of Universal Order Tautology...............................................................168
Figure A1. Cellular Automata Rule 110 ..........................................................................193
Figure A2. Rule 110 Carried out to over a million iterations ..........................................193
Figure B1. Graph of Logistic Difference Equation for Specified Parameters .................194
Figure B2. Graph of Logistic Difference Equation for Specified Parameters .................195
Figure B3. Bifurcation Diagram ......................................................................................196
Figure C1. Bénard Cells ..................................................................................................200
1
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
Organizational theorists increasingly recognize discontinuous or revolutionary
change among globally competing organizations as a common process for organizational
evolution (Afuah, 2001). Organizations that cannot keep up with today’s turbulent
changes die out as part of the natural evolutionary process of selection (Scott & Davis,
2008). As a company tries to compete within today’s economic, technological, and
competitive environment, sufficiency lacks if the company’s standard operating
procedures consist only of managing routine incremental improvements by responding to
competitive, regulatory, technological, or economic shifts (Solow, Dertouzos, & Lester,
1989; Anderson & Anderson-Ackerman, 2001). Organizational leaders who can skillfully
manage revolutionary changes, in addition to and concomitantly with the management of
the continuous flow of incremental changes, can increase the chances not just for survival
but for prosperous success in a competitive environment (Tushman, Newman, &
Romanelli, 1986). Global competition intensifies the need for preparedness by
organizational leaders; leaders must prepare by implementing transformation policies that
can rapidly respond to competitive forces because agility is an essential factor for global
achievements (Imai, Nonaka, & Takeuchi, 1985). Since leadership roles are critical
factors in the theater of organizational change, responding to crises while operating in
turbulent conditions requires executive leaders and managers to understand the
consequences when acting upon the perceived evidence that created adverse conditions.
Leaders who are equipped with and able to use systems models of organizational
behavior that map and explain remedies to crisis situations will be better enabled to
2
understand and thus act with appropriate remedies (Gabbaro, 1987; Senge, 1990; Smith,
2005). As quoted by Smith (2005):
Under the conditions of crisis, managers need to ensure that they make sense of
what is happening to the organization, to deal with competing task demands
within a potentially hostile and extremely dynamic environment. It is within this
process that managers have to function, collect and act upon evidence, and make
decisions. (p. 116)
Researchers who support these leaders can no longer evaluate the complex
interactions of organizational turbulence by using the traditional reductionist approaches
(Scott & Davis, 2007; Hannum, Martineau, & Reinelt, 2007; Levy, 2000; Zyglidopoulos,
1999). Smith (2005) stressed the importance of understanding the underlying processes
that allow a system to move between chaotic states (as manifested in crises) and ordered
states. These theoretical constructs of underlying processes and the consequential effects
on leadership decision-making processes as presented in this study derived the
suppositions and results by using the paradigm of complexity theory.
In addition to a detailed presentation and evaluation of general systems theory and
complexity theory, this study contained descriptions of holistically evaluated information
obtained from organizational leaders involved in decision-making activities that have
affected an organization’s structure or leadership hierarchy. After an evaluation process,
the abstracted information was used to reveal patterns and themes that may contribute to
an understanding of underlying drivers of organizational change. This chapter opened
with a background discussion that developed the reasons for using complexity theory for
the mapping of organizational structure and change processes, and why such research as
3
proposed here will add meaningful knowledge to the discipline of organizational
leadership. A discussion of both the theoretical and research problem and purpose of this
present study is followed by the significance of the study for literature in the field of
leadership research. Because the exploration of new theoretical models is a principal
focus, the choice of exploratory qualitative methodology was discussed along with a
discussion of the reasons why the selected methodology and design was more appropriate
than methods and designs that were not used. The research portion of this study was
guided by several general research questions. A detailed discussion of the systems and
complexity theoretical and conceptual framework followed the initial presentation of the
research questions and steered the direction of the study. This chapter concluded with
discussions of unfamiliar terms, methodological assumptions, and the scope, limitations,
and delimitations of the study.
Background
Subsequent to World War II, scientists gathered in Northern New Mexico at the
Los Alamos National Laboratory to analyze systems using newly developed concepts in
complexity theory and eventually formed the Santa Fe Institute of advanced
interdisciplinary study on complexity (Ay, Bertschinger, Der, Güttler, & Olbrich, 2008).
During the 1940s, biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy began developing a general system
theory, which had a wider application base (von Bertalanffy, 1968). Bertalanffy identified
self-regulating characteristics of biological systems. Gleick’s book, Chaos: Making a new
science popularized the paradigm of complex phenomena (2008). Gleick used the term
chaos theory for his model of how the phenomenon works. Gleick credited MIT
researcher Edward Lorenz as the founder of chaos theory.
4
Origins
Lorenz created a computer simulation of a weather system (Lorenz, 1963). Lorenz
found that his assumption that small changes in initial conditions he inputted into the
program would similarly affect the result with correspondingly small changes. Contrarily
however, through an error of input variables, Lorenz found that even very small
alterations in initial conditions caused extreme changes in the resulting weather patterns.
For example, “a slight breeze in Idaho or a one-degree drop in temperature in
Massachusetts could end up changing balmy weather in Florida into a hurricane a month
later” (Freedman, 1992, p. 30). Effectively, stochastic process, probabilities, and
statistical estimates have replaced the cause-and-effect paradigms of traditional physics
(Lindley, 2007; Nicolis & Prigogine, 1977).
Science disciplines now recognize that reductionist theories are no longer
adequate for analysis of natural phenomena (Glor, 2007). Newton's laws of motion
provided an accurate relationship between cause and effect for past paradigms (Wade,
2009). Convinced scientists expected that they could eventually reduce and isolate
complex behaviors down to a few interacting particles based on simple laws, then
calculate and predict precise behaviors of any physical system (Freedman, 1992).
Observing the labors of fellow scientists performing with grand efforts trying to break
particles down into smaller and smaller components in an attempt to determine the basic
building blocks of creation, complexity theorist realized that such efforts were not
conveying little if any additional fundamental understanding. “Traditional assumptions
about the way nature operates are fundamentally wrong” (Freedman, 1992, p. 29). Instead
5
of predictability, as previously accepted in modernity, natural phenomenon appears
random and unpredictable.
Applications to Management
Traditional approaches to management gave managers the ability to analyze,
predict, and control the performance of organizations since the time of Taylorism and the
industrial revolution (Wren, 2004). Now however, moving into the new millennium, the
world appears uncertain and uncontrollable. “In the face of this more volatile business
environment, the old-style mechanisms of ‘scientific management’ seem positively
counterproductive. Now science itself appears less and less relevant to the practical
concerns of managers” (Freedman, 1992, p. 26).
Analyzing the intricacies of today’s volatile organizations requires a paradigm
capable of a holistic viewpoint; complexity theory provides a rational framework for
explaining organizational change phenomena in self-organizing systems. Self-sustaining
systems known as autopoietic or self-organizing systems sustain themselves by inputting
energy or resources from the open environment and dissipating used energy back into the
environment. These dissipative structures, operating as autopoietic systems, import free
energy from the environment and dissipate entropy back into the environment (Nicolis &
Prigogine, 1977). Dissipative structures generally remain stable until a trigger (or crisis)
pushes the structure through its threshold of stability causing the structure to experience a
transformation. Theorists apply the above description to social systems such as an
organization (Lewin & Regine, 2000). Perturbations applied to an inherent selforganizing process can cause an organization to alter its energy requirements so it can
transform into a structure with a new equilibrium and higher energy requirement. When
6
an autopoietic structure’s cybernetic positive feedback loop begins to amplify small
changes into large outcomes, the organization begins to move away from the stable
autopoietic state and into a chaotic state. Once the system approaches chaos, the system
might recover or the system could dissipate into chaos (Peters, 1987). Prigogine
associated the process of branching off into chaos or restructuring itself into a higher
ordered system with the mathematical phenomenon of bifurcation. This study focused on
the actual and practical causes of a bifurcation in an organizational setting. The research
method allowed for the evaluation of the activities associated with bringing stability back
into an organization that has emerged from chaos. The focus of the study was to evaluate
the reformation of the organizational structure into a new energy level. The identification
of bifurcations and company reactions via company leaders who choose solutions can add
valuable knowledge to organization theories enabling the identification of patterns or
themes. The identification and understanding of processes and patterns may enable
organizations to plan for such crises.
Change Perspectives
When theorists add the dimension of time to three-dimensional space, static
dimensions transform into a phenomenon colloquially known as change (Wallick-Corbis,
2005). Researchers view change from two diverse but related vantage points, gradual or
incremental change, and sudden or revolutionary change (Barczak & Wileman, 1989).
Researchers view incremental change, sometimes called evolutionary change, as one
where entities adjust and improve while adapting to changing environments; researchers
view revolutionary change as dramatic with a broad focus and typically occurring
unexpectedly (Jones, 2004; Bartunek, 1990). Whether gradual or sudden, organizations
7
evolve and transform while adapting to environmental forces (Bailey, 2003). Competitive
forces lead to change because companies continuously strive to achieve a competitive
advantage by raising efficiency, capabilities and quality (Jones, 2004). Jones (2004)
found that changes within an organizational setting could sometimes present challenging
prospects when the cultural demographics are broad, when status quo inertia is strong,
when the change affects the power structure, and when workers feel uncertain about a
change. Lewin (1951) developed a change model where present processes must be
unfrozen to allow change to occur, then processes must be refrozen to establish the new
paradigms of operations. The unfreezing process is a habit breaking process. Once
unfreezing is complete managers implement change processes through training and other
organizational learning techniques. Refreezing is the process whereby new processes
become standardized, inhibiting the individual from reverting to original operational
patterns.
Change Factors
Researchers seek to assess organizational change from the standpoint of various
dimensions, some of which are causes of change, impedances to change, consequences of
change, and theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of change. Organizational
change can be seen as the result to stress factors placed on decision-makers. Yu (2009)
found that organizational change was among top causes for stress for managers but did
not discern that the stress felt by the managers may have been an impetus pushing the
managers to make a change. Whether change is agreeable or not, elements of stress
associate with change and imposed stress factors that are necessary conditions for
changes to occur (Harper, Szymanski, Hancock, Batchelor, Murrell, & Kusznir, 1991).
8
An analysis of these feelings of stress as the phenomenological experience
imposed by the teleological driving force formed by complex interactions between
organizational actors and environmental stimuli forms a basis for the present study.
Grover and Walker (2003) found that an adequate understanding of the challenges that
workers face as they move through an organizational change process is necessary for
successful organizational change to occur. Bailey (2003) added that organizational
change becomes more acceptable to company personnel when managers and workers
understand the reasons for the changes. “The systems analyst who understands the
dynamics of change can be a powerful catalyst for helping managers achieve
technological changes” (Regan & O’Connor, 2002, p. 364). In agreement with the
importance of understanding reasons for organizational changes, a premise of this study
relies on Grover and Walker (2003), Bailey (2003), and Regan and O’Connor’s (2002)
notion of understanding but takes Grover and Walker’s (2003) understanding to a deeper
level of sagaciousness. This study moved to a deeper level by exhibiting participants’
subjective perspectives, in an attempt to identify the possibility that organizations fit into
similar paradigms as natural systems, in particular, autopoietic systems, as a theoretical
framework for understanding organizational change. A criterion of the study was to use
the established qualitative methods as prescribed by the Moustakas modified model of the
van Kaam method as a guideline for abstracting themes in this study (Moustakas, 1994)
The results of the present study may offer organizational leaders a vehicle for
understanding leadership actions that involve a new theory of change processes that occur
when evolving organizations react to and try to control the organization in relations to
changing environmental conditions. An understanding of the practical relations grounded
9
in complexity theory’s philosophies of self-organizing structures and bifurcations may
add significant mastery to organizational leaders’ abilities necessary for enduring in
today’s turbulent environments. Such understanding of practical phenomena associated
with theoretical underpinnings of complexity theory can offer a means, which enables an
organization to maintain survival activities.
Problem Statement
A company that is not changing cannot survive in today’s unstable and uncertain
economic environments (McLean, 2006; Jones, 2004). Four out of five businesses
affected by an adverse economic occasion (crisis) close within two years of the incident
(Ralph & Rubicon, 2005). Through decision-making activities, those organizations that
survive will sometimes approach the brink of failure but recover by restructuring the
organization into a system of greater complexity requiring additional resources for
operations (Kanter, 2003; Lichtenstein, 1995).
According to Lewin and Regine (2000), theorists expect that science will play an
increasing role in understanding the expanding global environment as expressed by
Nicolis and Prigogine (1989) that to break the barriers that inhibit understanding requires
researchers to acquire the ability to try new ways of assessing problems. For example,
organizations theoretically viewed as self-organizing systems, operate under uncertain
and unstable conditions as they become increasingly stochastic while progressing toward
the edge of chaos (Lewin, 2007). Self-organizing systems develop spontaneously because
of environmental inputs that through chance provide the appropriate mechanism to incite
order into a system. The literature however, neglects or denies any form of teleological
purpose that might be premised as providing a guiding principle to the self-organizing
10
system (Lewin, 1992; Lazlo, 2002; Farazmand, 2003). An exhaustive review of the
literature found no representation of organizational phenomenon as an interaction
between the psychological and environmental levels. The literature lacked studies based
in complexity theory that report transcendental phenomenological experiences as
influenced by a tautology of interactions of information flows between the subject and
the environment. The problem is that a lack of theoretical knowledge based in complexity
theory hinders organizational theorists’ understanding as to how companies recover from
a progression that may have led an organization to the brink of failure and what
underlying influences may direct leader’s decisions in an effort to enable the company to
recover. Further, the literature fully recognizes a bottom-up approach to creativity and
order but neglects tautological and teleological forces that may influence the system’s
trajectory (Braxton, 2006; Lewin, 1992; Lazlo, 2002; Farazmand, 2003).
A viewpoint based in complexity theory of organizations modeled as autopoietic
systems may offer leaders a wider perspective that may provide a helpful method for
gaining an alternate viewpoint that can present a greater understanding of causes of
crises, thus a greater capacity for reflections on solutions. The present study investigated
leadership perspectives culled from interviews incorporating open-ended questions to
eight senior level managers. The interviews terminated when the culled data of bracketed
information reached data saturation. The organizational leaders were comprised of
leaders from companies in Northern New Jersey. Study outcomes were analyzed and
presented from a systems perspective based in complexity theory.
11
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore
environmental factors as influenced and as psychologically perceived by organizational
leaders from organizations located in Northern New Jersey that may have influenced
leadership decision-making processes causing the development of a new organizational
structure, while responding to triggering crises. A study objective was to examine the
data for possible common patterns and themes that may emerge as an organization
recovers from a survival-threatening crisis and to see if the organizational activities fit the
paradigm of autopoietic systems. The qualitative method was appropriate because the
focus of the study was to explore an organizational leader’s perceived experience and to
analyze those experiences from theoretical bases for interpretive research (Mertens,
1998). An objective of the study was to uncover possible patterns or themes for
recovering from a survival-threatening crisis. Data collection processes for this
phenomenological study used recorded interviews of responses to open-ended questions
offered to eight organizational leaders at which point the bracketed information reached a
data saturation point. Participants were chosen from Northern New Jersey corporations,
which were either in the process of implementing an enterprise IT system or have
implemented an enterprise IT system.
Significance of the Study
In 2007, 65% to 70% of companies performing change efforts, experienced
failure (Glor, 2007). Change theorists and organizational leaders alike endeavoring to
function with some form of stability in today’s turbulent environment, strive to
accumulate knowledge through information system collaborative technologies (Biehl,
12
2007). Although the orientation of this study is theoretical, the significance lies in the
underlying goal, which aimed to form a perspective usable for applied and pragmatic
applications.
A key objective of the study was to offer organizational leaders a broader
perspective of the emerging global economy and the relevance of information systems as
a concurrent emerging mechanism for change inducement. An objective of the study
therefore, was not only to describe a new form of understanding but to offer managers
knowledge that may be usable for modeling change management procedures. Collis
(1991) found that company leaders are not generally aware of historical and present
events that impose guidance and restrictions on decision-making behaviors. This study
therefore, presents a theoretical explanation for organizational theorists of the theoretical
underpinnings that influence management decisions concerning technological
infrastructure and offers organizational leaders and managers an understanding that can
help guide the development of decision-making structures through an understanding of
complexity theory applications.
An objective of the study was to explore personal encounters by accumulating
material from deep narratives of organizational decision-maker’s experience while
responding to environmental influences. Since the science of complexity is about
relationships, the process included examinations of the relationships among actors
associated with revolutionary changes. The study included an examination of kinds of
relationships that form and how actors interact with each other. In Newtonian physics,
particles can exist independently of one another, and when particles interact, they interact
in simple and predictable manners. With the nonlinear dynamics of complexity theory,
13
particles exist only in relationship to all other particles (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1989). The
interactions among agents in a complex system lead to complex and unpredictable
outcomes (Gleick, 2008). Interactions and relationships are organizing principles of
complexity theory and the realm of inspection for this study (Lewin, 2007).
This study included an investigation of the nascence of large organizational
changes as caused by small stimuli, guided by a universal forces toward a teleological
purpose. The study results thus contributed a practical as well as theoretical
understanding to the prevailing body of knowledge of change theories. Conclusions of
the study may offer change theorists and organizational leaders an alternate perspective
of bottom-up autopoietic developments that claim spontaneity as the driving force that
forms from a chaotic environment of random activities while neglecting any form of
teleological purpose. The present study’s results may demonstrate a clearer view of
conventional theories by describing actual events from a company that has experienced
dramatic changes. The results of this present study may present readers with the
opportunity to view organizational change with a perspective different from that
prevalent in current literature. By examining this present study, readers may understand
how universal order in the guise of environmental stimuli can prompt leadership
decisions, which affect the initiation and overall outcome of organizational changes. The
results of the present study may further enlighten readers with possible causes that guide
leadership activities that follow in response to triggering events while associating a
teleological purpose to the leadership decision-making. In addition to change theories, the
study results may contribute to the body of knowledge in innovation theory, as
descriptions contained in the study explained innovative processes as a response to
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triggering events guided by purpose. Knowledge of practical remedies can help
organizational leaders gain a realistic sense of how strategies revise, correct, and modify
while evolving under the constraints of uncertainty and guidance of teleological
processes.
Narratives in this study described a process by which organizations evolve, thus
offering a context whereby evolution theorists may gain knowledge through the presented
theories as applied to organization populations. An understanding of change dynamics as
presented through complexity theory may offer organizational leaders advantages in
decision-making by acquiring the following benefits: (a) gaining an intuitive repository
of decision-making insights, (b) strengthen leaders’ ability to choose value-adding
solutions to company responses to changes, and (c) encourage leaders to forgo old
paradigms of leadership theories and embrace more advantageous change paradigms that
can increase organizational understanding.
The uncertainty and chaotic nature of organizational changes can intimidate the
leadership causing less than satisfactory results from decision processes.
Crises, surprises, sudden and rapid changes, confusions, and things out of control
prevail in our world and characterize modern organizations and all complex
systems; leaders and managers must be prepared to deal with such chaotic
phenomena and manage complex organizations accordingly. (Farazmand, 2003, p.
339)
Increasing knowledge and understanding of dynamics change theories may afford
leaders confronted with ambiguous circumstances to gain confidence when determining
what solutions can best help remedy a crisis. An understanding of complex dynamics as
15
presented in this study may provide leaders with the command and confidence to lead
changes and not merely react to changes. Understanding why changes occur may reduce
anxiety that leaders may feel when threatened with unanticipated alterations to company
processes. Understanding the driving forces of organizational change may help change
theorist develop a new paradigm of theoretical conceptions that could not be attained
without an embedded understanding offered by complexity theory applications to change
processes.
Nature of the Study
Creswell (2004) stated that, “Qualitative research is used to study research
problems requiring an exploration and an understanding of a central phenomenon” (p.
50). This research thus used a qualitative research design to explore the phenomenon of
the subjective experience of order and change perspectives and to gain an understanding
of the theoretical and practical causes and consequences of leadership decision-making in
a turbulent environment. The focus of the study centered on the evaluation of
participant’s transcendental perceptions and phenomenological examinations of leader’s
thoughts, anxieties, and other feelings of subjectivity while working in organizations that
have sustained fundamental changes or are presently instituting fundamental changes.
The data acquisition processes bracketed real world activities with the epoché
technique. The epoché technique helped the researcher to suspend personal conceptions
and notions while maintaining an active noema of the dynamics of organizational change.
When using an epoché approach, real world conceptions and real world activities are
suspended while trying to eliminate personal biases from the phenomenological data.
This epoché technique, therefore, helped to eliminate researcher’s preconceived beliefs or
16
opinions thus allowing for a clear intelligible interpretation and understanding of the
phenomenological precepts offered by the participants (Moustakas, 1994).
Through a process of interviews, the research sustained a focus on managers who
have decision-making authority or influential input to decisions. The interview
questionnaire consisted of a guideline of open-ended questions, which is an approach
used because of an open-ended survey’s ability to provide a rich understanding of an
interviewee’s feelings and perceptions. The open-ended question approach is appropriate
because the scope of the study was to learn of organization’s proposed recovery
strategies, which may be unattainable via a closed-end survey approach (Chan and Huff,
1992). This present phenomenological study, therefore, used Moustakas’ modified model
of the van Kaam method as a guideline for obtaining the needed data for this study
(Moustakas, 1994).
A phenomenological design was appropriate for this study because the highly
theoretical abstract theme of this study required an approach that included methods
whereby the research could include processes that were able to abstract dialogical
selections from participants of personal accounts. That is, the analytical processes
included attentiveness to dialog that allowed for the revelation of signs of a harmonious
flow of information between environmental stimulus and phenomenological reaction. The
study included research processes that sought to discover sources, directions, and
teleological objectives that could form through autopoietic nascence by exploring internal
subjective reactions of participants who have experienced external exhorting pressures
and have responded by performing consequential processes as part of a suprastructure of
change process.
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The study used a design that endeavored to identify dialogical abstractions that
described processes whereby an organization became motivated to progress toward a
teleological purpose prompted and guided by environmental forces. Such abstractions can
provide evidence and traces helpful in constructing a meaning based in universal
ontology. The research evaluated the formation of propagating and cascading events that
could illustrate a coherent entity as comprised by an organization’s function as set within
the open system of a supra-structure. The fundamental goal of this study therefore, was to
discover causal dynamics of change through dialogical elucidations and present abstract
findings through the evaluation of practical applications experienced by an organization’s
strategic designers.
Research Questions
This present study focused on the discovery and interpretive understanding of
leaders who have undergone a significant change or fundamental change. For the purpose
of this study, a significant change or fundamental change is a change in which the
company has undergone a structural change in the organization’s hierarchy, a major
technology change, or a change presented as a turnover in leadership. “Qualitative
research questions are open-ended, general questions that the researcher would like
answered during the study” (Creswell, 2004, p. 137). Creswell’s statement led to the
development of three general research questions: (a) what environmental stimuli drove
leadership decisions through a bifurcation point to form a new theoretical dissipative
structure? (i.e., what drove the planning process and implementation strategy for
restructuring the company’s information strategies?), (b) what mechanisms drive an
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organization’s response to a structure-altering crisis, and (c) can teleological influences
drive bifurcation solutions?
The first question (What environmental stimuli drove leadership decisions
through a bifurcation point to form a new theoretical dissipative structure?), guided the
research focus by allowing for the development of appropriate questions to ask leaders
involved in decision-making activities. Searching for the cause of a bifurcation allowed
the research to focus attention on possible teleological inducements where a response by
leadership decisions can follow a trajectory toward an attractor where the guiding
purpose may be ultimately unknown to the leaders who sought to fulfill the purpose. The
guidance thus offered by the first question provided a valuable channel while seeking a
meaning for leadership decisions.
The second question, (What mechanisms drive an organization’s response to a
structure-altering crisis?), guided the interviewer to focus the research participants on
looking for outside influences tantamount to Nicolis and Prigogine’s (1989) concept of
environmental perturbations. Isolation of change mechanisms and leadership responses to
the mechanisms help develop the patterns by which general responses might become
apparent. A structural alteration in the company hierarchy or alterations in company
processes are tantamount to Nicolis and Prigogine’s (1989) construct of a manifestation
of a bifurcation, a dissipative structure. The identification of a bifurcation was viewed as
the identification of a point where the decision-maker applied a solution that brought the
organization into a new level of operation. The third question, (Can teleological
influences drive bifurcation solutions?), was meant as a guide to allow the interviewer to
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question if the bottom-up viewpoint of autopoiesis explicitly and categorically refutes
teleological possibilities.
Theoretical Framework
Fractals had a large influence on the concepts of this study. Designers form the
complex designs of fractals by solving relatively simple equations then taking the result
of the calculation as the input for the next calculation as it runs again. Each time the
calculation runs, designers plot the coordinate. Complex designs emerge, as displayed in
figure 1. Similar structures emerge at every level of magnification. Organizations also run
by simple rules. A person working for an organization has known tasks to perform and
people separately work together in a complex dynamical way that enables organizations
to provide a function or some service. The formation of fractals portrays a picture of how
complex systems form in nature and may be considered as a model of a controlling
function for natural processes. Complexity arises out of iterations of simple rules.
Figure 1. Fractal created using Tiera-Zon software.
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Autopoiesis from Greek can be broken down as auto (self) and poiesis (creation)
and was originally used to characterize a living system (Bourgine & Stewart, 2004). Any
system therefore, that can create and maintain itself can be viewed as autopoietic.
Working together at the Biology Department of the University of Chile, Varela and
Maturana (1980) coined the term autopoiesis sometime in mid-1971 while focusing on
the nature of the organization of living organisms (as cited in McMullin, 2004). The word
autopoietic later appeared in print in 1973 in Maturana and Varela’s work, Autopoiesis
and Cognition: the Realization of the Living. In the book, they describe an autopoietic
machine as one where a network of transforming processes destroys and regenerates its
own components. This tautology offers an autopoietic brain teaser: The processes
produce the processes that produce the processes. The first and last words of this brain
teaser, (processes), refer to the same process, thus, creating an autopoietic system.
Leaders of the University of Phoenix disapprove of the use of anthropomorphism.
Researchers, however, involved in organization theory, sometimes analyze organizations
as if they were a living organism (Day et al., 2000).The organization seems to respond to
its environment as a survival mechanism by adapting to economic and competitive
conditions just as any organism would do (Boulding, 1985; von Bertalanffy, 1968).
Concepts in this present study, therefore, relate to organizations as if they were living
systems.
The term allopoietic comes from the Greek, allo- meaning different and poiesis
meaning creation (Bourgine & Stewart, 2004). Allopoietic systems produce something
other than themselves. For example, Harley produces motorcycles but not the machines
they use in production. The allopoietic system produces the motorcycles. Self-
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organization theory distinguishes the purpose of the organization from the process of
maintaining itself as a dissipative structure. All natural systems depend on a "continuous
renewal of their components" (Pantzar & Csanyi, 1991, p. 151). In addition to the normal
activities of work production, an organization has to maintain a continuous provision of
energy that is needed to sustain the existence of the structure itself' (Dyke, 1988). In the
organization’s effort to attain maximum efficiencies, the self-organization interrelates
within and outside of formal boundaries creating an environment that generates the
conditions needed for survival (Pantzar & Csanyi, 1991).
From a teleological standpoint, social systems have a theoretical reason for
existing. Social systems such as an organization require two systems—autopoietic and
allopoietic. Interestingly, organizations can be viewed teleologically as coming into being
because of its “allopoietic” purpose such as producing a needed product. From an
autopoietic standpoint, an organization evolves because an entity of demand imposes an
energy flux that the present chaos can no longer buffer (Thietart & Forgues, 1995). This
energy flux injected into the unstructured chaos of insufficiency creates the conditions for
the emergence of the organization.
After the recovery and re-stabilization of an autopoietic system, the autopoietic
system can again become unstable and according to the same mechanism; perturbations
or environmental influences can disturb a functional system, pushing the system into
chaos. As theory and empirical evidence allows, more energy input from the environment
will restabilize and reestablish the system but at a higher order of complexity operating
with a higher order of energy.
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Every system that can be empirically identified is made up of subsystems; those
subsystems can also be identified by subsystems; this process of identifying subsystems
can continue down to the subatomic level. Additionally researchers inevitably identify
any system as environment or as an input to a greater system or suprasystem (Luhmann,
1982). The accuracy of this study is premised upon the general systems theory
equifinality endorsement that at a general level, all subsystems will eventually
accumulate to form one or a few suprasystems at the highest level of existence.
According to prevalent theory, order demonstrated by complex systems emerges
out of an apparent conglomerate of chaotic processes (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1989). The
paradigm of general systems theory led scientists to evaluate complex systems from a
bottom-up approach denying any teleological behavior as a driving force. The theme of
this study postulates that although chaotic processes can lead to the formation of
structure, these structures form with a purposeful aim to accommodate the developing
processes of a higher system. The scope of this study included the evaluation of
organizational processes as a mid-system sublevel embedded into the superstructure of
existence.
Cellular Automata
Cellular automata shows that simple rules can provide the basis for the
development of complex systems. Neighboring cells interact to produce a kind of static
dynamic system. Cellular automata can be displayed on a grid of squares such as that of
graph paper. Each square can be either black or white which is determined by the activity
of its neighbor (Lewin, 1992). The controlled cell (center below three neighbors) reacts to
23
the activities of its neighbors above according of basic rules. Macro or global structures
emerge because of these local micro activities from the rule.
Basic rules of cellular automata sometimes form a neat ordered structure.
Sometimes the structure, when carried out further, as shown in Appendix A with rule
110, can hit a point in which a sudden change occurs. Looking at figure A1 from left to
right, an ordered structure seems to hit a point that causes a change to occur, first chaos,
and then a new level of order seems to have taken over. This area of change theoretically
is where order and chaos meet. In the words of Lewin (1992): “In this most intangible of
worlds the rule space of cellular automata, moving from one region to another, crosses a
no man’s land where chaos and stability pull in opposite directions” (pp. 50-51). The
concept of the edge of chaos arose from this region of complexity (1992).
Complex systems may be broken down into identifiable components, each
obeying simple laws. The vast number of components that compose a complex system act
together to yield complex behavior. In the case of an organization, the workers follow
simple rules but the organization as a whole accomplishes complex functions.
Transformation
Organizational transformation is a predominant topic for companies operating in
today’s turbulent environments and has been studied under several frameworks including
juxtaposition-relocation, disengagement-learning, and vision-attraction (Bartunek &
Moch, 1987). Global variables add to the equivocality already confronting business
leaders who must mitigate decisions amidst high levels of uncertainty (Abbott & Banerji,
2003). Conventional forms of nonlinear paradigms are largely incapable of assessing
leadership decision-making activities when decisions are made amidst such dynamic
24
nonlinear conditions. Complexity theory provides a paradigm offering a rational
framework for explaining organizational change phenomena where previous linear
paradigms could not suffice (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1989). Complexity theory widens
researchers’ abilities to understand the interconnectedness among the subsystems of a
complex network. Complexity theory expands the knowledge necessary for
understanding the process-influencing variables that must be considered in decisionmaking activities to reduce the level of uncertainty and while increasing predictability of
outcomes (Bond & Houston, 2003, Rogers, 2003). This study includes a description of
Prigogine’s complexity theory thermodynamic construct of dissipative structures to
evaluate sequences of activities associated with organizational transformation. The
process of theoretically likening leadership decisions to initial conditions of a
thermodynamic system can allow for the understanding of how an organization’s chaotic
condition can successfully promote order. As theorized by Lorentz’s (1963) butterfly
effect that he premised while considering the implications of a strange attractor, small
alterations in a system’s initial conditions can have an amplified effect over time. This
study includes commentary on the use of complexity theory to show how to isolate and
analyze bifurcation points in companies that have recently survived a major change and
describe the response that management applied to re-stabilize organizational order from
the edge of chaos.
Dissipative Structures
The self-organization theory uses a paradigm of open natural systems resource
theories where the organization of resources maintains the organization’s structural
integrity. This is known as a dissipative structure. Dissipative structures import free
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energy from the environment and dissipate entropy back into the environment (Nicolis &
Prigogine, 1989). Self-organization theory uses dissipative structure theories where
dissipative structure maintains a relatively stable environment. In self-organization
theory, a trigger (or crisis) pushes the structure through its threshold of stability causing
the structure to experience a transformation. Effectively this process explains the selforganizing process where the organization changes energy requirements in its
transformation toward a new equilibrium. When energy flux extends past a critical
threshold, the autopoietic structure becomes unstable, and the system’s positive feedback
loop causes the system to act like an amplifier moving away from the autopoietic stable
state. This phenomenon is termed bifurcation (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1989).
Feedback
Autopoietic systems use positive feedback loops to provide self-developing
algorithms. Kauffman (2004) uses the biological example of protein synthesis; when a
particular chemical is present, a protein will form. The presence of a chemical provides
the feedback to form the protein. Positive feedback provides the mechanism for a system
to build and maintain itself. Negative feedback loops counter the potential provided by
the positive feedback. If not for negative feedback, a system will amplify the unchecked
process and create an out-of-control growth. Positive feedback loops amplify system
behavior; negative feedback inhibits the behavior. In Kauffman’s protein example,
negative feedback could prevent the formation of the protein if too much of the protein is
already present. Environmental information can also control feedback. A controlling
agent receives information from the environment then determines whether to allow a
certain behavior or not. Complex structures result from combinations of feedback options
26
provided by these behavioral parameters. Positive and negative feedback loops
functioning in cooperation can provide the means for producing self-regulating complex
systems.
Complex Systems
According to Braxton (2006), complex systems respond to environmental
influences and stimuli, whereby dynamical processes formed by subsystems respond to
environmental inputs by initiating an algorithm or some predetermined process. Complex
systems can receive external inputs from various sources, which are capable of
stimulating the initiation of an algorithm. Components of an autopoietic network itself
can stimulate an algorithm within its own system producing self-organizing behavior
similar to that of autocatalysis of a biological and chemical system. Stimulation
information can signal any agent of the self-organizing system to engage in or
discontinue a behavior. Sole and Goodwin (2000) gave the name stigmergy to selfstimulating information resulting from autopoietic behavior. Communications to
information agents can carry triggering information that initiates corresponding
algorithmic applications. Autonomous agents in any of the component subsystems have
the capability to alter, adjust, or modify the environmental input to any other component
of the autopoietic system by causing or stimulating the application of an algorithm.
Together, these linked autonomous agents create complex patterns that form an output
greater than a reductive analysis of the system components would indicate.
Braxton (2006) offers the following three examples of inputs that can stimulate an
algorithm: (a) environmental stimulus, a nesting bird may receive an input from the level
of ambient light at a particular time of the day to initiate an algorithm to begin building a
27
nest, (b) another agent in the network may start, end, speedup, or slowdown a process,
cars signaling to leave a highway may initiate an algorithm for the observing driver to
also leave the highway (anticipating trouble ahead), and (c) stigmergy, a termite mound
reaches a point in the structure that triggers a modification in the behavioral algorithm
whereby causing the termites to begin the next stage of development. The prior examples
illustrate the ability of linked autonomous subsystems to produce complex dynamic
patterns that produce large-scale outcomes. Processes can become nested and controlled
by feedback loops. Stimuli in the form of feedback can augment the process through
positive feedback or control processes through negative feedback.
Living Systems
What is the entity of life? What distinguishes something that is alive from
something that is not alive? The field of enquiry that questions distinguishing
characteristics of life is that of artificial life. Neither straightforward answers nor clear
consensus distinguishes life. Living systems are made of the same matter as the nonliving (McMullin, 2004). McMullin thus postulates that the distinctions of living systems
must stem from the manner in which the system is organized. The difficulty however, lies
in trying to express the characterizing expressions of a living organization. The concept
of autopoiesis arose from the attempt to answer just such questions. According to
McMullin, autopoiesis proposes that all living things share a common type of
organization: (a) the systems own components collectively produce more of the same
components, and (b) a self-constructed boundary exists between the living system and the
ambient environment in which the living system exists.
Chaos and Strange Attractors
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Constructs of this study do not use the colloquial connotation of the concept of
chaos but uses the mathematical connotation of chaos, which is sometimes called
deterministic chaos (Gleick, 2008). Chaos and organization are the two endpoints of a life
structure continuum. Most organizations balance somewhere in the middle but can tend
more toward either end on the continuum. A key aspect of deterministic chaos is that a
system will show substantial sensitivity to initial conditions. Small changes in initial
conditions can demonstrate momentous large alterations in dynamical outputs.
Moone (1987) describes a strange attractor as the set of circumstances where a
dynamic nonlinear system initiates a chaotic state. Small changes in initial conditions
determine the direction and eventuality of the system. Kellert (1993) further explains that
a strange attractor begins at the edge of a system, where a system is drawn into dynamic
nonlinearity or chaos and represents a qualitative explanation of a dynamic nonlinear
condition. “Strange attractors provide managers with visual images of a world in which
structure emerges out of chaos” (Shelton & Darling, 2004, p. 37). Fitzgerald and van
Eijnatten (2002) further described a strange attractor as a complex representation of an
opportunity “for extraordinary creativity, innovation, and transformation” (p. 413). A
strange attractor does not lend itself to precise measurement but instead offers an
environmental description that allows observers to view a business process or innovation
operating at the edge of an attractor as a region representing a process where stability is
highly flexible (Farazmand, 2003). At this region, a slight change in input condition can
alter the system into a condition of dynamic nonlinearity.
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Definitions
Defining the following terms help to clarify the intent of the study and to help
prevent misperceptions or unintended conclusions.
Allopoietic. According to Krippendorff (2009), most industrial production
processes are allopoietic. An organization may produce plastic bottles (allopoietic) but
not the machines used in forming the bottles. Krippendorff posits that biology production
is also allopoietic because offspring are materially different from parent organisms.
Reproduction is different from self-production. Allopoiesis contrasts with autopoiesis
which is self producing.
Attractor. A region in phase space to which time paths attract (Baumol &
Benhabib). “A subregion in phase space that, analogous to a magnet, attracts nearby
trajectories” (DeGreene, 1984, p. 176).
Autopoietic. A system that exhibits self-organizing characteristics. From Greek,
auto (αυτό, means self) and poiesis (ποίησις, means creation). Maturana and Varela
(1973) were the first to use the term and used autopoietic to refer to a machine that could
destroy and create its own components.
Bifurcation. The geometrical splitting of a solution (Barton, 1994). Nicolas and
Prigogine (1989) emphasized that a bifurcation is a source for innovation since
bifurcations offer symmetry breaking solutions and symmetry breaking is a prerequisite
for information flow (See Appendix B for an in-depth explanation of bifurcation
analysis).
Causality. Common to Western thinking is the linear causality formulation
(Jokela, Karlsudd, & Östlund, 2008). Causality means that an event can be derived from a
30
cause, which in turn may give rise to other causes. Complexity theory seeks to avoid the
construct of linear causality because of the construct’s simplistic view of reality.
Cellular Automata. Invented by John von Neumann, cellular automata is a type of
complex dynamical system. The system can be shown as a grid of squares such as that of
graph paper. Each square can be either black or white which is determined by the activity
of its neighbor (Lewin, 1992). Each cell reacts to the activity of its neighbor according of
basic rules. Macro or global structures emerge because of the local micro activities.
Chaos. Chaos and organization are the two endpoints of a life structure continuum
(Lewin 1992). Most organizations balance somewhere in the middle but can tend more
toward either end on the continuum. This study does not use the colloquial connotation
but uses the mathematical notion of chaos, which researchers call deterministic chaos.
Complexity theory. A new paradigm of analysis where systems are examined from
a holistic perspective rather than the mechanistic Newtonian paradigm of reductionism.
Complexity theory examines nonlinear dynamical systems where component interactions
produce emergent global order (Lewin, 1992).
Cybernetics. A control system developed by Norbert Wiener where positive and
negative feedback loops control and maintain a self-organizing system (Scott & Davis,
2008).
Deterministic Chaos. Other terminology often interchanged with deterministic
chaos is self-organizing systems, dissipative structures, non-equilibrium statistical
thermodynamics, and nonlinear dynamics (Harvey & Reed, 1994). Deterministic chaos
describes systems where structures build on reciprocal interactions of system
components. Harvey and Reed describe a system where long-term, orderly behavior can
31
become destabilized and unpredictable at which time the system can either self destruct
or reorganizes nonlinearly into a new state of existence.
Dissipative structure. A system that organizes resources to maintain its structural
integrity. Dissipative structures import free energy from the environment and transform
the energy into waste during use. The system then dissipates used energy back into the
environment in the form of entropy or spent resources (Prigogine & Stengers, 1984).
Edge of chaos. A system at the edge of chaos is also near the edge of order.
According to Scott (2003), chaos is the source of creativity. Lewin (2008) finds
maximum fitness, maximum evolvability, and maximum computational ability at the
edge of chaos.
Emergence. Cellular automata has demonstrated that global structures can emerge
from local activity (Lewin, 1992). “Interactions in a dynamical system give you an
emergent global order” (p. 12). Emergent global properties feedback to influence local
interactions between subsystem components which further influences the development of
the emergent system.
Emergent behavior. A global property emerges because of interactions of
individual components of a system (Lewin, 2008).
Entropy. A tendency for disorder. The second law of thermodynamics states that
an isolated system that is not in equilibrium will tend to have its entropy increase over
time. Entropy approaches a maximum value at equilibrium. Energy that has dissipated
into entropy is no longer available for work. Dissipative structures dissipate used energy
as entropy (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1977).
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Far from Equilibrium. A system operating far-from-equilibrium is nearing chaos;
a point of operation exists where conditions are turbulent and innovations are prompted
by the environment (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1977).
Free energy. Lichtenstein (1995) described free energy as energy imported into an
open system from its environment. The system uses the free energy then dissipates the
used energy as entropy. Free energy in an organizational setting can be viewed as capital,
cash, or other forms of resources that can flow into an organization to help keep the
organization running.
Hermeneutics. A methodology use for extracting embedded meaning from the
subjects under study. According to Blaikie (1993) Greek mythology defined the term
hermeneutics based on the office of the god Hermes whose job was to inform earthly
mortals of the gods requests; Hermeneutics literally means, “making the obscure plain”
(p. 28). Hermeneutic phenomenology techniques allow researchers to interpret human
experience as though it were a text. Researchers view outcomes of hermeneutic studies as
rich and deep accounts of phenomena (Hein & Austin, 2001).
Holism. Evaluations using complexity or systems theory view a system as a
whole. Scholars using this methodology systematically study components of a system
then feed the results back into the system enabling a holistic perspective. Researchers
regard systems as hierarchically arranged by a series of subordinate systems, which
together comprise the superordinate system through interaction (Boulding, 1985; von
Bertalanffy, 1968).
Incremental change. According to Schilling (2005), when company management
focuses on efficiency and market penetration, company leaders try to achieve greater
33
market segmentation by offering diverse product models and various price points.
Developers may lower production costs by simplifying a product’s design or by
improving the production process. Schilling defines the process of accumulating such
small improvements as incremental change. Jones (2004) equates incremental change
with evolutionary change.
Information agent. Any particle of matter that receives an environmental stimulus
and processes a response to another particle of matter (Braxton, 2006).
Manifold causality. According to Jokela et al. (2008), trying to find a cause of an
event is meaningless because there may be many causal factors contributing to the event.
Morphogenesis. The creation of a structure (Scott, 2003).
Morphostasis. The maintenance of the state of a structure (Scott, 2003).
Nonequilibrium statistical thermodynamics. See deterministic chaos above.
Organizational complexity. As explained in chapter 1, complexity theory views
complex dynamic systems as systems within systems. Each system is made up of
subsystems and each system is part of a larger system. Organizations are composed of
departments and organizations and comprise a higher-ordered system manifested as a
segment of the global environment.
Perturbation. An incident that locally disturbs (generally weakly) a system by
chance (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1989). A system disturbed by a perturbation generally
restabilizes and loses the memory of the disturbance leaving the system asymptotically
stable.
34
Punctuated equilibrium. An evolutionary theory where population remains in
relative stasis for long periods of time and occasionally interrupted by rapid burst of
change (Lichtenstein, 1995).
Revolutionary change. Jones (2004) defines revolutionary change as rapid,
dramatic, and broadly focused. Revolutionary change can result in a radical shift in
company procedures and may require new goals and a new structure. Jones sees
reengineering, restructuring, and innovation as three important instruments of
revolutionary change.
Self-organizing systems. See autopoietic system above.
Stigmergy. Self-stimulating information flow resulting from autopoietic behavior
(Sole and Goodwin 2000).
Strange attractor. According to Levy (2000), strange attractor is a phenomenon
associated with chaotic systems. Strange attractors exhibit elliptical or torus shaped orbits
that never repeat the same orbit. Strange attractors trace particular patterns in phase
space. Strange attractors may remain homeostatic with changing system parameters, but
the system can also exhibit sudden changes as a parameter passes a particular threshold.
Weather patterns are an example of a chaotic system exhibiting a strange attractor;
weather patterns are never precise, yet predictable patterns may be discernable.
Systems perspective. The systems perspective allows for a holistic examination of
a system at any level. Systems theory recognizes that systems are composed of an infinite
number of subsystems (von Bertalanffy; 1968; Checkland, 1981; Boulding, 1985). A
stated purpose guides the process of system deconstruction (Jokela et al., 2008). “The
inherent complexity of any human system, with its infinite number of subsystems and
35
complex contexts, implies that any description or understanding of, a system must be
based on incomplete evidence” (p. 197). Although the morphing dynamical structural
relationship among components are not fully understood, even the most temporal and
volatile systems tend to comprise a stable core which manifests order in the system
(Bohm and Peat, 2000).
Tautology. Tautology or circular causality is an event that “is considered in
relation to other events taking place simultaneously, interfering with each other and
affecting each other reciprocally. An individual’s actions are affected by the
environment, while these actions simultaneously affect the environment” (Schöjdt &
Egeland, 1994, p. 83). As such, researchers consider events as both a cause and as an
effect. All events are dependent upon each another.
Teleology. “The attempt to explain present activities by reference to their future
consequences” (Scott & Davis, 2007). Programs “must exist prior to the phenomena they
explain; their effects precede rather than follow their causes” (Beniger, 1986, p. 40).
Triggering events. Lichtenstein (1995) uses the construct of a trigger as a stimulus
that may cause an organization to enter a state of chaos (or a crisis).
Universal order. Alan Touring established the concept of universal computation
with his Touring machine (Turing, 1950; Penrose, 1989). Universal computations emerge
at the edge of chaos (Lewin, 1992). Universal computations drive local activities which
facilitate the emergence of global structures which feedback to further guide local
interaction in a process viewed as universal order.
36
Assumptions
Using a phenomenological approach yields an accurate account of participant’s
experiences. The following methodological assumptions provided a basis for the
conclusions of the present study: (a) the participants were able to recall relevant details of
their subjective experience accurately, (b) the participants were truthful with the
interviewer even if they find that their recollections were painful or embarrassing, and (c)
participants did not worry that their answers would jeopardize their position with their
company. Even though a non-random approach was used in participant selection, an
assumption of diversity among interviewees remains implicit.
The following theoretical assumptions are foundational to this present
phenomenological analysis: (a) isolating and describing the individual subjective
experiences of environmental stimuli is possible, (b) the complex behaviors under study
can be holistically deconstructed in order to allow the classification and explanations of
revealed behaviors, and (e) complex interacting phenomena may interact consistently in
diverse contexts and at different times. The manifestation of these theoretical
assumptions became evident as analysis of the data progresses. The outcome of this study
contributed evidence that organizational leaders have opportunities to gain a perspective
in leadership theories previously neglected.
Scope, Limitations and Generalizability
Because culture can be an isolating influence particular to regional settings the
findings of this study may or may not form universal standards transferable to other
nations. The honesty of the participant’s answers limit the results claimed as reliable and
accurate. The possibility of erroneous or questionable answers limits the results of the
37
study to the extent that errors prevail through crosscheck questions implemented
throughout the interviews. Although participants sometimes offer socially acceptable
answers and answers that project an image of themselves or of their company they feel
would be more suitable, the assumption prevailed that the participants expressed feelings
and opinions in a truthful fashion. Qualitative research designs have inherent limitation
because of the subjectivity and biases of a researcher. Accuracy of the study depended on
the participant’s understanding of the interview questions. To limit the possibility of
misunderstandings, questions were kept basic and fundamental to the objective of the
research. The possibility that participants did not comprehend the question’s intent and
thus give inaccurate responses could affect the validity of the conclusions of the study.
The interview candidates’ leadership position and decision-making authority
formed the basis for participant selection. Although primary plans required the selection
of candidates be from upper level management or from the executive rank, this criterion
did not mean that rank would be the only criterion for selecting decision-making
participants. The ability to find candidates responsible for substantial organizational
changes was limited by the advice of the agent responsible for specifying the research
candidate as the appropriate decision-maker for the research. The research was limited,
therefore, by the assumption that the appropriate interviewee was subject to the interview.
Since phenomenology associates with descriptions of experiences and avoids
analyzing or explaining a phenomenon, the data tended to arise from the researcher’s own
thinking (Moustakas, 1994). Intuition and judgment, therefore, became the primary
evidences of the analysis. Husserl (1971) presupposes that subjects can realize an
38
absolute transcendental ego. This study was limited by the ability of attainment of
unbiased interpretations of data.
Delimitations
Time constraints and logistical capabilities affected the delimitations of this
phenomenological study. The goal for completing the dissertation was to finish by the
winter of 2009 but was delayed to the winter of 2010 because of unforeseen obstacles,
such as hindrances in finding executive lever personnel that were willing to give up the
time for an interview. This study may be delimited by the extent to which the researcher
can bracket preconceived notions of how complex adaptive systems create order out of
chaos. Further delimitations could be caused by the sample since only those willing to
participate will be part of the study thereby losing important contributions by potential
subjects who were too busy. A factor that drove the choice for selecting participants from
New Jersey was the driving distance from the residence of the interviewer to the
company location. Face-to-face interviews require that the interviewer conduct interviews
at the company site. The driving distance therefore delimited the study to the effect that
the interviewer conduct the interviews in Northern New Jersey because of the need for a
reasonable driving distance from the interviewer’s residence to the participating
company.
Summary
Autopoietic organizations operate much like living organisms by taking energy
from the open environment and dissipating entropy as waste back into the environment
(Nicolas & Prigogine, 1989). As living organisms can theoretically evolve into a more
complex organism, organizations also can emerge as systems of higher order requiring
39
greater energy input from the environment to maintain a new equilibrium (Lewin, 2008).
A controlling and preeminent factor of complexity theory is that a struggling system
requires greater complexity and a higher level of order as input from a system’s
surrounding environment to bring a struggling system out of chaos back into a stable
structure (Prigogine & Stengers, 1984; Nicolas & Prigogine, 1989). To provide a greater
depth of theoretical understanding of how and why such a transformation occurred and to
understand the purpose of organizational changes, the focus of this phenomenological
study endeavored to describe the personal experiences that decision-making leaders
experienced when forming the decisions they made that drove the organizational changes.
Chapter 2 begins with a review of the historical development of complexity
theory and autopoietic systems. The literature search included various frameworks such
as cybernetics, systems theory and chaos theory as major contributors to the topics of
complexity addressed in this study. An objective of the literature review was to identify
possible gaps and discontinuities in the development of complexity theory. Concepts
presented in chapter 2 added to the body of knowledge by revealing relationships of the
proposed research relevant to past developments and current highlights in the literature.
The contents of this chapter formed the basis for the direction of the research that allowed
the addition of value to the body of knowledge in leadership decision-making processes
by adding an alternate paradigm of understanding of organizational leadership decisionmaking insight.
40
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter provided the source for the background knowledge that led the
development of constructs as developed and detailed in chapter 1. The review of the
literature showed that much of the foundational constructs of this study were clustered
around the middle of the last century with literature gaps that extend to the late century.
Scott experienced a similar result as he wrote when referring to the open system
perspective, “Most of the work reviewed in these introductory chapters extends only
through the 1960s” (2003, p 32).
The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore how organizational
decision-making leaders interpret and respond to internal and environmental stimuli and
how the leaders respond to the stimuli through the leader’s personal feelings as applied
through a model of complexity theory. The study centered on executive leaders of
organizations located in Northern New Jersey. A criterion of this present study was that
the leader under study would have been involved in decision-making processes under
duress of a crisis and has made decisions that have caused the development of a new
organizational structure, after or while responding to triggering crises. The leader under
study should ideally have an association with aspects of the company’s information
system. The study’s use of a qualitative method was appropriate because the focus of the
study was to explore an organizational leaders’ perceived experience and to analyze those
experiences from theoretical bases for interpretive research (Mertens, 1998). An intention
of the present study was to search out possible patterns in processes used by companies
while recovering from a survival-threatening crisis. Processes of the phenomenological
study involved the recording of interviews using open-ended questions offered to
41
approximately eight to ten participants or until bracketed information reached data
saturation. Achievement of data saturation was the overriding criteria; the study could
have included more than eight participants if necessary. Chapter 2 reviewed the literature
that was relevant to the above stated purpose of the research. Information contained
herein resulted from a thorough literature search of the following areas: (a) historical
perspectives of organizational change theories, (b) systems theory, (c) complexity theory,
(d) chaos theory, (e) autopoietic systems, (f) theoretical foundations of change, (g)
theories leading to the organizational change processes, (h) leadership behavior
alterations resulting from environmental responses, and (i) perceived self-awareness and
its effects on leadership initiatives.
This research incorporated detailed interviews with eight senior level executives
of companies located in Northern New Jersey of the United States. Participants of the
study were required to have had recent lived experiences with crisis driven changes to
organizational processes or structures. The framework of investigation used for this
literature review involved three levels of investigation, the psychological level, the
organizational level, and the environmental level. The inquiry of this study grew from an
initial search of autopoietic systems.
Since the theme of this study involved practical understandings and applicability,
the search explored literature involving autopoietic systems as applied to organizational
settings. An underlying intent throughout the literature review was to search for
applications of complexity that would demonstrate the tendency of the theory to explain
emergence and to explain the chaotic nature of creativity necessary to form order from
dire circumstances as found within organizations addressing a crisis. This review includes
42
a search for practical applications that illustrate how an organization survives turbulence
by supplying complex energy at a greater rate then removed by entropy.
Literature Review Key Word Search
The literature review process began with searches using the online library
provided by the University of Phoenix. Key word topic searches provided a way to search
resource reserves for related material and provided an initial process for developing a
framework for inquiry on the topic of self-organizing systems. Online libraries used in
the literature search include EBSCOhost, Pro Quest and to a lesser extent the Thompson
Gale PowerSearch and individual journal publications. Results from these searches led to
additional material as related branches surfaced. Although ample applicable material
emerged, scientific material fell short. Exhaustive searches led to an assumption that the
University of Phoenix library was not equipped for scientific inquiry of autopoiesis,
thermodynamics, and theories of chaotic systems. The search processes, therefore, moved
to local libraries and online bookstores in an effort to find books written by foundational
theorists on the topics of systems theory, cybernetics, autopoietic systems, complexity
theory, and chaos theory.
The materials used for this study included 72 peer-reviewed or scholarly articles,
65 books, 1 dissertation, 10 editorials, 4 lectures, 8 Websites, and 1 dissertation. A
significant portion of this literature search required efforts in research of foundational
work on the topics of systems theory, complexity theory, chaos theory, and autopoietic
systems. The foundational research required much reading from books and journal
articles from mid twentieth century through to the present. Table 1 shows a breakdown of
the resources used in this research.
43
Table 1
Breakdown of Research Material
Type
Journals
Books
Editorials
Lectures
Websites
Dissertations
Total
Count
72
65
10
4
8
1
160
Percent
45%
41%
6%
3%
5%
<1%
100%
Historical Overview
The concepts of chaos and complexity emerged as prominent fields of study
during the 1970s (Lewin 1992, Kauffman 1993). According to Scott and Davis (2007),
although the roots of open systems perspective is much older, intellectual ferment caused
the open system perspective to germinate to a more prominent level during the years
following World War II. Escalations in post World War II computing caused researchers
of the natural sciences to encounter problems regarded as too complex to engage
productively. Complex problems having unpredictable properties in multiple variable
systems driven by nonlinear chaotic phenomena became ubiquitous (Braxton, 2006).
Braxton described how the increasing growth in computing power enabled scientists to
perform calculations hitherto unimaginable. Today, applications of complex associations
are in ubiquitous use when examining dynamical systems. Weather predictions for
example, require the analysis of complex interactions among many subsystems. Within
the boundaries of any system are an infinite number of subsystems (von Bertalanffy,
1968). Interacting subsystems that are interdependently coupled to other subsystems form
the basis for complexity theory (1968).
44
Strogatz (2003) found that networks of independently acting entities possess an
inherent ability to self-organize into a higher order of complexity. General systems
theorists distinguish the open systems perspective from the previously used paradigm of
closed systems by introducing the thermodynamic construct of entropy (used energy that
is no longer usable for further work) into systems analyses. The second law of
thermodynamics states that all systems innately evolve toward a condition of increasing
entropy, which forms a random organization of system elements. When a system reaches
a state of total entropy or maximum disorder (chaos), the system can no longer
differentiate its structure.
When using an open systems perspective, however, the inevitability of chaos can
be averted because open systems can import external energy from the environment; the
system can experience what Scott (2003) calls negentropy which is negative entropy.
This means that the system can attain a higher order of complexity by inputting a larger
amount of energy than what the system outputs. An open system can therefore restore
used energy, mend system breakdowns, and improve an organization’s processes,
methods, and structures. “Such systems can maintain themselves at a high level, and even
evolve toward an increase of order and complexity” (Bertalanffy, 1962, p.7). The
synergistic phenomenon that emerges through interconnected networks of subsystems
defines complexity theory’s foundational thesis, which is the capacity to analyze a
system’s ability to achieve a greater effect through synergistic processes. Analyses using
complexity theory can expose the emerging entities that would not result by analyzing
and summing all subsystem contributions using a reductionist approach. Analyses using
45
complexity theory, allows the detection of the generation of “genuinely novel and
significantly more complex levels of order” (Strogatz, 2003, p. 232).
Hierarchical Development
The order that complex systems display arise from a seeming conglomerate of
chaotic processes. General systems theorists stress that a fundamental feature of complex
systems is hierarchy (Scott & Davis, 2007). Hierarchy in this sense is a mechanism of
clustering. Subsystems cluster to form suprasystems. When theorists combine this notion
of hierarchy with the construct of loose coupling, complex systems emerge as a needed
mechanism for analysis. The new paradigm of complexity theory allowed scientists to
evaluate and study autopoietic systems that emerged but the systems theory approach led
scientist to evaluate complex systems from a bottom-up perspective. The bottom-up
perspective became prominent allowing scientists to overlook the possibility of
teleological behavior as a driving mechanism. Lewin (1992) found that chaotic processes
can lead to the formation of structure and structures form to accommodate a higher
system’s development requirements. Every system that can be empirically identified is
made up of subsystems that are themselves made up of subsystems. This process of
identifying subsystems of subsystems can be identified down to the subatomic level.
Complexity theory researchers inevitably identify any system as environment or as an
input to a greater system or suprasystem.
A premise of general systems theory relates to the notion that at a general level,
all subsystems will eventually accumulate to form one or a few suprasystems at the
highest level of existence (Scott & Davis, 2007; Laszlo, 2002). The systems theory
approach is a theoretical conception used for developing general laws for a system.
46
Researchers use systems theory for a wide range of disciplines including disciplines
rooted in biological, physical, or social (Jokela, Karlsudd, Östlund, 2008). Researchers
involved in organization theory analyze organizations as if they were a living organism;
the system responds to its environment as a survival mechanism by adapting to economic
and competitive conditions (Boulding, 1985; von Bertalanffy, 1968). The literature
defines systems in various ways but frequently specifies systems as relationships between
system components and between component properties (2008). Researchers can define a
system as a computer system, a department, a division, or a whole organization. The
identification of system components does not follow strict guidelines but researchers
define components subjectively as appropriate for evaluating the system under study
(Katz and Kahn, 1980). Defining open systems as a system that exchanges material and
information with the open environment on a continuous basis sometimes creates a
problem of defining boundaries (Checkland, 1981). Jokela et al. delineates five main
principles of a system: (a) systems are holistic; a change in any part of a system will
affect the entire system, (b) systems are synergistic, the whole is greater than the sum of
the parts, (c) systems adhere to equifinality conceptions, an open systems can attain the
same result by different approaches, (d) systems adhere to multifinality conceptions, a
common starting-point may lead to different results, and (e) systems adhere to concepts
of tautologies where circular reasoning finds a place in feedback systems. Tautologies in
relation to systems theory means, “that an event is considered in relation to other events
taking place simultaneously, interfering with each other, and affecting each other
reciprocally. An individual’s actions are affected by the environment, while these actions
simultaneously affect the environment” (Schöjdt & Egeland, 1994, p. 83).
47
Autopoiesis
Autopoiesis from Greek means self-creations, auto (αυτό, meaning self) and
poiesis (ποίησις, meaning creation). The term originated as terminology for living
systems (Bourgine & Stewart, 2004). An autopoietic system therefore, can create and
maintain itself. Maturana and Varela coined the term in the early 1970s while working at
the Biology Department of the University of Chile while studying the nature of living
organisms (McMullin, 2004). Maturana and Varela published work using the term
autopoiesis in 1973. In the book, they describe an autopoietic machine as one where a
network of transforming processes destroys and regenerates its own components.
Whereas an autopoietic system produces the environment that the system itself
needs to survive and thus enables its own survival allopoietic systems produce something
other than the system itself. Harley Davidson for example, produces motorcycles but the
company does not produce the machines used in production. The allopoietic system
produces the motorcycles. Although all systems depend on a continuous renewal of their
components, an autopoietic system can renew its own components (Pantzar & Csanyi,
1991). In addition to a company’s productive allopoietic work, it needs to sustain its own
structure and internal coherence (autopoietic) with a continuous supply of outside energy
(Dyke, 1988).
Teleologically, social systems have a theoretical reason to exist. Social systems
all require two systems to survive. Social systems require autopoietic systems and
allopoietic systems. Researchers can view organizations teleologically as coming into
being because of allopoietic environmental needs (purpose) such as producing a needed
48
product. From an autopoietic viewpoint, an organization evolves because an entity of
demand imposes an energy flux that the present ordered system can no longer buffer.
When the perturbations reach a threshold sufficient enough so that order can no longer be
maintained, the system will tend toward chaos and a crisis situation. Further energy flux
injected into the already unstructured chaotic system will find another threshold of
bifurcation point where the purpose of insufficiency will create the conditions needed for
the emergence of a higher ordered organization or for the restructuring of an organization
(a new dissipative structure).
Dissipative Structures
Scott and Davis (2007) observed that systems became more complex and variable
as the organization perspective moved from mechanistic through to organic social
systems. Self-organization theory used a paradigm of open natural systems resource
theories. These open natural perspectives view organizations as a mechanism for
maintaining resources in order to maintain the organization’s structural integrity. Energy
expended for the structural maintenance of the social system (organization) allows for an
analogy of the social system as a dissipative structure. Theoretically, dissipative
structures import free energy from the open system environment and dissipate entropy
back into the environment (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1989). Dissipative structures are part of
self-organization theory where dissipative structures can maintain operations within an
environment with relative stability. From a self-organization theory perspective, a trigger
(or crisis) can push the present dissipative structure or organization through its threshold
of stability, which can cause the structure to undergo a transformation. Effectively this
process pushes the organization through change processes whereby energy requirements
49
transform to a new equilibrium that is favorable to the changing environment. When
energy fluctuations expand past the system’s critical threshold of stability, the autopoietic
structure becomes unstable. At this point, the system’s positive feedback loop causes the
system to act like an amplifier and moves the system functions away from the autopoietic
stability. Operating within this unstable condition may cause the system to reach a point
where the system may collapse and disperse or alternately the system may reassemble
itself into a new structure capable of functioning in the changing environment. This point
of instability equates to a point of decision-making activities when considering
organizational processes. This point of decision is a phenomenon known as a bifurcation
point (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1989).
According to Morrison (1991), the exploration of nonlinear change dynamics
must use nonlinear approaches. Nonlinear approaches result in a solution that is based on
a system of equations that reiterate a process of results by looping solutions back into an
original set of equations such as in fractal formation. Solutions to simple nonlinear
equations can result in sudden and discontinuous jumps from one set of solutions to
another set. Extending the range of the variable can ultimately transfer the realm of a
system that displays nonlinear chaotic complex behavior (Abraham, Abraham, & Shaw,
1990). When graphed by computer programs, periodic changes sometimes emerge.
Scientists call the periodic chaotic diagram an attractor. The trajectories of an oscillating
cycle will form an attractor in phase space that will usually converge to a discrete point.
If the cyclic pattern becomes irregular, the irregularity will result in unpredictable
behavior despite the fact that the system develops according to completely deterministic
equations. As Lorentz found, the unpredictability depends on a property of chaotic
50
systems known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions (Gleick, 2008). If initial
conditions differ by an arbitrarily small quantity, the solution may diverge dramatically
when extended over a long range (Hoyert, 1992).
In self-organization theory, theorists distinguish between the purpose of the
organization (what it produces) and the processes that maintain the organization as a
dissipative structure. Natural systems rely on continuous renewal processes to maintain
internal operations (Pantzar & Csanyi, 1991, p. 151). In addition to the normal activities
that a company manages while producing its products or services, an organization must
also perform continual renewal processes to ensure that provisions of energy (resources)
are available as needed to sustain the existence of the organizational structure (Dyke,
1988). From an open systems perspective, the organization maintains an effort toward
attaining maximum efficiencies. The self-organization processes therefore, interrelates
within formal boundaries and outside of formal boundaries in an effort to create an
environment that generates the conditions the organization needs for survival (Pantzar &
Csanyi, 1991).
Cybernetics
Systems perspectives of independent tightly coupled system components have
given way to loosely coupled associations that form alliances of interdependent networks
(Scott, 2003). When analyzing systems using complexity theory, analysts deem the
various components of a system as interdependently related associations. These
interrelated components, while similar in features, display differences that vary from
simple to complex; the interrelated components also vary in stability. As systems
perspectives progressed from mechanistic through organic, analysts gained capabilities
51
for performing social systems analyses, where the system components became more
variable and more complex. Wiener (1954), the founder of cybernetics, helped analysts
by suggesting that systems possess varying degrees of interdependence. For example, the
behavior of a mechanistic system is highly constrained, making predictions of the system
highly deterministic. Organic systems’ components are less constrained and more
flexible, which enables a system to respond to changes with less resistance than nonorganic mechanistic systems would allow. Social systems components associate by
allowing loosely coupled connections that integrate with very little constraint placed
upon one component by another (Scott, 2003). Social systems, therefore, are more
complex as a whole and function via complex interconnected feedback loops among
system components (people). Weiner called his development of feedback systems,
cybernetic systems.
Complexity theory borrowed Norbert Wiener’s conception of cybernetic systems
as a control mechanism for autopoietic structures (Scott, 2003). The field of cybernetics
includes the reaction of information processes including the reaction of information on
information. In 1956, Louis Couffignal defined cybernetics as the art of ensuring the
efficacy of an action (Couffignal, 1958). Today, researchers view cybernetics as
interacting processes that interact in a way that causes a system to produce itself. That is,
the system creates the conditions within which the system is able to survive (Lichtenstein,
1995).
Autopoietic systems provide self-developing algorithms by using cybernetic
positive feedback loops. Kauffman (1993) provided a biological example by examining
protein synthesis; a protein will form when a particular chemical is present. The presence
52
of a biological chemical provided feedback, which told the system how to form the
protein. Positive feedback therefore, is the mechanism that provides the means for
building and maintaining itself.
Negative feedback loops counter or inhibit the actions that the positive feedback
loop initiates. If there were no negative feedback, a system would continue to amplify
with no boundaries thus creating an out-of-control growth. Positive feedback loops
amplify system behavior; negative feedback inhibits the behavior. In Kauffman’s protein
example, the system used negative feedback to prevent the formation of more proteins
when the system sensed that too much protein was already present (Lewin, 1992).
Feedback from the environment in an open system can add controls to a system that
detects an environmental stimulus. A system detector (which can be a person) receives
input from the environment and determines whether to allow a certain behavior or not.
These combinations of feedback and sensing can result in very complex structures.
Positive and negative feedback loops functioning in cooperation produce self-regulating
complex systems (autopoietic dissipative structures).
Complex Systems
Complex systems receive and respond to internal feedback interactions and
external environmental influences and stimuli. Dynamical processes formed by
subsystems, respond to environmental inputs by initiating ad hoc processes or
predetermined algorithms. Complex systems can receive inputs from various external
sources, which are capable of stimulating the initiation of an algorithm or ad hoc process.
Autopoietic associated components can stimulate preestablished algorithms that produce
self-organizing behavior that is similar to autocatalytic processes of biological and
53
chemical systems. Environmental stimuli, such as pheromones, can signal an agent of the
self-organizing system causing the system to engage in stigmergic behavior or to
discontinue a behavior that is in progress. Sole and Goodwin (2000) used the term
stigmergy to represent the self-stimulating information flow that results from autopoietic
behavior. Information agents receive information from another information agent that can
interpret the input as a trigger for a predetermined action. The predetermined actions have
been set in place by an adaptations process that formed over time. Any autonomous agent
of any subsystem component can modify the environmental input that it receives and pass
the information on to another component of the autopoietic system. All inputs stimulate a
response of the information agent. Analysts can interpret the responses to stimulation as
an algorithm when the response is complex. Together, the interconnected components
form linked autonomous information agents that create complex patterns. Reductionist
analysis techniques cannot determine macro outputs of the system; the complex
interactions form patterns that can only be analyzed using complexity science concepts.
Reductive analyses fail to account for interactions that are responsible for forming the
output of a complex adaptive system.
Braxton (2006) submits the following examples of inputs that can stimulate an
algorithmic result: (a) as a stimulus injected by the environment, a nesting bird may
receive a stimulus from the level of ambient sunlight at a particular time of day to initiate
an algorithm (or process) to begin building a nest, (b) an information agent in the
complex adaptive system may start, end, speedup, or slowdown a process, cars signaling
to leave a highway may initiate an algorithm for the observing driver to also leave the
highway (anticipating trouble ahead), and (c) stigmergy, a termite mound reaches a point
54
in the structure that triggers a modification in the behavioral algorithm whereby causing
the termites to begin the next stage in the development of the mound. These examples, as
summarized in Table 2 demonstrate how loosely linked autonomous subsystems can
produce complex dynamic patterns with large-scale outcomes.
Table 2
Summary of Stimulus and Algorithmic Responses
Information Agent Type
Stimulus
Algorithm
environmental
a nesting bird may
bird begins
receive an input from
building a nest
the level of ambient
light at a particular time
of the day
start, end or
cars signaling to leave a
observing driver
speedup/slowdown
highway
may follow suite
and leave the
highway
(anticipating
trouble ahead)
stigmergy
a termite mound reaches
termites begin the
a point in the structure
next stage of the
formation that triggers a
mound
behavioral modification
development
55
Living Systems and Artificial Life
The analysis of this study topic relates to the following question: What is the
entity of life? A philosophical analysis of this question tries to assess the phenomenon
that distinguishes something that is alive from something that is not alive. The field of
artificial life enquires into these questions and tries to analyze the construction of the
distinguishing characteristics of life. Artificial life theorists found that no straightforward
answers neither clear consensus distinguishes life because living systems are made of the
same matter as the non-living systems (McMullin, 2004). McMullin postulates that the
distinctions of living systems must stem from the manner in which the system is
organized and the processes carried out by the system. Artificial life theorists encounter
difficulty when trying to articulate characterizing expressions of a living organization.
Autopoiesis concepts developed from the attempts made by artificial life theorists who
tried to answer the following question: What is the entity of life? According to McMullin,
autopoiesis suggests that all living things share common types of organization: (a) the
system’s components collectively produce more of the same components, and (b) a selfconstructed boundary between the living system and the ambient environment separates
the two entities.
Established Order Through Bifurcations
From a behavioral science perspective, organizational participants perform
various roles that provide the means for applying the various processes necessary for
maintaining the autopoietic subsystem emphasized here as the organization. Each
participant fulfills the roles or expectations as occupants of specific social positions that
universally arise from a teleological force that scientists call autopoietic. Scientists
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generally term these processes, autopoietic, without regard for further thought on any
teleological underlying antecedent.
According to Scott (2003), organizational participants report the unpredictability
of coworker’s actions and the confusion caused by those actions. However, when the
participants consider the social structure of organizations, they tend to emphasize the
remarkable order exhibited by the behavior of fellow workers. Scott noted that thousands
of people perform millions of individual actions, which creates an outcome not closely
associated with total confusion or chaos, but with a definable approximation of order.
This noteworthy achievement of order arising out of apparent chaos merits the attention
provided by the analysis covered in this study. Although social structure does not always
endorse social harmony, a theme of this study was to evaluate the importance of
individual contributions in the form of decision-making activities.
Within this structure, decisions sometimes promote conflict. This study represents
a viewpoint that associates the presence of conflict with perturbations of a dissipative
structure. A dissipative structure will sometimes absorb perturbations or sometimes
amplify a perturbation until the perturbation necessitates the manifestation of a
bifurcation. Successive instabilities can give rise to transformational changes through
innovation resulting from decisions at a bifurcation point. All systems contain subsystems
that continually fluctuate (Prigogine & Stengers, 1977). Sometimes a single fluctuation
happening at the right time occurring within the right combinations and sequence can
become powerful enough to shatter the preexisting organization. At that singular
moment, a bifurcation point will determine by chance whether the system will
disintegrate into chaos or advance to a new level of order requiring a larger amount of
57
energy to keep the dissipative structure operating. These bifurcations can become evident
as patterns or processes that help shape the manifestation of social structure or social
order. An examination of social structure as associated with decision-making activities
may enable researchers to envision the need for such conflict as a useful mechanism of
universal order, which is the teleological process embedded in all activities. Tension,
stress, disagreements, misunderstandings, deviance, and other conflicts can become
attributes of change that can lead to stability at higher levels of order (Merton, 1957).
Self-organization
Today complexity research comprises investigations of the dynamics of the selforganization phenomenon of natural and cultural systems (Braxton, 2006). Complexity
theory involves the exploration of complex networks that generate complex adaptive
systems applicable to real-world functionality through self-organizing systems. Braxton
offers two basic factors needed for self-organization to occur, (a) positive and negative
feedback loops, and (b) information transferred from the environment as a form of stimuli
that can initiate an algorithm. Self-organization is the basis for the framework of
autopoietic systems.
Organizational Transformation
Gould questioned whether organization transformations happened rapidly or
gradually (Gould & Eldredge, 1977). Gradual change infers that one organizational
structure resolves into the next with a smooth flow. Fast changes imply discontinuous
transformations where one distinct form of structure supplants the previous. Gould
supported the evolutionary construct of punctuated equilibrium. Lichtenstein (1995)
however, saw organizational change as transformative, not evolutionary. Rather than
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trying to make changes fit a biological evolution process Lichtenstein found a systems
transformation approach a more effective model. The analyses of this study leaned
toward Lichtenstein’s model as a perspective of organizational change. Since
Lichtenstein’s transformation model relies on autopoietic structures as an underlying
dynamic, the focus of this study relied on analyzes based on constructs of complexity
theory and expands upon this approach with conjoined theories of autopoietic systems
and dissipative structures.
Complexity vs. Newtonian Physics
Disciplines such as sociocybernetics use concepts from Nicolis and Prigogine’s
(1977) work in complexity theory to emphasis sociological analysis through selforganization concepts that have a basis in finding order developing from chaos. Prior
paradigms have stressed mechanistic and deterministic world viewpoints. Prigogine
criticized Newtonian assumptions on change and chaos (as cited in Hodge & Coronado,
2007). Prigogine found that the Newtonian paradigm did not apply to much of the
phenomena found in nature. Prigogine distinguished the differences between Newtonian
mechanics and his own findings in thermodynamics. Prigogine studied the dynamics of
heat and energy at conditions of equilibrium and at conditions far-from-equilibrium and
found that order could form from chaos as shown with experiments involving Bénard
cells (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1977), (see Appendix C for an explanation on Bénard cells).
Newtonian paradigms emphasize order, stability, linearity, uniformity, and relationships
in equilibrium within closed systems.
Mathematicians can view system dynamics from either a linier or a nonlinear
vantage point. From a linear perspective, mathematical assumptions allow for solutions
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that unfold by combining linear equations. From a mathematical perspective, dynamics
can be thought of as linear or nonlinear (Morrison, 1991). Linear methods work well
when dealing with basic systems such as predicting the trajectory of a particle or the path
of a planet; such methods are a foundation of statistical analyses (1991). Linear equations
however, lose usefulness when applied to more complex systems such as natural systems
(Gleick, 2008). Gleick noted that linear analyses failures become apparent when
continuous changes make sudden jumps. In cases of sudden changes to turbulence, linear
equations must give way to nonlinear equations.
New Paradigmatic Approach to Complex and Unstable Problems
The new paradigm of self-organization offers a new approach with capabilities
more applicable to analysis of today's accelerated social changes (Laszlo, 2002).
Researchers using autopoiesis as a basis for analysis, bring special attention to instability,
diversity, disorder, non-equilibrium, and nonlinear interactions in open systems—instead
of closed systems (Lewin, 1992). Morphogenesis and temporality are primary subjects of
analysis for complex adaptive systems as opposed to morphostasis and homeostasis
conditions, which are more suitable for analyzing closed systems (Scott, 2003). The
emphases of complexity theory therefore, are necessary and capable tools for analyzing
today’s unstable organizations operating in unstable competitive environments.
Social scientists may find that by shifting to a paradigm of complexity theory, the
use of autopoiesis, dissipative structures, bifurcations, feedback, amplification,
fluctuations, irreversibility, and autocatalysis may adds additional power to
organizational analyses (Laszlo, 2002). Analysts evaluating autopoietic systems typically
have a characteristic viewpoint that see the emergence of a system from the bottom up;
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this viewpoint fits well with the constant emergence of complexities that seem to
materialize among human interactions (2002). The use of other paradigms that were
usable in reductionist approaches, where the characteristic assumptions of a system were
consistency and simplicity of human behavior, were usable in closed systems analyses
(Scott & Davis, 2007). Observing the high degree of complexity in organizational
cultures have led analysts to the theory of complexity to solve organizational problems
(Laszlo, 2002).
Far-From-Equilibrium and Edge of Chaos. Christopher Langton introduced the
phrase, the onset of chaos but Norman Packard coined the catchier phrase, edge of chaos
(Lewin, 1992). The edge of chaos corresponds to Prigogine’s construct of far-fromequilibrium. Langton and Prigogine both posited that order forms most prolifically at the
edge of chaos, “The interaction of a system with the outside world, its embedding in nonequilibrium conditions, may become in this way the starting point for the formation of
new dynamic states of matter – dissipative systems” (Prigogine & Stengers, 1984, p.
143). The process of self-organization produces a dissipative structure. According to
Hodge and Coronado (2007), dissipative structures do not impose order onto chaos but
negotiates order and forms new more intricate and more complex order than what could
be created when a system operates close-to-equilibrium.
Equilibrium. Dynamic structures existing in equilibrium form constructs that were
first examined after the paradigmatic shift to classical thermodynamics and can be
exemplified by crystals (Prigogine & Stengers, 1984). Bénard cells form a type of
dynamical structure. Bénard cells form spontaneously when appropriate environmental
conditions stimulate the system of fluid between two plates (see Appendix C for the
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construction of Bénard cells). Prigogine introduced the notion of a dissipative structure to
underline the concept of a dynamical structure. A dissipative structure forms structure
and order and concomitantly dissipation of waste. Researchers using classical
thermodynamics view heat transfer as a source of waste. In contrast, those using
complexity theory see the heat transfer of a dissipative structure, such as a Bénard cell, as
a source of order.
Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Working within the realm of quantum
physics, Warner Heisenberg showed that the outcome of any measurement of a system,
even an ideal system, is not deterministic (Chauvet, 2006). The outcome is instead
characterized by a probability distribution with the uncertainty of the measurement based
on the standard deviation of the associated measurements. The Heisenberg uncertainty
principle thus reveals a lower bound based on the product of the of position and
momentum standard deviations. Heisenberg’s principle thus implies that a particle’s
position and momentum is not possible to know simultaneously (Clegg, 2006). Prigogine
argued that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle applies to dissipative structures because
fluctuations in non-equilibrium systems can produce a new condition that cannot be
reduced to a previous condition. Researchers cannot predict the new position and
momentum by exhaustively describing the position and momentum of the previous state
(Prigogine & Stengers, 1984: 179).
Current Studies Involving Business
With today’s onslaught of revolutionary change, business leaders are preoccupied
with change itself (Lewin, 2008). If the paradigm shift to complexity analysis is to
prevail, many of the former background assumptions of business models will become an
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inadequate means for understanding changing conditions. The traditional machine model
and linear thinking will no longer provide control or predictability in today’s organic and
nonlinearly developing system.
Adding to the complication of complexity is that when a system’s change agent’s
pattern of behavior changes, the system’s environment changes and feeds back to the
agent that caused the change thus causing further changes to the agent’s behavior. The
system as a whole constantly adapts to the conditions around it causing a continuous
evolution through ceaseless adaptation. “Companies in a fast-changing business
environment need to be able to produce constant innovation, need to be constantly
adapting, and be in a state of continual evolution, if they are to survive” (Lewin, 2008, ¶
7). Through the understanding of the mechanisms of complex adaptive systems,
organization leaders can develop a deep understanding of how to work with organizations
(Cartwright, 1991). The paradigm of complexity views business operations as
interactions of workers and relationships. The paradigm allows analysts to assess how
workers interact with each other and how the workers react to environmental stimuli. In a
nonlinear dynamic business world, everything exists in relationship to everything else.
Interactions among information agents can lead to complex unpredictable outcomes.
Interrelationships become the organizing principles of an organization when viewed with
complexity science. These relationships form at various levels within an organization.
Relationships form for example, among team members and relationships form as teams
interact with other teams. Relationship interactions form at interorganizational levels and
beyond into the economic web.
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A paradigm shift in cognition
Theorists who have previously used the paradigm of a simple mechanistic, causeand-effect world model were finding more appropriate approaches for analyzing
dynamical systems and complex nonlinear phenomena with the use of complexity theory
because uncertainty and unpredictability has taken over for order and predictability
(Rueda-Manzanares, Aragón-Correa, & Sharma, 2008). The paradigm of complex
adaptive systems defines agents that continually interact mutually with one another. The
interactions associated with complex adaptive systems generate emergent macro behavior
for the system as a whole. Besides organizational behavior, Lewin (2002) provides
examples of evolution of ecosystems, and the human mind whereby complexity theory
can help in understanding where other analysis paradigms fall short.
Leadership Implications
According to Maturana and Varela (1992), an organization forms into a kind of
meta-individual. On January 21, 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled that
corporations can have free speech rights and can express those rights by supporting a
candidate without restrictions on resources spent in the support. The ruling implicitly
recognizes organizations as living thinking personalities. The organization as a metaindividual relies on the collective communications of the human assets that comprise the
system for its existence. Through continuing communications, a company can continue to
exist by dynamically adapting to its environment. Following this notion presents the
significance of a transformational leadership style to the executives of an organization.
Organizational leadership requires a new mindset when operating under a complexity
perspective. Organizational leaders cannot simply control a company, as a mechanistic
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paradigm would allow. Under the complexity paradigm, company leadership must lead
through influence and not through dictates (Scott & Davis, 2007). Today transformational
leadership is the buzzword in leadership training classes. Bass (1999) draws a contrast
between the transactional leadership type, which practices conditional reinforcement of
followers, with transformational leadership styles, which intellectually inspires and
stimulates followers while being considerate of follower’s needs.
From caring to creativity. Since interactions among participants of complex
systems emit creativity, novelty, and adaptability, organizational leaders need to guide
the relationships with authenticity as an objective (Lewin, 2008). Lewin therefore, posits
that companies should attend to interactions by attending to processes. Open and prolific
collaborations are, therefore, a necessary part of organizational operations that operate
under the complexity paradigm. Leadership needs to progress in the context of genuine
care for those being led. As stated by Lewin (2008), in the language of complexity
science, “in complex adaptive systems, agents interact, and when they have a mutual
effect on one another, something novel emerges” (¶ 8).
Leaders who can improve conditions that enhance interactions among
participating agents will contribute to the company’s ability to adapt and will contribute
to the participant’s abilities to create. Relationships that are grounded in caring with each
participant having a mutual sense of well-being for each other will translate to mutual
interests, which can fuel the synergistic characteristic needed for a company to remain
agile and ready to compete in a turbulent competitive environment. Lewin finds that care
is not merely an abstract construct but actions on the part of employees. Within the
65
paradigm of complexity theory, care enhances relationships, which successively stimulus
adaptability and creativity.
Human oriented management. Transformational leadership styles operating
within complexity science has a tendency to fit with the softer side of management
approaches. The transformational leadership style stands out among other styles because
transformational leadership, through the inspiration of followers, can completely reinvent
an organization (Fismer, 2005). Management and leadership styles, guided by complexity
theory, lead to the humanistic and a more natural side of management. Humanistic
approaches to management is not new; the 1920s for example, saw the work of Mary
Parker Follett, as cited from Hoopes (2003), who stated that “the self reaches its highest
level in and through others” (p. 109). These ideas have now resurged with complexity
theory as the battle between human-centered management and scientific or mechanistic
management swinging back toward human-centered management. The difference
however, according to Lewin (2008), is that human-centered management now has the
support of science (i.e., complexity science). As Scott and Davis (2007) examined the
natural perspective of organization, the researchers found that individual workers do not
behave as “rational” economic actors but as complex beings with multiple motives and
values; they are driven as much by feelings and sentiments as by facts and interests. They
do not behave as individual, isolated actors but as members of social groups exhibiting
commitments and loyalties to colleagues stronger than their individualistic self-interests
(p. 65). Human-centered management practices emerge from complexity science. An
underlying theme of this study seeks to uncover the human aspects of decision-making
activities by evaluating the decision-maker’s feelings behind the decisions.
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Significance to Business Leadership. Organizational leaders endeavoring to apply
appropriate tactical steps after forming an appropriate strategic vision with strategic
objectives applicable for a changing competitive environment must be able to evaluate
and understand analysis results (Jokela, Karlsudd, & Östlund, 2008). Barroso,
Sandelowski, and Voils (2006) found that the processes for evaluating organizational
phenomenon was fraught with incomplete and inconclusive findings, full of erroneous
conclusions, and interpreters held biased perceptions. Analysts working with systems that
link human interactions predictably confront chaotic and complex situations. Prior
reductionist approaches proved inadequate because the reduction processes required
analysts to divide systems into independent subgroups and examine each group
independently (2008). The problem with this type of analysis was that analysts inherently
neglected the relationships between the divided subsystems.
Systems theory offered a framework where complex adaptive systems could be
analyzed and understood as a whole system (von Bertalanffy, 1968). The effectiveness of
the systems theory approach with its holistic perspective in organizational analysis
became theoretically justified because of empirical findings from various disciplines
supported the theory (Cohen, Kaimenaki, & Zorgios, 2007). When analysts use a systems
approach for organizational analysis, the deconstruction process needs to remain within
the scope of the guidelines as stated in the study’s purpose statement (Mulej, 2007). The
complexities involved when analyzing any system linking human activities arise because
of the infinite number of subsystems that theoretically exist within these systems, thus
leaving any evaluation of understanding as an incomplete process (Jacucci & Hanseth,
2006). To complicate the process further, Cohen et al. deemed human activity as a
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fleeting entity, which constantly morphs, and changes direction at various levels of
analysis. Systems theory analysis however, allows analysts to bypass many of the system
inconsistencies while converging on a stable core of activities. Still, all but the most
temporary and volatile systems tend to have some kind of stable core and the order that
the stable core provides to the system (Bohm and Peat, 2000).
New Developments and Current Findings
Complexity theory has applications in many disciplines today. Genetic
researchers find self-organizing theories key to understanding human development by
applying statistical physics of complex networks (Krause, Glauche, Sollacher, & Greiner,
2003). This growing discipline evaluates the formation and structure of complex
networks and evaluates the system’s dynamics and function. According to Krause et al.,
self-organizing systems have advanced understanding of genes and metabolic networks
as scientists endeavor to decipher the human genome. Researchers have driven selforganization beyond physical development into the realm of social systems since social
systems develop in similar fashion to other complex networks in nature.
Santa Fe Institute
George Cowan founded the Santa Fe Institute in 1984 in New Mexico. Cowan
founded the institute to investigate complexity. The Santa Fe Institute and the Center for
Complex Systems in Illinois, founded by Steven Wolfram, are both at the forefront of
investigations in complexity theory. The Santa Fe institute works to maintain an
interdisciplinary forum and reaches out to physicists, economists, biologists,
mathematicians, and administrators.
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All disciplines work together with an aim of trying to locate order within complex
systems. The institutes define complexity as "a chaos of behaviors in which the
components of the system never quite lock into place, yet never quite dissolve into
turbulence either" (Waldrop, 1992, p. 293). Waldrop alludes to the work of Chris
Langton as he explains complexity as a phase transition. Langton provided an example of
phase transition as the same concept as when water transitions into ice. According to
Langton, a similar line of balance exists between order and chaos. Waldrop further
describes the edge of chaos as a fine line but vast as the surface of the ocean. The
institute positions the edge of chaos as the transition phase of life where life is created
and sustained. The Santa Fe Institute has ongoing developments in complexity theory.
The following lists some of the new developments:
Current Research
This section includes areas of research that are presently using complexity theory
as a research paradigm. The five areas of study chosen to illustrate present uses of
complexity theory show a broad range of the theory’s capabilities for examining various
phenomena of diverse disciplines. Disciplines in this section include bioenergetics,
quantum entanglement, computing networks, biology, and psychology.
Ecoinformatics. A project run by Buckley examines how energy availability can
govern the density distributions of reptiles and amphibians (Buckley, 2008). The study
focuses on the developing dynamics of bioenergetics models of species distributions.
Buckley expects that the models will allow predictions of species distributions to be more
robust when making prediction of environmental changes. Recently, Buckley applied the
density models to predictions of climate changes on North American lizards. Buckley
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expects that the research will extend to models that will include adaptation of geographic
variations of life histories.
Quantum computing. Shor uses complexity theory to show that large integers
could be factored exponentially faster than the conventional classical algorithms could
allow (Shor & Grover, 2004). Shor showed that he now algorithm could break the RSA
public-key encryption code. The commercial sector used the RSE key for much of
modern communications in commerce. Shor also uses the theory to offer a deeper
understanding of quantum entanglement and the consequences produced by quantum
entanglement.
Cellular arrays. Mitchell analyzes decentralized, distributed computing networks,
at the macro- and nano-scale functionalities (Mitchell, Hraber, & Crutchfield, 1993). The
research intends to harness the cellular arrays to shape complex patterns that can generate
decentralized collective information systems. Mitchell leads an investigation of
evolutionary computation as a programming method used for programming cellular
arrays. Cellular arrays can perform computations that help develop techniques that
enhance knowledge of classical computation theory. The developments extend outside of
the idealized to real world cases where noise-free systems requirements face unreliable
and non-periodic boundary conditions.
Biological Solutions to Computational Problems. Scientists have explored the
concept of signal transduction and statistical, molecular switches (Smith & Rupp, 2004).
They have found that covalent modification of proteins, can give rise to chemically
distinct protein states (Dronamrajua, 1999). The research shows how statistical order in
biology has a correlation in the activity of individual biological components. Information
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flow in biological networks can use distributed redundant network activities to restore
system functions when network nodes are removed from the system. Statistical order in
biology creates a robust entity; statistical systems show frequent correlations among
activities of system components. Correlations of such systems allow scientists to exploit
redundancies. Scientists study biological information flows in network components of
living systems (Smith & Rupp, 2004). System functions can be restored through
redundant networks when redundant activities exist throughout the network. When one or
move nodes are removed from a network, the network can restore the network’s
functions. Scientists analyze networks to try to find how a network can increase
robustness by analyzing the nodes that contribute to a collective function. The analysis
promotes group-level redundancy to evolving signaling and error correcting strategies.
Applications to psychology. According to Barton (1994), in recent years scientific
investigators of natural systems have proposed psychological models of systems based on
chaos theories, self-organization, and nonlinear dynamics however, psychologists in
general have little understanding of these complex but important ideas. Present day
theorists defined these terms and discuss the relationships between the terms that allow
the value of applying these concepts to psychological systems to be demonstrated by
exploring the utility of the system in areas ranging from neuroscience to clinical
psychology. Theorists also discuss the difficulties with using nonlinear concepts and
methodologies in empirical investigations.
Social systems
Before the advent of complexity theory, studies in the field of social systems have
been hindered by an enduring focus on individuals as the unit of analysis (Seidman &
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Rappaport, 1986). Social researchers have accumulated a large body of work focusing on
the study of individuals. Researchers have conceptualized and measured individual-level
results, have created models for predicting individual-level results, and have preformed
complex analyses of the trajectories based on individual-level change. A systems
perspective however, allows a researcher to broaden his or her perspective by seeing a
larger picture of the entire process of interactions (Senge, 1990). “The mechanistic
scheme of insoluble causal trains and meristic treatment had proved insufficient to deal
with theoretical problems, especially in the biosocial sciences, and with the practical
problems posed by modern technology” (von Bertalanffy, 1968, pp. 10-11). “Concepts
like those of organization, wholeness, directiveness, teleology, and differentiation are
alien to conventional physics. They pop up everywhere in the biological, behavioral and
social sciences, and are, in fact, indispensable for dealing with living organisms or social
groups" (p. 34).
Literature research showed that researchers use the field of cybernetics as a
transdiscipline that can allow for the creation of general models of complex social
interactivity and interdisciplinary communications (Wiener, 1954; Scott & Davis, 2007;
Lewin & Regine, 2000). According to Bernard Scott (2001), the traditional first order
cybernetic approaches use classical scientific models to investigate social systems. This
present research will focus on the use of second order approaches to investigate the
interactions between social agents. Researchers who use the second order approach are
interested in the systems of belief among the social actors and not just the actor’s
behaviors. Secondly, the researcher who uses a second order approach is not an external
observer as in first order observers but the researchers becomes part of the interactions.
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A further purpose of the literature review was to search for possible gaps where
knowledge may be lacking. The gap found was that no research applied actions taken by
leadership during a crisis to the theory of complexity. In particular, the literature review
found no study related to the development of an IT system whereby researchers
performed an analysis to try to explain what external stimuli drove leadership decisions.
Conclusion
This chapter explored topics that related to the proposed phenomenological study
as described in the purpose statement. The chapter opened with a critical examination of
two methods used to investigate leadership decision-making activities, reductionistic, and
holistic (Scott & Davis, 2007; Hannum, Martineau, & Reinelt, 2007; Levy, 2000;
Zyglidopoulos, 1999). The literature illuminated the differences between traditional and
emerging new leadership theories (Glor, 2007).
The second section showed a history of the build-up of complex and turbulent
conditions among organizations which required a new paradigm to allow researchers to
investigate organizational operations holistic (Scott & Davis, 2007; Hannum, Martineau,
& Reinelt, 2007; Levy, 2000; Zyglidopoulos, 1999). The chapter included background
information and theoretical constructs that took open systems perspective to a working
paradigm of research methods that fall under the general framework of complexity
theory. This chapter described the thermodynamic theories on which the construct of
autopoietic systems are based and how autopoietic systems and dissipative structures can
be used to describe organizational evolution (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1989).
This chapter contains a description of the problems associated with analyzing the
intense turbulence of global competition and the need for organizational leaders who are
73
prepared with an in depth holistic understanding of complexity paradigm when
endeavoring to implement organizational transformation policies as a remedy for coping
with the demand of change. The chapter contains explanations of how an organization’s
rapid agile responses to competitive forces are an essential factor for achieving an ability
to compete globally (Imai, Nonaka, & Takeuchi, 1985). This chapter expanded on the
value of leadership roles in response to crises and the importance of using systems
models of organizational change to enable leaders to gain a sound understanding of a
systems viewpoint of organizational change (Gabbaro, 1987; Senge, 1990; Smith, 2005).
Chapter Summary
Natural sciences moved to complexity theory because escalations in computing
capabilities allowed for the solving of complex post World War II problems. Complexity
theory allowed the examination of complex networks that generate complex adaptive
systems through autopoietic processes. Self-organization requires positive and negative
feedback structures of information flows internal to the systems and from the external
environment. External stimuli initiate autopoietic algorithms. Cybernetic systems offer a
framework as a control mechanism for autopoietic structures (Scott & Davis, 2007;
Wiener, 1954).
Chapter 2 contains an exploration of the literature concerning the development of
systems and complexity theory and other topics related to the study’s research questions.
The chapter opened with a historical overview of the nascence of complexity theory and
ended with new developments extending from complexity theory by researchers at the
Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. Critical analysis of a theoretical framework included
literature on leadership implications. The literature illuminates differences between
74
traditional paradigms and the new emerging paradigm of complexity science. This next
chapter contains a description and justification of the selection criteria of an exploratory
qualitative method and the use of an empirical phenomenological design as the optimum
research procedures to be used for gathering the data to answer the general research
questions of this study.
Chapter 2 included a discussion of why qualitative research methodology is more
appropriate as opposed to quantitative methodologies and why the use of content analysis
of phenomenological data provides an appropriate vehicle for researching the present
topic. The chapter contains a discussion of participant selection and the rational for the
type of data collected. Chapter 3 includes a discussion of the appropriateness of a
research instrument and the criteria used for selecting a research questionnaire. Chapter 3
includes a discussion of the data analysis techniques and the appropriateness of the
research design.
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CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODS
A qualitative researcher has a choice from among several approaches to choose
when considering an appropriate methodology for a planned research project. The
researcher tries to consider the appropriateness of the methodology to the task of data
collection and questions if the method suits the strengths of the researcher. According to
Laverty (2003), all qualitative approaches draw on German philosophy and endeavor to
understand the human experience as lived. All qualitative approaches have similar and
complementary ends concerning the desired descriptions of the qualitative phenomenon
under study (Todres & Wheeler, 2001).
According to Moerer-Urdahl and Creswell (2004), two major approaches form the
basis for phenomenological research: transcendental phenomenology and hermeneutic
phenomenology. Philosophical assumptions divide the two categories with differences
based on experience and differences in techniques in organization and analysis of the
phenomenological data. These two approaches each have a historical basis in a historical
figure, Heidegger advocated hermeneutic phenomenology (2004) and Husserl advocated
transcendental phenomenology (2004). Each approach also has more contemporary
advocates, van Manen, (1990) for the hermeneutic phenomenology methodological
procedure and Moustakas (1994) for the transcendental phenomenological
methodological procedure.
Moustakas (1994) made meaning the foundational element of transcendental
phenomenology and used a design for collecting data that focused on the essences of
human experience. Van Manen (1990) required self-examination and reflectivity when
endeavoring to interpret a text or when endeavoring to examine a study in history.
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Without the process of reflectivity, the researcher could not achieve a meaningful
understanding (Laverty, 2003).
Purpose
This qualitative phenomenological study centered on the use of the Moustakas
(1994) methodological approach with a basis in Husserl for guiding principles when
abstracting general themes. The study contains an exploration of environmental factors
that influence decisions made by organizational leaders from organizations located in
Northern New Jersey of the United States. The study’s purpose was to analyze
organizational leader’s subjective perspective of environmental factors that may have
influenced the leader’s decision-making processes which may have culminated in the
development of a new organizational structure. The study’s purpose was to analyze how
leaders responded to stimuli presented by organizational crises and to evaluate the
perceptions that drove the leader’s decisions while considering the potential
consequences to the competitive environment. The qualitative method was appropriate
for this study because the focus of the study was to explore an organizational leader’s
perceived experience and to analyze those experiences from a theoretical basis in
complexity theory for interpretive research (Mertens, 1998). A study objective was to
examine the data for possible common patterns and themes that may emerge as an
organization recovers from a survival-threatening crisis and to see if the organizational
activities fit the paradigm of autopoietic systems. Data acquisition processes of the
phenomenological study were based on the use of recorded interviews using open-ended
questions offered to eight organizational leaders from corporations in New Jersey of the
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United States, which were in the process of implementing IT systems or altering the
company hierarchy.
Chapter 3 focused on the research method used in this phenomenological research
design. Topics in chapter 3 include the nature and appropriateness of the Moustakas’
(1994) modified van Kaam method as a guideline for a phenomenological research
design. This chapter displayed details of the appropriateness of the research design and
how the research design applied to the study. Data collection and analysis techniques
were explained in detail. Chapter 3 contains the following eight sections. The chapter’s
first section shows why the chosen research design was appropriate for this present
research. The second section discussed aspects of the chosen population and sampling
method. A third section contains information concerning processes for obtaining
informed consents from the participants and includes a discussion of confidentiality. A
forth section has a description of the data collection methodology. The fifth section
contains reasoning as to why research instruments were not needed in this qualitative
study. The sixth section focused on the concept of validity. The seventh section has a
detailed description of data analysis processes and a chapter summary concludes the
chapter.
Research Method and Design Appropriateness
Creswell (2004) stated that, “Qualitative research is used to study research
problems requiring an exploration and an understanding of a central phenomenon” (p.
50). Polit and Hungler (1999) stated that the appropriateness of a research design depends
on the suitability for how the design answers the research questions. This research study
thus contained precepts used in qualitative research designs to explore phenomena of
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subjective experiences of order and change perspectives that help gain an understanding
of theoretical and practical causes and consequences of leadership decision-making in a
turbulent environment. The focus of the study centered on the evaluation of participant’s
perceptions and phenomenological examinations of leader’s thoughts, anxieties, and
other feelings of subjectivity they experienced while working for organizations that have
sustained fundamental changes or are presently instituting fundamental changes. Through
a process of interviews, the research sustained a focus on executive managers who have
decision-making authority or influential input to decisions. The interview survey
consisted of open-ended questions, which was an approach used because of an openended survey’s ability to provide a rich understanding of an interviewees feelings and
perceptions. The open-ended question approach was appropriate because the scope of the
study was to learn of a company’s proposed strategy, which may be unattainable via a
closed-end survey approach (Chan & Huff, 1992). This phenomenological study relied on
the Moustakas’ modified model of the van Kaam method as a guideline for obtaining
themes (Moustakas, 1994).
The appropriateness of a phenomenological design
Van Kaam used an approach that included the following methods as described in
Moustakas (1994): (a) progression from a dialogical selection of a participant’s lived
experience toward a perspective of human experiences in general, (b) a dialogical
description of the formation of described events of what took place, (c) dialogical
clarification that describes the underlying dynamics of the event, and (d) interpretation
and practical application of the findings. Keeping with van Kaam’s approach the present
study will incorporate scientific language in the thematic process of consultation,
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integration, translation, and transposition. According the Moustakas (1994), the modified
van Kaam method relates to the perception of phenomenological descriptions by a group
endeavoring to describe phenomena rather than interpret any meaning. The body of the
present research loosely adhered to the Moustakas approach by forming descriptions of
the lived experiences of organizational leaders of companies operating in Northern New
Jersey of the United States who have decision-making authority for organizational
structural changes and major IT purchases or alterations.
To acquire the needed information for this study, the chosen empirical qualitative
phenomenological research design is most appropriate because, as Creswell (2004)
defined, the phenomenological design meets the need for data that reflects a rich and
complete human experience. The phenomenological approach allow interpretable
determinations by introspective observations backed by knowledgeable insight of a
historical background in complexity theory (Morse & Mitcham, 2002). Considering
Saussure’s emphasis on the distinction between signifiers and signifieds, the research
proceeded with an astute awareness of the Saussure concept of linguistic signs (Sarup,
1993). The analysis required the interpretation of the structural relationship between the
signified and the signifier during the process of deconstructing participant’s
conversations (Sarup, 1993). In view of van Manen’s (1990) approach, interpreting the
subject’s understanding, required perseverance in endeavorment to perceive what the
subject means through oral articulations of inner feelings of stress, actions to relieve the
stress, feelings of satisfaction, safety, apprehension of risk endeavors, and feelings of
displeasure or approval of outcomes. In keeping with the van Kaam methodology,
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analysis processes included the analysis of the subjects’ dialogue to establish what the
participant’s understanding may have represented (Moustakas, 1994).
The research included associations and evaluations of environmental influences
on actions taken by leaders and included associated leaders’ reactions to those influences
in the form of decisions. The overall purpose of the phenomenological study was to, (a)
understand the subject’s dialogue from a holistic perspective, (b) understand the context
of the dialogue as associated with external influences, (c) identify action inducing
phenomena that was not expected, and (d) evaluate the dialogue considering possible
causal explanations of consequential behaviors and decisions. The forgoing criteria were
essential to the establishment of knowledge and for the emanation of understanding of the
endeavor as set forth in the purpose statement of this study.
In-depth one-on-one telephone interviews or face-to-face interviews whenever
possible were expected to reveal accurate representations of the subject’s action-inducing
feelings and attitudes. The present study resulted in generalized features of organizational
development and innovation. Organizational leaders at large who want to increase their
knowledge base in complexity theory perspectives of organizational phenomenon may
benefit from the study’s findings of leader’s decision-making behaviors as influenced by
external factors.
The use of a qualitative phenomenological design allowed for the study of
characteristics of changes propagated by leadership decision-making and effects resulting
from the leadership decisions. The central requisite of the design was to provide a tool to
investigate possible teleological causes of the leadership decisions. Neuman (2003),
interpreted social science as a hermeneutic process that emphasizes details when
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examining material related to a study. The underpinning of hermeneutics is to provide a
method for the extraction of embedded meaning from subjects under study. Within this
context, the sagacious interpretations from a holistic approach allowed for the absorption
of insightful understandings through discerning perspicacity (Morse, Barrett, Mayan,
Olson, & Spiers, 2002). From a systems perspective, the phenomenon under study must
relate inclusively to system components as a whole system. According to Neuman, “true
meaning is rarely simple or obvious on the surface” (p. 76), only through a hermeneutic
process with deep contemplation can deep messages germinate and expand into “true
meaning.” This study included hermeneutic processes as described above when
interpreting transposed text of the subject’s dialogues.
Phenomenology supports the approach of acquiring meaning through holistic
measures because phenomenology aids in extracting subjects’ personal experiences and
perceptions that organizational leaders may find useful in the pursuit of holistic meaning
(Neuman, 2003). Moustakas (1994) stated that phenomenological research allows
participants to provide a comprehensive description of personally felt experiences.
Researchers use qualitative studies when the objective requires a descriptive analysis of a
phenomenon aimed at gaining an understanding rather than an explanation of what
occurred (Mores, Barrett, Mayan, Olson, & Spiers, 2002). Thus, the qualitative approach
allowed for a broad but focused description that provided an opportunity for a reflective
analysis that helped uncover meanings of the experience offered by the interviewed
participants.
A personal conversation which included an information gathering survey ensured
that the subject fit the required criterion of personnel having decision-making authority.
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This demographic questioning required general information regarding the subject’s
position with the organization. Face-to-face and recorded telephone interviews then
pursued. The interviews disclose comprehensive information regarding participant’s
feelings, preconceived notions of the past, present economic company situation, and
expected decisions concerning future prospects. The gathered information rendered a new
collection of knowledge based on interpreted perceptions of the participants’ disclosures.
The phenomenological design offered the most appropriate means for accomplishing the
stated measures.
Qualitative vs. quantitative
The linear nature of quantitative research is technocratic drawing upon
conclusions based on the testing of declared variables to test hypotheses (Neuman, 2003).
Creswell (2004) wrote that because of the inquiry approach of quantitative research, the
method is useful for explaining the relationship and describing trends among variables.
Such inquiry requires the investigator ask narrow questions and use data gathering
instruments such as written surveys to gather data to answer the questions. Researchers
base the analysis on interpretation of the finding of numbers extracted from the
instruments using statistics. Creswell saw the quantitative approach as a postpositive
approach to knowledge development. A postpositive approach best suits research that
uses variables, hypotheses, and survey-based measurement. Quantitative research focuses
on cause and effect relationships and experimentation, (Creswell, 2004). Understanding
the essence of autopoietic systems as driven by environmental influences as interpreted
by a subject’s perceptions, does not meet the criteria or orientation of a quantitative
approach. Therefore, a quantitative methodology does not apply to this study. A
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phenomenological design best fit the purpose of this study because the highly theoretical
abstract theme of this study required an approach that included methods whereby the
research would include processes that would allow abstract dialogical selections from
participants of personal accounts that constitute a comported fit into a dissipative
structure of possible universal order (Creswell, 2004). That is, the analytical processes
included attentiveness to dialog that revealed signs of a harmonious flow of information
between environmental stimulus and phenomenological reaction.
The study included research processes that sought to discover sources, directions,
and teleological objectives that formed through autopoietic nascence by exploring
phenomenological reactions of participants who have experienced external exhorting
pressures and have responded by performing consequential processes as part of a
suprastructure of change process. The qualitative methodology of this study was used to
identify dialogical abstractions that described processes whereby an organization became
motivated to progress toward a teleological purpose prompted by influential forces from
the competitive environment. Such abstractions provided evidence and traces that were
helpful in constructing a meaning based in universal ontology. Evaluation of the
formation of propagating and cascading events helped to illustrate a coherent entity as
comprised by an organization’s function as set within the open system of a suprastructure. A fundamental goal of this study therefore, was to discover causal dynamics of
change through dialogical elucidations and to present the abstract findings through the
association of practical applications experienced by organization’s strategic designers.
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Population and Sampling Procedures
Qualitative research requires intentional sampling procedures because intentional
sampling allows for a better understanding of the central phenomenon when addressing
the research questions (Creswell, 2004). A non-probabilistic sampling method is
consistent with the intentions of qualitative research because qualitative research
facilitates selection of participants non-randomly (Polit &Hungler, 1999). The approach
of this present study consisted of a combination of purposive and snowball sampling
techniques. These techniques helped to ensure that the selection of participants remained
appropriate for this study (Neuman, 2003). The following paragraphs discussed the
sampling methods used for this study.
Population
Creswell (2004) defines a population as a group of study participants that share
similar characteristics or attributes and will have had similar experiences. Whereas the
standards for a quantitative study determine results that are generalizable to the
population of which the study sample was drawn, generalizability is not a primary
consideration in qualitative research (Polit & Hungler, 1999). In this context, Neuman
(2003) views a population as an abstract concept with temporal boundaries. For the
purposes of this study, the target population was a set of corporate leaders of
organizations that conduct business in Northern New Jersey of the United States. The
organizational leaders subject to this study were required to have experience with crisis
decision-making activities.
This study included corporate leaders who fit the description of executive
manager and had decision-making authority. The subject selection criteria were a
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function of the sampling methodology. The population under investigation was
comprised of organizational leaders whose company has recently gone through a
fundamental change or whose company was in the process of going through a
fundamental change.
Sampling
Qualitative research sampling is an intentional process as opposed to quantitative
research where sampling must be random (Golafshani, 2003; Slevin, & Sines, 2000).
Creswell (2004) posited that an intentional sampling process facilitates the objective of
gaining a better understanding of the phenomenon under study and offers a better process
for answering the research questions of a qualitative study. A non-probabilistic sampling
methodology therefore, is consistent with the intent of a qualitative study because the
method facilitates participant selection in a non-random manner (Polit & Hungler, 1999).
The approach that will be used in this study will be to use aspect of a purposive
approach and a snowball sampling approach. Using a combination of the purposive and
snowball approaches will help to ensured that the selected participants are appropriate
subjects for this study (Neuman, 2003). The following subsections discuss aspects of the
purposive and snowball sampling approaches.
Purposive sampling. Purposive sampling is a technique that allows a researcher to
select participants who possess the needed lived experiences required for the study
(Kirkman, 2008). The purposive sampling technique allowed for the selection of subjects
that could provide a rich deep description of the experiences felt when having to decide
courses of action during crisis situations (Merriam, 2002). Neuman specifies three
situations in which purposive sampling is most useful: (a) when the case under study is
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uniquely informative, (b) when the participants are specialized or difficult identify, and
(c) researchers need specific and comprehensive experience (2003). Since all three of
Neuman’s criteria pertains to this present study, the purposive sampling method was an
appropriate approach.
A purposive sampling approach requires the use of specific selection criteria
(Creswell, 2004). Three criteria for participant selection drove the selection process for
this study. First, the participants needed to be in a position that allowed him or her to
make autonomous decisions. Second the participants needed to have an association with
an organizations IT department. Third, the participants needed to have served as
corporate leaders at a managerial position or higher.
Procedures. Contacting professional associates and acquaintances through social
networks such as LinkedIn was used to locate and isolate qualifying participants.
Contacting past associates by emailing associates and through leads, associates of
associates and others who may have known potential qualifying subjects or who could
provide a mechanism for finding needed subjects. Further searches were conducted
through Internet searches and by using other social networks that were geared toward
upper management and executives.
Snowball Sampling. In snowball sampling, corporate leaders who had undergone
study scrutiny can identify other participants that possess an appropriate knowledge and
experience as stipulated in the study criteria for sample selection. Appendix D displays a
copy of the referral form that this study used to facilitated participant screening and to
ensure the availability of an adequate number of potential participants. Those participants
who have been referred can themselves identify other potential participants. Qualifying
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subjects as selected through the procedure described above will be asked to identify other
subject who may qualify for the present study. None of the subjects who submitted to this
study used the referral form. Figure 1 illustrates the procedure for finding participants for
the study.
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Contact associates in the IT field through email
Contact acquaintances in the IT field through email
Join the social network,
(e.g., LinkedIn)
Search for qualifying
subjects
Snowball
Ask participants for leads on
other subjects
Yes
Did the study reach data
saturation?
Stop searching
for Subjects
Figure 2. Flow Diagram for Finding Subjects.
No
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Each participant received a copy of the informed consent form (see Appendix E).
Participants each signed and submitted the consent forms. Telephone conversations or
email contacts communicated the time and place for holding interviews and a mutually
convenient place and time for the face-to-face interviews (Neuman, 2003; Polit &
Hungler, 1999).
Number of participants
Informational needs of a particular research project can cause the requisite
number of participants to vary from project to project but the number is typically small as
compared to quantitative research (Creswell, 2004). A guiding principle that researchers
use when trying to gauge an appropriate sample size in qualitative research is for the
researcher to gauge when the data becomes saturated, that is, to determine at which point
information begins to look redundant (Polit & Hungler). If study requirements are set too
low, researchers may miss valuable information and thus hinder an accurate conclusion.
Too many participants can also hinder a research project because too large of a sample
can caused a researcher to miss the sought in-depth understanding and rich material that
small sample sizes allow (Merriam, 2002). “The overall ability of the researcher to
provide an in-depth picture diminishes with the addition of each new individual or site”
(Creswell, 2004, p. 197).
Practiced researchers suggest using between eight to twelve participants who have
encountered similar experiences (Ray, 1994). For example, Wolff (2002) recommended
using a sample size between eight to twelve subjects, Miller and Salkind (2002)
suggested using a sample of fewer than 10 participants, and Polit and Hungler (1999) also
suggested using fewer than 10 subjects. This study’s sample size criterion therefore,
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incorporated a sample number comparable to the recommended guidelines as found in the
literature. This study used eight participants as the core data set at which time data
saturation was observed. Interviews continued with each subject until the interviewer
detected that the information tended toward saturation.
Unit of Analysis
The present study’s phenomenological approach required the inquisition of
organizational leaders and the subsequent decomposition of the leader’s described
experience that led to actions that pursue fundamental alterations of the company’s
hitherto process and goals with an aim to discover a harmonious fit with developing
conditions emerging in the competitive environment. The word fundamental, as used in
the context of this study, means a change that alters the company structure, leadership, or
culture. The unit of analysis or as Neuman proposes, the case, is therefore, the
definitively selected leaders from organizations having recently gone through a
fundamental change.
Sample Criteria
The population under investigation was comprised of organizational leaders
whose company had recently gone through a fundamental change or whose company was
in the process of going through a fundamental change. Northern Central New Jersey is an
appropriate region for conducting the present research for the following reasons as cited
from New Jersey’s official Website: (a) New Jersey lies at the focal point of the United
State’s largest business corridor, (b) more than 20% of the world's Fortune 500
companies reside in New Jersey, (c) over 1,400 multinational firms are located in New
Jersey from over 40 separate nations, (d) New Jersey is ranked 6th among all U.S. states
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for foreign investment, and (e) New Jersey would rank as the 17th largest economy in the
world if it were a country. Additionally, some of the most prominent global organizations
reside in New Jersey including, Bell Labs, Johnson and Johnson, Prudential, Honeywell,
Unilever, Hertz, Pfizer, Hoffman La Roach, Novartis, and Campbell Soup among many
others.
The research progressed with plans to interview leaders from three companies
residing in Northern New Jersey using a purposive sampling strategy. The researcher
used the purposive sampling method because of the particular milieu required for the
study and the requirement for narrow latitude of the participants’ organizational
position—the participant needed to have decision-making authority. Companies used in
the study were not preferenced but used as happenstance to the participant’s place of
work. Companies were inconsequential to the study and all company names were
withheld and not mentioned in the study.
A key criterion for defining subjects of the sample was that participants had to
have experienced a fundamental change, as defined above, or were in the process of
going through a fundamental change. An underlying aim of this study was to assess ways
of recognizing organizational changes and to develop responses that allow organizations
to reposition themselves to allow a harmonious flow of change adaptation with a greater
ease then merely continuing operations in an unorganized fashion adhering to scattered
decision-making criteria. A second criterion was that the participant must have decisionmaking authority. A focus of this study was to assess driving forces that have prompted
organizational changes to take place, as organizational changes are driven ostensibly by
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the organizational leadership, ostensibly, because underlying causes of organizational
change may emerge during this study.
Informed Consent and Confidentiality
This present research pursued the standards established by the Protection of
Human Research Subjects. Standards that were followed pertained to the administration
of the interviews, which required the disclosure of a confidentiality agreement. The
standards also required the researcher to inform the participants of the treatment of the
data collected for the study. The study was limited only to subjects who volunteered to
participate. Other standards that were followed are explained in the following paragraphs.
Confidentiality
Participant confidentiality was a dominant concern for this phenomenological
inquiry. Ethical etiquette as prescribed by Christians (2000) requires that all participants
should experience no form of embarrassment or any harm. The same etiquette also
protects the organization from harm. Process of this investigation ensured anonymity for
all by protecting the participant’s identity (Newman, 2003). To ensure anonymity, none
of the participant names appeared in print. Participants each received unique codes (e.g.,
S1, S2, etc.) that ensured that all responses and extended dialogue could not be traced to
the participant (Hutchinson & Wilson, 1994).
Study control standards ensured the enforcement of established confidentiality
criterion. This criterion required that information gained from the participant and
information about the participant remained absolutely confidential by keeping all written
material and electronic data in a controlled environment and within a locked file cabinet
(Shank, 2002; Hutchinson & Wilson). The criteria also required erasing all recorded
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interviews after the recorded material was transcribed to a written format. All data will be
held securely for three years, then destroyed by erasing all recorded data and shredding
all documents pertaining to the interviews.
Informed Consent
Informed consent is terminology that refers to the responsibility of the researcher
to ensure that the participant understands that participation in the study is completely
voluntary (Neuman, 2003). The researcher should also ensure that all participants
understands the intent of the study (Shank, 2002). An informed consent form serves as a
letter of introduction to the research to be performed. An informal introductory letter is
included in Appendix F. The Informed Consent from for this study is located in
Appendix E. The informed consent form included the following elements: (a) an
introduction to the study, (b) the purpose of the study, (c) the duration of the research, (d)
the procedures that will be used, (e) wording explaining the voluntary nature of
participation, (f) assurance of confidentiality and anonymity, (g) a statement explaining
any risks, (h) information concerning any benefits to the participant, (i) an offer to the
participant for reviewing related information, (j) contact information, and (k) a signature
block (Neuman, 2003; Shank, 2002).
Data Collection
According to Merriam (2002), qualitative research fundamentally allows for four
types of data acquisition: observation, interviews, review of documents, and review of
electronic media. The use of interviews as a source for acquiring qualitative data supports
a range of techniques used for extracting information from participants related to the
research phenomenon under study (Creswell, 2004). This technique for acquiring
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observational data results in firsthand information concerning the research phenomenon.
Such data can range from a participant as a discrete observer or as a primary participant
(Merriam, 2002). Information culled from a document-based data source can include
written document, orally recorded information, and visual sources such as photographs.
The main advantage of a document-based research project is that the data source is
perpetually present, in most cases. The source therefore, is stable and reliable. The
evaluation of electronic media as data sources commonly require Internet searches.
Electronic media can include email interviews, remote observations of recorded or ongoing events, chat room observations or interviews, electronic documents (Frey &
Fontana, 2000; Merriam).
Data collection for this present study used phenomenological interviews. The
phenomenological interview method required the interviewer to ask open-ended
questions related to fundamental organizational changes that involve the reorganization
of the company or a fundamental change in the information system configuration. Data
collection processes involved collecting the transcendental perspectives and viewpoints
from organizational leaders who have autonomous decision-making authority. The data
processing method involve transcribing the recorded information into a useful textual
document. After the interview process was complete, the process continued with a search
for themes by performing a detailed analysis of the textual material (Creswell, 2004).
An objective of this study was to provide an alternate understanding of
organizational chance causality. A focus of the study was to gain an understanding by
assessing the lived experiences of the organizational leaders who had experienced
fundamental organizational changes. To achieve this objective, the data collection routine
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required the interviewer to establish an environment of trust with the research subjects.
“A trusting relationship, where both are committed to better understanding the experience
being explored, allows for greater access to the richness of their experience” (Worthen,
2002, p. 140). A phenomenological approach was therefore, the most appropriate
research method for creating trust. The phenomenological approach was also the most
appropriate method for acquiring information and understanding subject’s experiences of
the change phenomenon (Moustakas, 1994).
Research Model
A model provided a guide for the present study’s open-ended questions. The
model in Figure 2 offered an illustration of a framework whereby organizational activities
interact with the environment and internal forces. The model helped keep the interview
questions focused on the actual practice of information flows and resulting strategies of
the organizations. The model helped keep the interview following a structured flow that
could be easily analyzed instead of an omnium gatherum, which could avail an
unnecessarily toilsome analysis. The model provided a framework for categorizing the
findings from the interviews. The model focused on four aspects: (a) information or
stimuli from the environment, (b) information or stimuli from the internal entities, (c)
reactions to the external and internal stimuli in the form of such aspects as feelings,
hunches, and impressions, which in turn influence decisions, and (d) processes or systems
put in place as a result of the stimulus. Processes or systems put in place as a reaction to
stimuli has an effect on internal entities and therefore, has an effect on feedback to the
internal entities, which may provide changing stimuli to the manager under examination,
which may cause further reactions and subsequent system alterations. The overall process
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yielded a change process whereby the internal environment tended to form a harmonious
flow with the external environment.
Information from External
Environment
Information from Internal
Forces
Emotional Reactions
to the Information
Decisionmaking
activities
Resulting
Processes
Figure 3. Research Model.
Interview Techniques
According to Miller and Salkind (2002), three types of interview techniques stem
from qualitative studies: face-to-face conversations, telephone interviews, and
questionnaires. Face-to-face conversations are more desirable than the other two
interview types (Moustakas, 1994; Creswell, 2004; Miller & Salkind). Face-to-face
conversations comprise the highest degree of accuracy, offer a high degree of validity and
reliability, and offer the highest rate of response (Moustakas, 1994). Creswell (2004)
views telephone conversation as an acceptable alternative. Telephone conversations are
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not as expensive to conduct interviews as the alternative methods and allows for fast and
easy access to what might have otherwise been unavailable subjects. Attributes or of
face-to-face interviews and telephone interviews are consistent with the qualitative
phenomenological methodology and the requirements of this present study. This study
therefore included telephone conversations and face-to-face conversations when possible.
Telephone conversations were a less likely mode of conversational research for this study
because the executive level of management needed for this study consists generally of
people who have little time to offer activities other than those activities directly related to
the business they run. Higgins (2005) found that time and effort expended on
inappropriate actions by executives, risks the success of the company strategy. MoererUrdahl and Creswell (2004) found that telephone conversations were needed when
interviews were dispersed over a wide regional area, as this present study entails. The use
of telephone interviews, as expected, remained the interview process for six of the eight
interviews. Only two interviews fit the schedule of the executive for a face-to-face
interview.
Three techniques were used to find appropriate subjects for this study. The
interviewer contacted associates who run IT departments and enquire if they have the
experiences sought for the study and asked if they knew of other appropriate subjects.
The second technique was to join the social network called LinkedIn.com and enquire
within the network. The third technique was to use Internet searches to find appropriate
organizations or executive social groups and enquire within those groups.
Three types of interview approaches follow as viable techniques for conducting
this study: structured, unstructured, and semi-structured. Structured interviews comprise a
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set of fixed closed-end questions that interviewers ask of each participant. Unstructured
interviews comprise of flexible open-ended questions. Unstructured interviews do not
follow a presubscribed format but can be ad hoc. Unstructured interviews are most
consistent with qualitative research methodologies. Semi-structured interviews hold
elements of both unstructured and structured methods (Creswell, 2004; Merriam, 2002).
This present study used an unstructured interview technique. The unstructured
interview technique allowed for an informal setting where interactions were able to emit
a relaxed environment (Moustaks, 1994). The use of the question guidelines was not
inconsistent with the unstructured phenomenological interview method. The guidelines
facilitated the open-ended questions and facilitatedthe extraction of detail from the
description of the subjects’ lived experiences of the phenomenon under study (1994) (see
Appendix G for the survey question guidelines). Because of the busyness of the executive
rank of perspective subjects, the participants were given the option of breaking the
interview into three parts. Appendix H displays the interview schedule form. Participants
of this study completed a short written data gathering survey that was used to ensure the
participant’s qualification for this study by ensuring the subject has experienced a crisis
and had the authority to administer decisions while trying to remove a crisis.
Instruments
Instrumentation normally refers to data capture instruments used in quantitative
research capture and measure data (Creswell, 2004). Instruments used in this capacity
generally mean tests, surveys, or questionnaires. Such instruments are standardized as the
instruments are formally prepared and yielded to a validation process before being used
for data collection purposes (Polit & Hungler, 1999). This present qualitative study used
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an unstructured phenomenological interview technique for the data collection
methodology consisting of informal open-ended questions and therefore, quantitative
instrumentation was not appropriate for this research (Moustaks, 1994).
Validity
Reliability and validity are issues that relate to how well a measurement
instrument measures a construct under study (Newman, 2003). Reliability and validity
are issues associated with measuring social issues because of the ambiguous nature of
constructs in social theory. Many issues in social settings are diffuse and do not lend
themselves to direct observation. While social researchers endeavor to reach perfect
reliability and validity, Neuman finds such a task impossible.
Reliability refers to dependability or consistency, suggesting that repeated
measurements will affect the same result. A measurement that yields erratic or
inconsistent results is not reliable. Validity relates to the truthfulness of a measure and
alludes to the association between a researcher’s conceptualization of a construct and the
measurement that is supposed to be measuring the construct (Neuman, 2003). Validity is
poor if the fit between a construct in a researcher’s mind and the actual world under study
are not congruent.
Reliability and generalizability do not play a wide role in qualitative research but
validity constitutes a usable construct (Creswell, 2004). Qualitative researchers use the
word validity to refer to the credibility and accuracy of perspectives offered by
participants of a study (Creswell & Miller, 2000). According to Worthen (2002), a
researcher can demonstrate validity by showing that he or she collected data in a manner
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that was thorough, authentic, rigorous in analysis, and can explain alternative competing
meanings.
Strategies for accomplishing validity in this present qualitative research project
included qualitative validation techniques that will ensure the accuracy and
trustworthiness of the results. Techniques that will be used in this study to ensure validity
include the use of deep, thick, and rich descriptions by the participant and will include an
opportunity for the participant to review the transcribed interview. (Creswell, 2004;
Creswell & Miller, 2000; Merriam, 2002). Review of the transcriptions will ensure that
the participant’s transcripts were accurately transcribed. All data acquisition activities
were conducted by one interviewee to ensure trustworthiness. Data gathering was
continued until the interviewee determined that the information became saturated.
A thick and rich description of a participant’s recollection of his or her feelings,
thoughts, and inclinations evolved through deep and thorough explanations by the
participant. (Creswell, 2004; Creswell & Miller, 2000; Merriam, 2002).
Phenomenological designs require a commitment by the researcher to adhere to a
systematic qualitative approach (Merriam, 2002). Evidence derived through
phenomenological research in adherence to phenomenological principles and scientific
investigation principles becomes valid “when the knowledge sought is arrived at through
descriptions that make possible an understanding of the meanings and essences of the
experience” (Moustakas, 1994, p. 84).
To achieve a high level of validity, data acquisition processes applied a form of
the Aristotelian epoché technique where real world conceptions and real world activities
are suspended or bracketed. The epoché technique is included in Moustakas’
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transcendental phenomenology approach. This epoché transcendental approach helped
eliminate the researcher’s preconceived beliefs or opinions thus allowing for a clear
intelligible interpretation and understanding of the phenomenological precepts offered by
the participants (Moustakas, 1994).
Husserl (1971) considered the idea of “uncovering what belongs to the conscious
research subject’s own essence by consistent phenomenological reduction” (p. 78). In his
discussion, Husserl presented ideas of reason, validity, authentication, and discussed
processes on how a researcher can confirm individual experience by using theoretical
truth. This present research focused on the systematic disclosure of themes in an attempt
to understand the how aspect of discovered themes through a clustering process and to
discover driving forces behind leadership decision-making. Husserl (1971) offered the
following explanation for validity.
If it is the case that whatever is experienced, whatever is thought, and whatever is
seen as the truth are given and are possible only within the corresponding acts of
experiencing, thinking, and insight, then the concrete and complete exploration of
the world that exists and has scientific and evidential validity for us requires also
the universal phenomenological exploration of the multiplicities of consciousness
in whose synthetic changes the world subjectively takes shape as valid for us and
perhaps as given with insight. (Husserl, 1971, p.240)
Data Analysis
A phenomenological research design describes the essence of a phenomenon
under study and acquires subject perspectives of a population that experiences the
phenomenon (Merriam, 2002).The focus of this phenomenological research was to
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examine the essence of organizational change drivers based on perspectives obtained
from organizational leaders through a transcendental phenomenological research study.
Although data analysis associated with qualitative research requires inductive analyses,
theoretical differences in research designs result in various data analysis strategies. To
attain thick, rich, and thorough descriptions aimed at a methodical understanding of the
autopoietic phenomenon in an organizational setting, the data analysis process for this
present study will use established principles of phenomenological research designs as a
guideline.
Empirical Phenomenology
Empirical phenomenological research is a technique that seeks to obtain
comprehensive descriptions through a subject’s experience (Moustakas, 1994). When the
researcher of this present study obtained the subjective descriptions from the participants,
he used the descriptions to perform a reflective structural analysis. The use of reflective
structural analysis allowed the researcher to isolate the essences of the subject’s
experiences. The researcher then described the structure of the subject’s experience by
reflecting on and interpreting the naïve source data provided by the subject through the
interviewer’s open-ended questioning as prescribed by Moustakas (1994). The empirical
phenomenological research method aims to find the meaning of the experience as felt by
the subject then tries to form general meanings by interpreting the subject’s experience.
This present study relied on the Moustakas (1994) description of empirical
phenomenological research for a guideline for the study. Researchers that use the
empirical phenomenological approach rely on subject’s experience to gain a
comprehensive description of the essence under study. Researchers obtain descriptions
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then apply a reflective structural analysis to develop a structure of the essences as of the
subject’s experiences. Original data was gathered through the subject’s naïve descriptions
in response to the interviewer’s dialogue consisting of open-ended questions. The
researcher then developed a structure as he interpreted the experience through reflection
techniques. The researcher’s objective was to find out what the subject’s experience
means. The researcher then tried to form general meanings.
To capture the essence of the empirical noema through empirical
phenomenological research, this present study loosely incorporated a sequence of four
techniques for analyzing phenomenological research (Moustakas, 1994). The four
techniques are epoché, phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, and synthesis
(1994). The following subsection discusses the four techniques of phenomenological
research.
Phenomenological Research Techniques
Moustakas (1994) discusses several human science perspectives and models.
Much of the theory and approach of Moustakas originated from Husserl’s (1971) work.
This section lists four of the research techniques that were used as a guideline for this
present study.
Epoché. Epoché is a process by which researchers try to free themselves from
opinions, biases, perspectives, and any related ideas associated with the phenomenon
under study. The researcher tries to free him- or herself through the process of reflection
and meditation. A researcher who has performed the epoché process is ready for an
unfettered examination of the essence of the phenomenon under study (Moustakas,
1994). “The process of epoché, allows the experience of the phenomenon to be explained
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in terms of its own intrinsic system of meaning, not one imposed on it from without”
(Merriam, 2002, p. 94). Although the epoché method was used to a degree in this study,
the researcher altered the method to an approach that allowed the conscience to maintain
an active noema of the dynamics of organizational change.
Phenomenological reduction. According to Moustakas (1994), phenomenological
reduction is a technique that describes what a researcher sees as a relationship between
the researcher’s perceptions and the phenomenon under study. Researchers use the
phenomenological reduction technique to examine a phenomenological essence in a
critically and iteratively manner. The phenomenological reduction technique is
transcendental because the technique can uncover the subject’s ego by transforming the
world into phenomena. The name reduction arises because of the way the technique
causes the researcher to rely on his or her own experience. The phenomenological
reduction technique was used in this present study to help the researcher isolate the
essence of the phenomenon of change drivers and to identify the phenomenon’s pure
state from reduced perspectives of the subject as interpreted by the researcher, thus,
subject to the internal perspectives of the researcher. As the interviewer’s questioning
began to uncover the subject’s lived experience, the phenomenological reduction
technique began to form the context necessary for extracting the essence of drivers of
change and subsequent identification of autopoiesis (Moustakas, 1994; Cohen & Omery,
1994).
The first step of bracketing the conversation involved focusing the conversation
on change drivers by isolating the data such that the interview process remained directly
focused on change drivers and the research questions (Polit & Hungler, 1999). The goal
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of horizonalizing was to uncover horizons that were consistent with core meanings of the
phenomenon discovered in the textual transpositions and oral recordings. A researcher
needs to examine the horizons to see if any phenomenon can be clustered into arranged
text segments and then transformed into emerging themes (1994).
Imaginative variation. The Moustakas (1994) process of the imaginative variation
technique allowed the researcher to evaluate the recorded descriptions and phrases
abstracted from the interviews in a phenomenological reduction process which allowed
the creation of new structural themes. The emergence of new structural themes was an
essential part of this study and helped describe how aspects of autopoiesis applied to the
phenomenon of organizational decision-making. Keeping an open mind helped new
structural themes to evolve when applying the imaginative variation technique. Critical
and creative thinking helped derive new meanings. Thinking and considering alternate
viewpoints of the participants and considering change phenomena from divergent vantage
points and perspectives helped to synthesize and integrate themes into cohesive and
comprehensive textual descriptions that holistically created thick and rich description of
the essence of change phenomena (1994).
Synthesis. Moustakas’ (1994) concluding activity in this phenomenological
exploration was to perform a synthesis of meanings and essences. Moustakas (1994)
explained that as our conscience mingles with the nature of the material world, the
conscience creates meaning. “What appears in consciousness is an absolute reality while
what appears to the world is a product of learning” (p. 27). The phenomenological
researcher then creates a synthesis from the data acquired during the interviews. Through
intuition and reflection the researcher integrated the structural descriptions to synthesize
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essences and meanings of the researched phenomenon. Figure 1 displays a flow diagram
of the phenomenological model.
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•
•
•
Epoché
•
•
•
Phenomenological
Reduction
•
•
•
Bracketing
Focus the conversation on stimuli that caused
the subject to drive change.
Follow question outline found in Appendix F
Record conversations
Horizonalize
Intuition is essential (Moustakas, 1994)
Discover core meanings
o List all relevant statements
o Collect redundant statements
Cluster
o Group statements into themes
o Organize themes
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Imaginative
Variation
Synthesis
Following Van
Kaam
Methodology
Self-preparation of the interviewer
Identify and remove presuppositions
Keep noesis of change drivers
•
•
•
•
Keep an open mind
Identify structural themes
Consider alternate viewpoints
Vary possible meanings
Explore essences of autopoiesis
Employ critical thinking
Create rich description of essence
Create structural themes
Intuitively reflect on the data
Integrate composite textural descriptions
Integrate composite structural descriptions
Synthesis meanings and essences of the
phenomenon
Figure 4. Flow Chart of Phenomenological Model used for this Study.
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The Van Kaam Methodology
After completing telephone interviews following the outline of questions listed in
Appendix H, the recordings were transcribed. The data was collected according to
Moustakas’ (1994) modified van Kaam method for qualitative phenomenological
analysis. The six steps of the modified van Kaam method that was used for guidance in
this study is as follows:
1. List all expressions relevant to this phenomenological study (Horizonalization).
2. Determining the invariant expressions and test each expression for a necessary
and sufficient moment of experience and test for an abstract for labeling the
experience (Reducing and Elimination).
3. Group the Invariant Constituents that are related into a thematic label
(Clustering and Thematizing).
4. Identify the Invariant Constituents and the associated themes against the
complete record of the participants recorded information.
5. Construct individual written accounts of each subject’s experience and describe
the essence of each of the experiences which includes verbatim examples from
the transcribed interviews.
6. Construct a final composite description the captures the general subjective
meaning and essence of the data for the group as a whole.
Summary
Chapter 3 contained an outlined the systematic approach to implement the
necessary steps to conduct the processes in fulfillment of the research design for data
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collection, data analysis, appropriate presentation, findings, and conclusions (Cohen &
Omery, 1994). This chapter contains the detail and explanations for the proposed research
study. Chapter 3 includes a detailed explanation of the research design which included an
explanation of the determination of the population sample, the research tools that will be
used for the study (Hutchinson & Wilson, 1994). Chapter 3 includes the purpose for the
study, data analysis techniques that will be used, details concerning the reliability and of
the study, and the data collection techniques. This chapter includes details concerning the
data analysis process that will be used to draw the conclusions of chapter 5 concerning
the behavioral themes (Jokela, Karlsudd, & Östlund, 2008).
Chapter 4 contains a description of the results of the research and the associations
made from the practical experiences of decision-making leaders to the theoretical
constructs of complexity theory.
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CHAPTER 4: RESULTS AND FINDINGS
Chapter 4 presents the results and findings of data culled from interviews with an
aim to answer the research questions presented in chapter 1: (a) what environmental
stimuli drive leadership decisions through a bifurcation point to form a new theoretical
dissipative structure? (i.e., what drove the planning process and implementation strategy
for restructuring the company’s information strategies?), (b) what mechanisms drive an
organization’s response to a structure-altering crisis, and (c) do teleological influences
drive bifurcation solutions? The purpose of this research study was to offer an alternate
viewpoint of organizational change based in foundational sciences such as
thermodynamics. The processes undertaken in chapter 4 followed the guidelines that
were presented in chapter 3. This process facilitated the achievement of a rich thick
description of environmental factors that drove leadership decision-making processes.
Sections in this chapter detail the data collection procedures and the analysis procedures
that regulated the outcomes of executing the procedures of this present study.
Problem Statement
Theorists expect concepts from the natural sciences to play an increasing role in
understanding the expanding global environment (Lewin & Regine, 2000). Breaking
barriers of new knowledge and understanding requires new techniques for assessing
problems (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1989). Complexity theory is a new paradigm of study
that may offer additional understanding to dynamic systems. Examining organizational
change, for example, through constructs of complexity theory will allow researchers to
examine the organization as self-organizing systems that operate under uncertain and
unstable conditions. Studies show that companies become increasingly stochastic while
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progressing toward the edge of chaos (Lewin, 2007). In nature, self-organizing systems
develop spontaneously because of environmental inputs that provide the appropriate
mechanism to incite order seemingly through stochastic processes. The literature neglects
and even denies teleological events that may offer guidance to the self-organizing system
(Lewin, 1992; Lazlo, 2002; Farazmand, 2003). The problem is that deficient theoretical
knowledge of complexity theory impedes understanding of organizational recoveries
from the brink of failure. The study of influencing factors that direct leader’s decisionmaking activities in turbulent conditions remains subsistent. This current study evaluated
leadership perspectives from eight senior level managers regarding the decisions they
made as a response to the stimuli they received from internal influences and external
influences from the competitive environment. The participants were comprised of leaders
from companies located in Northern New Jersey. Data outcomes were analyzed and
presented from a systems perspective based in complexity theory and guided by the van
Kaam methodology.
Purpose Statement
The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the effects that perturbations
have on the decision-making activities of executive leaders from large to medium
companies based in Northern New Jersey and the influence of the perturbations on the
leadership decision-making processes and relationship to the development of a new
organizational structure (or dissipative structure in terms of thermodynamics). The
qualitative method allowed the research to focus of the perceived experience of the
participants and to analyze the experiences from a theoretical base (Mertens, 1998).
Procedures in this phenomenological study used recorded interviews with eight
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organizational leader from Northern New Jersey corporations who had experienced a
recent or ongoing crisis regarding information processing.
Participants
Calls made to professional acquaintances who worked in the IT field began the
steps for a snowball sampling process for finding prospective subjects for the study. A
response from one of the calls came from an IT professional who was a salesperson for
ERP systems. This person offered a list of three potential candidates, two of which
proved to be qualifying subjects for the study. A message sent to a newsgroup of political
subject matter found two more candidates. Associates from an acquaintance’s place of
employment found two more interview subjects. Leads offered from another IT
professional acquaintance initiated processes for finding one more subject. A last
qualifying subject was found at the attendance of a professional gathering. All selected
subjects were offered a form (Appendix D) whereby they could recommend other
potential study participants. No subject used the form.
Procedure
Once a recommendation was in hand, the potential participant received an email
explaining the reason for the email, a mention of the person who recommended him or
her as a study subject, an explanation of the study, and a request for a telephone
conversation. After an initial telephone conversation and a verification of the adequacy
and qualifications of the candidate as a study subject, the participant agreed upon a
potential time when the interview could take place. The participants subsequently
received another email that contained the following attachments: (a) an introductory letter
explaining the study objective (Appendix F), (b) the Informed Consent form which
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needed to be signed by the person before the interview would take place (Appendix E),
(c) the Participant Referral form for recommendation of other potential subjects
(Appendix D), and the guidelines for the Interview Questions (Appendix G). The
maintenance of a calendar of scheduled interviews enabled a clear view and a punctual
execution of all interviews. Six interviews were conducted via telephone and recorded;
two interviews were conducted face-to-face. The face-to-face interviews were also
recorded. Auto-taping the interviews allowed the interviewer to pay full attention to the
conversation and participant responses. The recorded interviews were each uploaded into
a computer and converted to MP3 format. Once in MP3 format, recordings were listened
to and transcribed into a word document. The transcribed documents were sent to
participants for review and comment. Data was then analyzed according to van Kaam
methodology guidelines and empirical phenomenological research techniques. The
analysis techniques allowed the analyst to extrapolate the experiences characterized by
the interviewed executive leaders to search for answers to the study’s research questions.
Interviews
The interviews each followed a similar set of activities, which included the
following general functions: (a) rapport building, a friendly conversation took place
related to the subject’s position with the company and general notions of organizational
change, (b) an introductory period, the basic concepts of the study was discussed and the
general procedures were discussed (c) the conversation, as guided by the interview
questions (Appendix G), (d) closing conversations, thanked the participant, explained
further requirement of the study, and asked for an opportunity to contact the subject by
email for further clarification or further questions if needed.
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The uniformity of the eight participant recorded interviews were generally
similar. A few of the participants engaged in the interview process immediately; whereas,
other participants wanted to speak socially before engaging the questions. Participants
responded to the interview questions with long narratives, with only a few responses in a
short and direct manner. Most responses were detailed in an explanatory manner. The
total recording time for the eight interviews totaled 6 hours and 43 minutes. The
recordings ranged from 45 minutes to 1 hour and 2 minutes in length. The mean
recording time was 50 minutes with a median of 49 minutes.
After the completion of each interview, the recorded responses were uploaded
into a computer on a secure drive. The data files were then converted to MP3 format
using Voice Manager ™. Data was then transcribed by listening to the recordings through
Nero Show Time™ and speaking using Windows Speech Recognition™ or alternately
typing the recordings into a Microsoft Word document. Transcribing proved to be very
time-consuming with one interview typically taking almost 20 hours to transcribe.
Excel spreadsheets held data collected from the interview forms. After a review of
interview notes and forms, a locking file cabinet secured the information. The Natural
Reader software by NaturalSoft Limited™ provided the voice recognition software
program that facilitated transcribing the eight recorded interviews into Microsoft Word
documents. The transcribed documents were sent to participants for review (Creswell,
2004; Merriam, 2002; Creswell & Miller, 2000). Participants offered no substantial
modifications to the transcribed interviews.
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Profiles
The following paragraphs present a description of each of the eight participants
who were purposively selected for this study. Participants were expected to represent a
contextual outlook of their experiences involving changes with which they were directly
involved. Each subject had an assigned letter and number (S#). The number corresponded
to the ordered time sequence of the interviews. This nomenclature was used to identify
the subject in each profile and elsewhere in this study.
S1. He is a company owner and installer of ERP systems. He holds a bachelor’s
degree in Business Marketing. He moved into information technology as a natural
progression as his place of employment moved in the direction of technology. He is
responsible for overseeing a team of IT workers for IS implementations. S1 sees himself
as a transformational leader. He considers the recent change to his organization as a
response to a crisis.
S2. Her title is Chief Operating Officer (COO), and she works for a local credit
union. She had held this position for 6 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Banking
from the University of Delaware. She had recently taken on a project to change the
company Website because of loss sales due to neglect of ripe markets that were not being
targeted. She oversees a team of workers and functions as a key stimulus for project
success. S2 considers the recent change to her organization as a response to a crisis.
S3. His title is Director of Clinical Systems (research and develop), and he works
for a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company. He holds a Bachelor degree in Mathematics
and a Master’s degree in Statistics. Oracle software is the company’s underlying IS with
much custom additions. S3 uses the “Clinical Trial Management System” for his study
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trial data, which he has been using since the mid-90s. They are in the process of
rationalization to choose among many information systems that have mounted because of
frequent mergers. The French government was behind the most recent merger in an effort
to try to keep a pharmaceutical as they premier French Company.
S4. His title is Senior Vice President of IT, and he focuses on ERP systems
(SAP). He has held his present position for 5 ½ years. S4 has been working with SAP for
3 ½ years and is presently expanding to other divisions. He sees himself as a
transformational leader. His company is a global company but 90% is domestic. The
company maintains licenses in Europe and Asia. The company CIO reports to S4. He
sees the recent change to his organization as a response to a crisis.
S5. His title is Director of Release Management, and he works for a Fortune 500
pharmaceutical company, which is a global company with more than 200 subsidiaries. He
has a Master’s degree in Business Administration. His position involves research and
analysis for implementing ERP systems. He functions as the team leader or project
manager (consultant). He is presently charged with forming a recommendation for an
ERP system. Implementation involved the United States and Puerto Rico. System will be
vanilla.
S6. His title is Managing Principal, and he works for a local software company
and has held this position for five years. He holds a Master’s degree of Business
Administration. He is responsible for integration of software for back-end business-tobusiness processes. He sees his leadership type as transactional with strong contingency
leadership aspects. He has been involved in the implementation of ERP systems.
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S7. His title is Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and he works for a manufacturing
and distribution organization. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. The company
is a global organization with branches in Asia. Through his leadership, the company
recently has thwarted economic disaster because of the down-turn of the global economy
and is emerging as a successful company. S7 sees himself as a behavioral leader and sees
himself more as a coach than a forceful leader. He sees the recent change to his
organization as a response to a crisis.
S8. He is a software manager for a Fortune 500 technology company. He holds a
Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a Master’s degree in Computer Science. S8 sees
his leadership style as transformational and sees himself as a coach. S8 has the unique
position of developing technology as part of the software engineering group, and
attending management staff meetings as part of the management staff. This allows him to
have insight into the true needs of technology development group. He sees the recent
change to his organization as a response to a crisis.
Table 3
Demographic Information
Participant
Title
Years with
Age
Gender
Company
S1
Sales Manager
4
50-59
M
S2
Chief Operating Officer
6
50-59
F
S3
Director of Clinical Studies
12
50-59
M
S4
Vice President
5
40-49
M
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S5
Research Analyst
1
40-49
M
S6
Vice President
5
30-39
M
S7
Chief Financial Officer
27
50-59
M
S8
Software Manager
26
50-59
M
Preparations for Analysis
The Following describes the steps taken for data analysis as discussed in chapter
3. The participants’ responses to the interview questions were coded according to
invariant categories as extracted by the researcher. The coded segments for each
participant were initially color coded with each participant assigned a unique color. After
all interviews were deconstructed and transcribed into thematic categories the research
continued according to the guidelines of the van Kaam methodology (Moustakas, 1994).
The next step consisted of forming individual profiles of the participants. Possessing
participant profiles helped to assemble a full picture of the descriptions orated by the
participants.
A goal of the research was to identify themes that would be supported by direct
quotes. Reflection upon the identified themes allowed the research to develop a natural
flow as constructs emerged that would unify the invariant constructs corresponding to
themes of change as responses to bifurcation stimuli. Common patterns emerged from the
resulting clusters as exploration of repetitive constructs allowed further common patterns
to emerge as change agents responding to stimuli. The analysis of extrapolated phrases
found some similarities and some differences but generally common constructs.
Similarities were clustered and categorized into common themes. The researcher divided
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the categories to distinguish the drivers of change as general categories of resulting
behaviors. Clusters emerged that followed the theme of organizational response to stimuli
that created new order (in thermodynamics terminology, a dissipative structure). This
analysis nurtured a deeper understanding of the resulting themes and allowed an
expanded viewpoint for causal relations of organizational changes and evolvement.
Discernment of the relationships between the themes representing different stimuli for
leadership decision-making provided guidance for the thoughts and discussion of results
as detailed in chapter 5.
The findings of the data analysis were categorized in Appendix I and clustered in
tables 4 through table 9. Direct quotes from the participants provided support for the
themes that emerged from this analysis. The experience of each participant interviewed
became part of the discussion and represents a merged theme. To maintain
confidentiality, each participant maintained the initials S and their corresponding number
as described above as the identification for the associated quote.
Data Analysis
Fifty-three questions (Appendix G) guided the interviews, which allowed the
bracketing technique to keep the conversations focused on change drivers (Polit &
Hungler, 1999). The duration of the interviews totaled 6 hours and 43 minutes.
Demographic information is shown in Table 3. As per the steps outlined in chapter 3, the
interviewees’ responses to the questions were categorized by listing all relevant
expressions. Seventeen categories emerged from the interviews, they were failure, change
reasons, information flow, feedback, autonomy, culture, challenges faced, conflicts,
rewards, testing, expectations, relationships with subordinates, natural versus rational
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structure, success factors, control, encouragement to continue, communication, red tape,
and ERP implementation. The phrases abstracted from the participants that formed the 17
categories can be viewed in Appendix I. Each of the phrases in Appendix I offered by the
interviewee was viewed as a horizon of his or her experience. Following step-1of the van
Kaam method, subsequent to the epoché technique preparation, the researcher read and
considered the written textural description and writes a structural description as he
interpreted the experience. These structural descriptions were viewed as bifurcation
descriptors in table 4 and table 5. To reduce the meanings that participants’ experience
down to their essential structure, step-2 required the researcher to look for invariant
expressions (invariant with other participants) and determine an abstract label for each
expression. Subsequent to this step, the researcher looked for the essence of what
happened and tried to structure the meaning. Invariant expressions in this step were
viewed as perturbations experienced by the participant. Step-3 required the analyst to
group the invariant constitutes found in the interviews that relate to each other into
thematic expressions. The goal was to find the essence of the phenomenon as experienced
among participants. Table 6 and table 7 list the invariant expressions and the frequency of
occurrence of the invariant expressions in regard to the stimuli felt by the participant that
led them to make a decision. Table 8 and table 9 list the invariant expressions and the
frequency of occurrence of the invariant expressions in regard to decisions acted upon or
needing action by the participant.
Chapter 5 details the processes of step-4 through step-6. Step-4 follows by
requiring the identification of invariant constitutes and the associated themes to be
compared to the participant’s experience. In step-5, the analyst constructed written
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accounts of each participant’s experience to uncover the essence of each experience by
including verbatim examples from the transcribed interviews. Step-6 required the analyst
to construct a final composite description or the captured general and subjective
meanings. This step culminated in a description of the holistic essence of the data for the
participants as a group.
Bifurcation Descriptors
An objective of this study was to identify a theoretical bifurcation point in which
the leader had to make a decision whether to implement a major change to the company
operations or maintain present operations. Participants used various terminologies to
identify inner feelings instrumental in influencing their decision. Four general categories
of bifurcation descriptors emerged by clustering the study participant’s, synthesized
responses. The descriptors provided a mechanism to describe the nature of the bifurcation
phenomenon as extracted from the subject’s lived experiences. The four bifurcation
descriptors were as follows: (a) financially driven descriptors, (b) descriptors indicating
decrees by new management such as an incoming CEO, (c) descriptors that show that
change was imposed on the organization from dictates by governmental powers, and (d)
descriptors indicating that change was stimulated by activities from the competitive
environment. Table 4 displays the four bifurcation stimuli in column-1 and the phrases
abstracted from the participants used to horizonalize the bifurcation constructs.
Horizontalization was the process of granting equal value to the alignment of the
participant’s responses and the corresponding idealized influence that emerged as the
general themes of financially driven, new management, regulatory requirements, and
competitive environment (Moustakas, 1994). The themes that emerged as the results of
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the bifurcation stimuli prompted the subject to implement various changes as shown in
Table 5.
Table 4
Bifurcation Stimuli
Descriptors for Bifurcations
(Stimulus for Change)
Financially driven
Phrases of Causation
Abstracted from Participants
Not adequately funded
Redundant activities
Poor information flow
Poor communications
Antiquated or inefficient processes
Need for consolidation
Project scope creep
Culture will not change
Outdated technology
New Management
Need change in organizational structure
Need ERP implementation
Lack of alignment between CFO, CEO, & CIO
Goals developed in silo
Regulatory requirements
Need for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance
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Need for better Tax accounting
Other governmental regulations
Competitive environment
Need for market expansion
Need for global viewpoint
Need for consolidation
Poor information flow
Redundant activities
Competitive threats
Outdated technology
Salesperson push
Table 5
Result of Bifurcation Decision
Descriptors for Bifurcations
Resultant Actions
(Stimulus for Change)
Financially driven
Reduce inventory
Tighten inventory control
Reduce receivables
Reduce buyer’s terms
Lengthen suppliers terms
Tighten expenses line items
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Expel consultants
Improve IT systems
Improve communications
Improve technologies
Develop best practices
Reduce redundant activities
Develop strategies for organizational learning
Sell off excess capacities
Work with bank to improve finances
Driven by New Management
Develop new strategies
Target new markets
Improve alignment between CFO, CEO, & CIO
Restructure organization for leanness
Reduce levels of management
Implement ERP system
Dispose of vintage systems
Distribute business goals among all workers
Develop best practices
Improve technologies
Improve information flow
Driven by Regulatory
Implement IT system
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requirements
Hire IT consultants
Hire legal consultants
Driven by the Competitive
Implement ERP system
environment
Develop products or services for new markets
Implement organizational learning strategies
Sell off companies with low performance
Develop strategies for competing globally
Improve technologies
Research technologies pushed by salespeople
Themes
The analysis of the data acquired from the interviews revealed the emergence of
four general themes of change stimuli for organizational changes listed as bifurcations.
Change stimuli that push toward a bifurcation relate to the thermodynamic theory as
perturbations. Organizing the data into categories facilitated the recognition of patterns as
abstracted from the data. As stated by Miles and Huberman (1994), A pattern “suddenly
‘jumps out’ at you, suddenly makes sense” (p. 216). Using this framework by Miles and
Huberman’s finding, this study contains themes drawn up by the abstraction of phrases
that have similar meanings. Themes are therefore viewed as repetitive suppositions
formed from the participant’s characterizations of leadership-driven organizational
changes. This strain of analysis led to the assertion that themes are comprised of a
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repetition of terms and phrases abstracted from interview responses. The patterns align
with the perceptions as derived from the interviews relating to leadership decisionmaking activities leading to organizational changes.
In addition to forming an analysis based on the repetition of terms and phrases,
the researcher carefully considered the dynamic influences that each abstracted theme
may have on scales at micro and macro levels of the system under study. The influence of
a theme’s dynamic influence on levels of subsystems and suprasystems was considered
from an omnipresence relationship when interacting themes were examined by reviewing
interview responses with a viewpoint relating to omnipresent dynamics. The micro-level
themes emerged as internal stimuli (Table 6) and the macro-level themes emerged as
external stimuli (Table 7). The micro-level themes were related to responding to internal
demands and requests and the macro-level themes related to competitive forces. The
behavior of the leaders manifested as decisions. Decisions were formed based on the
leader’s internal feelings that resulted from the interpretation of the stimuli.
Table 6
Micro-level Perturbations (Internal Stimuli)
Frequency
Bring inventory into alignment
1
Cash flow issues
3
Obey management dictates
3
Work within reduced credit lines
2
Meeting time constraints
3
Inadequate technologies
5
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Table 7
Macro-level Perturbations (External Stimuli)
Frequency
Downturn in global economics
4
Effects of global economics
5
Accommodate cultural differences
5
Respond to sales people
4
Respond to global regulations
3
Micro-level Perturbations
(Internal Stimuli)
The following section elaborates on the listed stimuli items of Table 6. Items
consisting of two or less in the frequency column were not elaborated upon. Items in the
stimuli column were consolidated into general categories when the constructed of themes
seemed to overlap. For example, the need to reduce personnel and the need to impose
workforce pay-cuts were consolidated into the general category of cash flow issues.
Cash Flow Issues
Three participants found the issue of maintaining an adequate cash flow as a
stimulus for prompting changes to organizational processes. These participants found
meeting cash flow needs as a fundamental priority for keeping the company on track. The
following quotes signify the role of cash flow maintenance:
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S1: “We had cost issues; cash is king.” “The bank is only going to lend us so
much money. And the banks want to see that we have control over our expenses and
inventory.”
S7: “From a profit standpoint you are better off buying from China but from a
cash flow standpoint were back in the same boat. And it’s even worse because the guy in
North Carolina who sent a few tights in two weeks was also giving you 60 - 90 day terms
letting you stretch invoices when you have to because you have this 20 year relationship
with him. The guy from China doesn’t know you from Adam and he wants his money
right up front. This changes the dynamics of cash flow management and inventory
management.” “We no longer have the three million dollar cushion that we once had.”
S8: “Cash is a priority. Keep inventory down, keep receivables down. Only spend
the money that you have to.”
Obey Management Dictates
Four interviewees of the eight participants found that dictates from above were a
stimulus for change. Dictates from above include scenarios that required participants to
follow board dictates channeled through the CEO. This perturbation is minimal because
most participants in this study were included in major decisions.
S3: “A new CEO came in last December and wanted a new direction in line with
globalization.”
S4: “They [global leadership] wanted to get rid of underutilized facilities”
S6: “In the beginning of the ERP implementation, scope is defined and guidelines
are followed by the implementers.”
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Meeting Time Constraints
S2: “Time constraints in testing present challenges.”
S4: “Feedback communications can be improved time factors largely prevent it.”
“One occasion, there was no time to stop a plan.”
S8: “We come up with a new plan and hopefully have some reasonable amount of
time developed the new plan.” “If a crisis occurs and you have to do twice as much work
in the same amount of time there is a high stress mode.” “We only had three months to
develop the next product which wasn’t a lot of time.”
Inadequate Technologies
S2: “Website was out of date.”
S3: “We have redundant IT systems.”
S4: “Company was running scattered in vintage systems.”
S5: “Wanted to consolidate disparate IT systems.”
S8: “When we had the first sale for over $1,000,000 our accounting system could
not take that many zeros.”
Macro-level Perturbations
(External Stimuli)
The following section elaborates on the listed external stimuli items of Table 7.
As in the above section, items consisting of two or fewer hits in the frequency column
were not elaborated upon. Items in the stimuli column were consolidated into general
categories when the construct of themes seemed to overlap.
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Downturn in Global Economics
S3: “It is difficult to close redundant facilities at our foreign locations because of
union regulations. They are able to do it now because the courts recognize the need
imposed by the poor economy.”
S4: “Economic troubles have to be dealt with.” “Company has conventional
hierarchy but has recently flattened because of the economic conditions.”
S6: “Recent challenges concern the economy.”
S7: “When the bad economy hit the bank really tightened the screws.” “It was like
a perfect storm everything kind of went wrong.” “In 2008 when things started to get
really bad the fourth quarter of ’08, the CEO brought in some consultant to help us try to
figure out how to reduce expenses.”
Effects of Global Economics
S1: “Logistical acquisitions of source inventories are largely market driven.”
S3: “Growth opportunities are in Asia and South America. The U.S. and Europe
are mature markets. Emergent economics in countries like India and China allows the
culture to become more interested in Health Care Services.”
S6: “The present state of the economy is causing organizational leaders to
question why they might need an ERP system.
S7: “Twenty years ago everything was made in America, now everything is made
in China and Taiwan. The good thing is that something that would cost $10.00 made in
America you can buy for $2.00 in China.”
S8: “Cost of labor dictates the location of our service centers.”
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Accommodate Cultural Differences
S2: “Our culture needs to be nurtured so it can become more member-centric.”
“We nurture our cultures through award and recognition methods.” Cultures are nurtured
by upper management setting examples.”
S3: “Language was a problem in communications between our diverse global
regions.
S4: “The culture of one acquired company had a high tolerance for rule breaking
by turning a blind eye to procedures outside of stated policies.”
S5: “After acquisitions people sometimes identified themselves with the acquired
company.” “Team leaders assigned from different acquired companies would sometimes
compete instead of working together.”
S8: “We have a big time zone difference.” “Some cultural norms require an
architect for development whereas workers in another country like working without an
architect.” “Some foreign locations feel they’re not being and understood properly.”
Respond to Salespeople
S1: “Salesperson push drives much of the ERP systems sold to the global
market.”
S2: “Most of the committee liked working with a particular vender while one
committee member pushed hard for another.”
S5: “I already knew we needed the ERP system, I just needed to prove it through
analysis.”
S8: “Our technology purchases largely depend on what is being sold.”
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Respond to Global Regulations
S1: “We had to consider regulatory compliance issues when deciding on an ERP
system.”
S3: “The foreign government was behind the merger to try to keep a
pharmaceutical as they premier company of their country.” “Union regulations of foreign
countries inhibited the closure of sites that were performing redundant activities.
S8: “There always seems to be politics going on preventing information flow.”
“Some of the information is restricted by the SEC.” “Oracle has been trying to buy sun
for a long time that it is being held up by the European Union.” “SEC rules prevent us
from talking about the deal.” “Some rules are in place where you can’t supply
information.”
Table 8 lists the responses that participants performed when acting upon the
stimuli as explained in the above sections on perturbations. Perturbations are seen as
stimuli. In theory, many perturbations are absorbed by the system (Nicolis & Prigogine,
1977). The paragraphs following Table 8 and Table 9 elaborate on the perturbations not
absorbed but pushed the system or organization into a change. Items consisting of two or
fewer hits in the frequency column were not elaborated upon.
Table 8
Responses to Internal Perturbation
Required Action
Closely monitor line item expenses
Frequency
1
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Implement better IT
4
Bring workforce up to speed
3
Improve internal information flow
7
Reduce levels of management
4
Improve business alignments
2
Inform workforce of company goals
3
Create a sense of ownership among workers
3
Develop best practices
2
New management dictates
4
Improve internal processes
5
Empower project teams and distribute authority
5
Table 9
Responses to External Perturbations
Required Action
Frequency
Need to reduce accounts receivables
1
Improve information flow
4
Reach new global markets
3
Improve global processes
6
Consolidate IT
6
Consolidate redundant processes and duplicate efforts
3
Move toward natural processes
6
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Responses to Internal Perturbations
The implementation of improved IT systems emerged as a response to internal
and external stimuli. IT system improvement proved to be a ubiquitous remedy to
numerous problems as perceived by the participants. This sections lists quotes that show
the participant’s perception as to the need of improving their company’s information
systems.
Implement Improved IT
S3: “We needed to remove redundant IT systems.” “We need to coordinate
processes instead of the piecemeal used now.” “Parts of the company run as separate
systems and need to be consolidated.”
S4: “Company was running scattered in vintage systems (7 different platforms
have been consolidated).” “The goal was to consolidate business processes and
duplication of effort, the SAP System was the enabler.” “Integration that would not have
been possible before is now enabled.” “All departments are now connected in real time
with the finance department.”
S5: “The company wanted to consolidate disparate IT systems that accumulated
because of many acquisitions.”
S8: “Merge with companies better able to handle our marketing needs.”
Bring workforce up to speed (Organizational learning)
S2: “Give people adequate time to absorb information.”
S4: “The largest challenge is people, especially trying to teach new technologies
to those that have been doing the same thing for decades.”
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S8: “The company is always running classes to keep the workforce up on new
developments.”
Improve Internal Information Flow
S1: “Our company had poor information flow.” “We needed to improve
communication, cooperation, and trust.” “Poor information flow was the reason for
failure.” “Managers sometimes withhold information to hide their own faults in
judgment.”
S2: “Less formality equals better information flow.” “Flow should be natural but
with a constrained culture.”
S3: “Proprietary information needs to be controlled.” The acquired company had
one global network, whereas the taking company had two, one for R and D and one for
everyone else. This didn’t make any sense globally because of highly restricted
information flow.” The company is now moving away from the duel-structure model
back to the single way of the acquired company, which has less inhibition for information
flow.” “Proprietary information needs to be controlled.”
S4: “Inefficient information flow will cause the company to be efficient clumsy
and slow to react.” “We use some video conferencing, which is still a little clumsy
because the cameras just don’t cut it, in my mind.” “We use Shareware and GroupWare
(SharePoint) for document retention in one repository.” “I shun email for document
retention because it’s too difficult to track document version.” “We want free flowing
information to be ubiquitous.”
S5: “Information flow is absolutely critical.” “Disparate systems will greatly
inhibit information flow. One system might show too much inventoried whereas another
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system might show a right amount.” “Accounting is in the middle of everything; it’s
important to have information flow readily available with accounting to all departments.”
“Effective communications means people understand the project. And people understand
each other’s words.”
S6: “Company information has to be kept very, very secure.”
S7: “Information flow is pretty open. When things are good it’s all they want to
know is if we’re making money; when things are bad they analyze everything to death.”
“We used to have to write a memo before going to the bathroom and no one bothered
coming up with any ideas because it would be rare to hear anything back about your
idea.”
Reduce Levels of Management
S3: “There are far too many levels of management, an extraordinary number.” We
need to flatten the hierarchy in our foreign headquarters.” “The number of signatures
needed on a given document has been reduced.” “A lot of bureaucracy can be eliminated
during the reorganization process.”
S4: “Our company has conventional hierarchy but has recently flattened because
of the economic conditions.” Acquired companies caused the accumulation of
infrastructures, which causes inefficiencies.”
S5: “The hierarchy, or red-tape, sometimes hindered what I wanted to do.”
S6: “We have recently shifted the company reporting structure toward sales.”
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Inform Workforce of Company Goals
S1: “Failure can be caused by a lack of functional understanding or functional
documentation for the End-User.” “Company productivity is thwarted because business
goals are developed in a silo.”
S4: “My approach is that in general there isn’t too much information that should
be withheld.”
S7: “I tell her what my expectations are on numbers I need to have balanced and
she’s the one that makes it happen. I don’t tell her technically what to do, I tell her from a
high level what I need, and she makes sure it gets done. This works very well because she
knows I count on her expertise and she knows I am appreciative of how she performs.”
Create a sense of ownership among workers
S1: “We talk about the changes and get people to feel part of it.”
S2: “Gives people ownership of the project.” “We talk about the changes and get
people to feel part of it.”
S7: “We encourage people to offer remedies by telling them what needs to be
done then count on them to accomplish the goal by developing their own means.”
New Management Dictates
S1: “Usually the hiring of a new CEO brings with it the implementation of an
ERP system.
S3: “A new CEO came in last December and wanted a new direction in line with
globalization.”
S6: “ERP implementation usually begins with a new CEO.”
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S7: “The CEO brought in a consultant to help restructure and refine company
processes.”
Improve Internal Processes
S1: “Need to improve alignment between CFO, CEO, and CIO and inform the
workforce of company goals.”
S3: “A lot of bureaucracy can be eliminated during this reorganization.” Too
many people of the hierarchy are involved in decisions. This creates problems trying to
figure out who should decide.”
S4: “We developed a goal to consolidate business processes and duplication of
effort. The SAP System would be the enabler.”
S5: “We needed to reduce the red-tape that hindered progress.”
S7: “We had reduction in force and reduced pay. No one’s gotten a raise since
2007.” “I tried to get inventory down.”
S8: “Move to a modular technology.”
Empower Project Teams and Distribute Authority
S2: “Sense of urgency would be inhibited if control is too tight.” “We give
enough autonomy for people to feel ownership.” “Even with autonomy the committee has
the ultimate authority.”
S3: “The company needs to empower the project teams.” “We have to allow the
project heads to evaluate workers from another functional department.” “The greater
distribution of authority autonomy.”
S4: “Autonomy for subordinates is medium. I probably have a tighter grip on
things and than some other peers might have.” “If you allow the creative freedom to solve
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the problem the company can be high performing.” “If you don’t set the direction and say
with a problem is and define success, you’re going to flounder.” “I don’t provide a lot of
autonomy like, what are you guys going to do today, I provide a lot of guidance and a lot
of structure saying this is what we have to do.”
S7: “So I’ve always empowered my people to reach out into other departments
and to interact in to find out what they actually need as far as accounting information. For
example, the salespeople and asked, if we know what accounts are on hold we won’t
waste time trying to get an order out. Or, if you tell me what accounts are on hold, maybe
I can call them and get some money out of them for you. So, I count on my people to
interact with others in the company. I think it’s important for people throughout the
company to be able to approach my staff and tell them I need to see this information in
this format so I will be able to make better decisions in my department.”
S8: “So they’d let people focus on the project and not be managed and then see
how it turned out.”
Responses to External Perturbations
External perturbations in this present study relate to stimuli received from the
external environment. These external influences could include reports about the
competitive environment, it could include regulations from governmental entities, and it
could include influences imposed by threats from rising competitors. All these things are
stimuli or perturbations in thermodynamic terms. A reaction may be required from the
entity receiving the stimuli. Most of the time the system will absorb a perturbation and
sometimes the perturbation will influence a change.
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Improve Information Flow
S1: “Our intent was to improve information flow by installing an ERP system.”
S3: “They’re moving away from the Taking company model back to the Acquired
company model which has less inhibitions on information flow. We now allow cross
country collaboration on drug testing results.”
S7: “Information flow is now open.”
S8: “Have projects that fly below the radar.”
Reach New Global Markets
S3: “Growth opportunities are in Asia and South America. The U.S. and Europe
are mature markets.” “Emergent economics in countries like India and China allows the
culture to become more interested in Health Care Services.”
S5: “Countries with developing economies provide a ripe market.”
S8: “Our goal is to identify untouched markets.”
Improve Global Processes
S3: “Established a global view of the company.” “We removed redundant IT
systems that accumulated because of multiple mergers.” We consolidated parts of the
company that ran as separate systems.” “We began to sell off non-productive segments of
the company that accumulated because of multiple mergers.
S4: “They need to get rid of underutilized facilities such as warehouses.” “The
goal was to consolidate business processes and duplication of effort, the SAP System was
the enabler.” “All departments are now connected in real time with the finance
department.” “We want free flowing information to be ubiquitous.”
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S5: “Information flow is absolutely critical. Disparate systems will be eliminated
so as to augment information flow.”
S6: “Recently shifted reporting structure toward sales efforts.
S7: “There have also been structural changes to the company. The financial
reporting structure has changed. How the Retail Stores interact with the parent
organization has changed.”
Consolidate IT
S4: “The company was running scattered in vintage systems. We consolidated
seven different platforms thus far. We consolidated the warehouse management systems
down from nine platforms to one system.
S5: “We wanted to consolidate disparate IT systems because of many
acquisitions.”
S6: “Company information has to be kept very, very secure.” S6 is involved in a
program right now called security aware about sensitive information.
Consolidate redundant processes and duplicate efforts
S3: “Eliminate redundant processes. Eliminate duplicate locations. Fix
disproportionate allocation of resources.”
S4: “Our goal was to consolidate business processes and duplication of effort.”
S6: “Recent changes involved reducing excess capacity in personnel.”
Move Toward Natural Processes
S2: “We provide a non-inhibiting environment, free talk, a culture with an open
architecture.” “Sense of urgency would be inhibited if control is too tight.”
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S4: “If you allow the creative freedom to solve the problem the company can be
high performing.” “If you need something you can get it. If the hierarchy is stopping you,
you’re not being creative enough.” “Outline needs to be provided by a leader. Vision
needs to be offered by a leader. Tell the people what needs to be done or the problem that
needs to be solved, and here is my point of view of what you need to do then tell them go
do it. I welcome, an alternate way.” “You have a certain finite capacity to handle so many
things at one time. When you get to that chaotic or crises stage you find a way to drop
everything else that is not germane at the moment; this allows you to channel all your
energy into the moment until you clear through it; you can then broaden your bandwidth
again to take on the multitude of things you normally do.”
S5: “Once the project is running a project controls itself and would be difficult to
stop.” “People would be dedicated to the project not to the management.” “Management
does not interfere in day to day decisions. Very little intervention if the project is moving
as expected.”
S6: “Company policy needs to be relatively strict. People will still follow their
own instincts and it’s up to the company to determine how strict they want to be with
enforcing the policy.”
S7: “Prior to march of this year we had a very structured in organized structure.
Very structured and very organized. Now we have moved exactly away from that to
natural processes. There are still managers, people are still held accountable. It is now a
more natural process where people at different levels have a lot more interaction and
lower levels of people know what has to be done. Some people’s roles have changed
radically. A sales personnel is now doing budget forecasts. Another personnel used to
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have to report to me before contacting outside vendors, now she is on inhibited in who
she contacts.” “I tell her what my expectations are on numbers I need to have balanced
and she’s the one that makes it happen. I don’t tell her technically what to do, I tell her
from a high lever what I need, and she makes sure it gets done. This works very well
because she knows I count on her expertise and she knows I am appreciative of how she
performs.”
S8: “We avoid red tape; sometimes upper management will find out what we’re
doing and try to ship it before we know which end is up.” “Sometimes we don’t schedule
all the workers time.” “We actually give people 15% of their time to do things that is not
on the radar.”
The Findings New to the Literature
A premise of this study was that although much theoretical knowledge exists in
the literature, no practical applications of complexity theory involving aspects of
thermodynamics could be found in the literature. The findings of this study therefore,
represent the beginning of new findings and thus an addition of new knowledge to the
literature. Although the literature theoretically depicts changes to self-organizing systems
and theoretical responses, the literature fails to present practical organizational decisions
and responses that drive these reorganizing changes (Lewin & Regine, 2000; Nicolis &
Prigogine, 1977). Little or no literature shows practical applications of preparedness and
responses that could demonstrate how systems recover from environmentally induced
changes that pushed a company to the verge of failure considered from a complexity
theory perspective of natural systems. Organizational leaders need to gain an
understanding of practical activities associated with organizational changes (Gabbaro,
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1987). This present analysis based in complexity theory supplies organizational leaders
with a wider perspective that may provide helpful methodologies for gaining an alternate
viewpoint for reflections on solutions. This research remains a beginning assessment to
problem needing additional population of respondents for further research to develop
knowledge bases for those wanting to ensure survival of an organization in today’s
turbulent economic environments.
Summary
This qualitative phenomenological study used a purposive sampling technique to
examine recorded conversations about organizational changes to identify core themes
abstracted from the perceptions and lived experiences of eight organizational leaders
from the IT industry located in Northern New Jersey. The study explored the
understandings of organizational decision-makers’ perceptions concerning stimuli
imposed from the competitive environment. The research revealed four core themes and
categorized the themes into descriptors of bifurcations.
This chapter presented a comprehensive overview of the research findings derived
from the data analysis obtained from the recorded and transcribed data. The research used
the Moustakas (1994) modified van Kaam methodology for analyzing phenomenological
data as a guideline. Tables were used to summarize extracted information in a supporting
format aimed at showing a clear depiction of the results.
Chapter 5 presents conclusions based on the findings of chapter 4. Chapter 5
includes insights based on the abstracted and categorized data of chapter 4 stemming
from a background notion and implications of the underlying theme of complexity theory
constructs that are supported by theoretical concepts of thermodynamics. The
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implications of this inquiry constituted the supported conclusions of chapter 5. The data
justified the study’s objective by showing that emergent global structures emerge from
autopoietic process involving decision-makers responses to stimuli that were induced by
external perturbations, as detailed in chapter 5.
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CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Chapter 5 provides a discussion on the findings regarding the research questions
posed and summarized in chapter 4. This chapter provides an analysis that used a
phenomenological reductionist technique to prepare and consider the implications of the
data and to elaborate on the perceptions of eight executive level organization leaders as
categorized in chapter 4 (Moustakas, 1994). Chapter 5 presents the implications of the
applied research methodology as outlined in the “Data Analysis” heading of chapter 3 by
referring to steps 3 and 4 of van Kaam methodology as a guideline with methods from the
empirical phenomenological research techniques (Moustakas, 1994).
The emergence of new structural themes was an important part of this study.
Imaginative variation was used to describe how aspects of autopoiesis apply to the
phenomenon of organizational decision-making (Moustakas, 1994). Keeping an open
mind was a key process to help aid the discovery of structural themes when using the
imaginative variation technique. Critical and creative thinking helped detect new
meanings when forming a synthesis of the data (1994). The content of this study sets the
foundation for future research of organizations using complexity theory as a research
methodology and offers recommendations later in this chapter. This chapter begins with a
restatement of the problem statement and the purpose statement then a brief review of the
research project before providing elaborations on the interpretations and implications of
the chapter 4 results.
The problem is that organizational leaders possess little knowledge of theoretical
aspects of complexity theory, which could hinder them from gaining a full understanding
regarding organizational recovery from the brink of failure from the perspective of
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natural systems. This lack of knowledge may inhibit decision-makers from opportunities
for finding suitable organizational remedies because of a lack in understanding
underlying influences that may be guiding them to make appropriate decisions for needed
changes. A lack in understanding of the organizational analogy to natural systems could
allow the leadership to fail to obtain desirable information that could have a direct
influence on the stimulation processes charged with causing changes to the company.
Leadership perspectives abstracted from responses to open-ended questions offered to
eight senior level managers from companies in Northern New Jersey were used to
explore the factors that psychologically influenced the leaders’ responses to a change
inducing stimuli (or perturbations).
The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to examine responses
from recorded interviews of executive leaders from companies in Northern New Jersey
for a fit with autopoiesis as exhibited in the natural sciences as natural systems seem to
demonstrate an emergence of order out of chaos causing the development of a new
organizational structure, while responding to change inducing stimuli, such as a crises.
The appropriateness of the qualitative method was evident because the study’s objective
was to explore the perceived experience of organizational leaders and to examine the
experiences for interpretive research (Martens, 1998).
Summary of Research Procedures
Each of the eight interviews was audio-taped, uploaded into a computer and
converted to MP3 format. Once in MP3 format, the recordings were transcribed into a
word document. Transcribed documents were sent to participants for review and
comment. Data was then analyzed according to van Kaam methodology guidelines and
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empirical phenomenological research techniques. Themes and phrases of participant’s
experiences were extrapolated as characterized by the interviewed executive leaders as
the researcher searched for answers to the study’s research questions.
The interviews each observed the following general functions: (a) rapport
building, in which a friendly conversation took place related to the subject’s position with
the company and general notions of organizational change, (b) an introductory period, in
which the basic concepts of the study were discussed and the general procedures were
discussed (c) the conversation as guided by the interview questions (Appendix G), (d)
closing conversations used for thanking the participant and explaining further
requirements of the study.
Participants responded to the interview questions with long narratives with only a
few responses in a short and direct manner. Most responses were detailed in an
explanatory manner. The total recording time for the nine interviews totaled 6 hours and
43 minutes. The recordings ranged from 45 minutes to 1 hour and 2 minutes in length.
The mean recording time was 50 minutes with a median of 49 minutes.
Excel spreadsheets held categorized data collected from the interview forms.
After a review of interview notes and forms, a locking file cabinet secured the
information. The Natural Reader software by NaturalSoft Limited provided the voice
recognition software program that facilitated transcribing the eight recorded interviews
into Microsoft Word documents. Transcribed documents were sent to participants for
review (Creswell, 2004; Merriam, 2002; Creswell & Miller, 2000). Participants offered
no substantial modifications to the transcribed interviews.
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Brief Summary of Findings
The first research question of this study focused on what environmental stimuli
drove leadership decisions through a bifurcation point to form a new theoretical
dissipative structure? That is, to search for stimuli that drove the planning process and
implementation strategy for restructuring the company’s information strategies in
response to a crisis that would bring the company to a new structure more conducive to
the changing competitive environment. The study took a slight divergent path and
examined not only the information strategies but also the organizational strategies of
change in general. The analysis of the data acquired from the interviews revealed the
emergence of four general themes of change stimuli for organizational changes. These
change stimuli relate to the natural science of thermodynamic theory in the form of
perturbations. The data was clustered into categories, which facilitated the recognition of
patterns. Using the framework of Miles and Huberman (1994), themes were drawn up by
abstracting phrases that had similar meanings. Themes were viewed as repetitive
suppositions formed from the participant’s characterizations of leadership-driven
organizational changes. Themes were composed of a repetition of terms and phrases
abstracted from interview responses. The patterns aligned with the perceptions as derived
from the interviews relating to leadership decision-making activities leading to
organizational changes.
The researcher considered the dynamic influences that each abstracted theme may
have on scales at micro and macro levels of the system under study. The influence of a
theme’s dynamic influence on levels of subsystems and suprasystems was considered
from an omnipresence relationship when interacting themes were examined by reviewing
150
interview responses with a viewpoint relating to omnipresent dynamics. When
considering such dynamics, interacting processes have far-reaching consequences.
The micro-level themes equated to internal stimuli (Table 6) and the macro-level
themes equated to external stimuli (Table 7). The micro-level themes related to
interactivities among internal demands and responses; the macro-level themes related to
external stimuli caused by competitive forces. The behavior of the leaders manifested as
decisions resulting in changes aimed at trying to maintain stability when conditions
become chaotic. Decisions were formed based on the leader’s internal feelings that
resulted from the subjective interpretation of the various stimuli, internal and external.
Interpretations
This section provided the interpretation of the information that was categorized in
chapter 4. This section required insight as gained through the epoché and
phenomenological reduction techniques to form the constructs relating to autopoiesis by
analyzing the dynamics using the paradigm of complexity theory. The constructs of this
chapter are supported by quotes and excerpts of the study participants.
Information Flow
In thermodynamics, information flows among particles and molecules as they hit
each other and cause disturbances with neighboring particles. Outside energy sources,
typically of heat, will cause greater agitations and sometimes a change in the order of
interaction at times to the point of creating order out of what was randomness and chaos
(Nicolas & Prigogine, 1989) (see Bénard cells in Appendix C). According to Lewin
(2007), the ability to process and react to information from the environment is an
important part of adaptation for dynamic systems because organisms try to maintain
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suitable living conditions by manipulating resources. Information processing is a gauge
of complexity (2007). The following quoted excerpts from the interviews showed the
importance of information flow in maintaining and creating order in the process of selforganization.
S1 speaks of the need for restrictions in information flow as a mechanism for
maintaining order: “Managers sometimes withhold information to hide faults in judgment
personal judgment.” S1 also notes the failure for maintaining a smooth flow of
information as a reason for company project failures: “Poor information flow is a prime
reason for failure.”
S2 talks of the need for allowing a natural flow on information, whereas,
organizations operating according to a natural system paradigm is a necessary antecedent
for autopoiesis to work (Scott & Davis, 2007): “We generally communicate face-to-face
or by mail.” “I give people adequate time to absorb information.” “Less formality equals
better flow of information, flow should be natural but with a constrained cultural norms.”
Natural process will be examined further in sections below.
S3 adds to the concept of free flowing information as he speaks of moving back to
a milieu of unrestricted information flow but also notes the need to control proprietary
information: “Proprietary information needs to be controlled.” “Our new integrated
system is moving away from the model of constrained information back to the way which
had less inhibitions on information flow.” “They have to be careful that information is
not being misinterpreted so will sometimes delay the release of information.”
S4: “Inefficient information flow will cause the company to be efficient clumsy
and slow to react.” “We want free flowing information to be ubiquitous.”
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Email is the efficient office norm. I don’t use much text messaging (doesn’t leave
the trail). We find a lot of benefits with conference calls WebX and iLink
technology (like almost being in the same room). Some video conferencing,
which is still a little clumsy because the cameras just don’t cut it, in my mind. We
use Shareware and GroupWare (SharePoint) for document retention in one
repository. I shun email for document retention because it’s too difficult to track
document version. (S4)
S5, S6, S7, and S8 further illustrate the importance of maintaining adequate
information flow: S5: “Information flow is absolutely critical. Disparate systems will
greatly inhibit information flow. One system might show too much inventoried whereas
another system might show a right amount.” “There should be no information flow with
competitors unless there is a joint venture.” “Accounting is in the middle of everything;
it’s important to have information flow readily available with accounting to all
departments.” “We use face-to-face, e-mail, and video conferencing. We had a lot of
face-to-face when we were working in one location. When implementing company-wide
systems, we used video conference an extensively.” “Effective communication means
people understand the project. And people understand each other’s words.” “Information
sometimes needs to be withheld. Sometimes organizational information could be
misinterpreted. For example there may be job eliminations coming up. Some information
has just not been released yet.” “People need to know what the organizational changes
are and how they will be affected by it; if not they will be very distracted and may not
know what to do.” “Communication becomes more effective over time as you get to
know the people. S6: “Company information has to be kept very, very secure.” S6 was
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involved in a program, at the time of the interview, called Security Aware. The program
considered teachings about sensitive information. S7: “Information flow is pretty open in
our organization.”
S8: “We have projects that fly below the radar. Sometimes decisions are made not
to pass information down because they are working with or against other companies and
they don’t want information being leaked out ahead of time.” “Company heads were
sometimes upset when the information would be leaked out to the press. Oracle sends out
a weekly newsletter that informs the employees about customers that have been won or
new products that the company is launching.” “The company worries when workers use
Internet applications like yahoo and instant messaging. Instant messaging is good if you
need a quick response. Normally we use email for our asynchronous communications
which works well with multiple time zones.”
We support software for blogs. A big popular thing here is wikis for exchanging
information. People include information about how processes work or design
documents and of all sorts of things like that on wikis. The wikis became so
heavily used that we were unable to access the data at certain times in the
afternoon. Each development team has their own wiki in the farm. It includes
everything from team members to design to process scenes. The company
provides the resources to use the wikis but it is generally a bottom-up
development. (S8)
Feedback
Feedback is the control mechanism of an autopoietic system. Feedback can grow
out of control if positive feedback loops are not checked by negative loops (Scott &
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Davis, 2007). This sometimes occurs when a sound system’s speaker feeds back through
a microphone causing an uncomfortably sounding high pitch tone. Feedback can have
debilitating effects in not controlled. Organizations need feedback to maintain stability
but feedback can create instability when unchecked.
As driven by the second research question, which asks, What mechanisms drive
an organization’s response to a structure-altering crisis? This analysis showed that
feedback controls contributed as a mechanism for driving responses. This analysis was
aimed at identifying the feedback loops that maintain the forces that control the
organizational structure. According to Stinchcombe (1968), positive forces that enhance
organizational development can become activated by forces that threaten the
organization’s equilibrium. As discussed in the feedback section of chapter 1, a
cybernetic feedback response works on the principle that a feedback variable can trigger
a specified preprogrammed response. For example, a company will have contingency
plans ready to implement when the appropriate stimulus triggers the event. During the
study, feedback was found to be misinterpreted at times. The following are excerpts from
the interviews that illustrate feedback controls.
S4: “Feedback communications can improve functional activities but time factors
can prevent it.” “My approach is that in general there isn’t too much information that
should be withheld. Information that is unusable can be discarded” S4 added the valuable
idea of reading other inputs besides the verbal discourse: “The variable is not whether
you should say something or not but how you deliver it and position it.” S4 also spoke
not only of how one receives input from stimulus sources but also how the information
can be expressed: “People should be treated honestly. If you need to tell someone they
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are going to lose their job, should you hold back or a lie? Or do you confront it head on
and say what is going to happen.” Sometimes information can be received differently
than intended: “I don’t think you can do an annual performance review without
somebody getting thin skinned about something. Sometimes I’d try to pick an analogy to
get a point across and find the analogy was taken wrong.”
Positive feedback can help to keep the system running on track, as expressed by
S5 and S7. S5: “Positive feedback from the end-user encourages me to continue.” S7:
“Feedback came in the form of financial backing and worker responses. I was getting all
the financial guidance but the interactions company-wide looked like a minor miracle.
These developments caused me to continue the apparently appropriate processes.”
Feedback was also noted as an intangible feeling as illustrated by S4: “Feeling
bad about having to force people to work hard sometimes caused me to react. How can I
preserve bandwidth for when they will have to work even harder? This can cause me to
hold back and sometimes lose time.”
S8 elaborated on how a complete process of feedback developed in his group:
Generally, people who had been on the project for a long time and had a good feel
for the product and what customers would like to see and what would be good
development practices who presented the most valuable feedback. That group got
together and came up with a list of ideas that they propose about innovative things
that we could do with the current products. In some cases they were adding new
functionality in other cases they were branching out into new areas for the
software. And then we did an analysis of those ideas with elevator pitches which
were 5 or 10 minute pitches of why their ideas were good. And then the group
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voted and ranked the 15 ideas from 1 to 15. Interestingly enough there was quite a
bit of agreement for the top five ideas. The next step is to drill down on those and
see what a development plan would look light if we actually went ahead with one
of those ideas. (S8)
Perturbations at the Edge of Chaos
Perturbations (as known in thermodynamics) or stimuli (as known in organization
parlance) act as external agents that influence the behavior of organizations. When
perturbations were not sufficiently dampened through adequate response mechanisms, the
organization tended to move into a chaotic realm of activities. Table 6 and table 7 of
chapter 4 listed various internal and external perturbations, as described by the
participants, which influenced an organization’s dynamic flow into the realm of chaos.
Sometimes company leaders can see the pending chaos but could not react because of
company restraints in the form of rules and policies. For example, S7 knew his
company’s activities were contributing to future detriments but could not respond
because of company constraints: “I knew that the slightest downturn in revenue could
lead to serious trouble but the company continued to hire people and build inventories.”
In natural systems, perturbations are routinely absorbed by the system leaving no
memory of the system disturbing incident. For example, a Bernard cell will not form if
the heat source is removed before the onset of turbulence (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1984)
(see Appendix C). In S7’s case, the company leaders relied upon bank funding to absorb
irregular funding needs but when the resources were not available the company could no
longer absorb the deregulating need for funding. As S7 states the following:
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We have a credit line with the bank and basically the credit line funds the
company’s operations. During certain times of the year we’re into the bank for a
lot of money. Basically we act as a bank for our customers. Our customers are a
lot of mom and pop stores. Management’s attitude was well we will just borrow
more money. The bank loves us and we’re a profitable company so the bank will
lend us more money. When the bad economy hit the bank really tightened the
screws. It was like a perfect storm everything kind of went wrong. In my role, I
basically spent a year living here, working with management, going over tons of
numbers, working with inventory controls. (S7)
Other participants had similar experiences: S1: “Funding became more of a
problem.” S6 described the undamped perturbation and a lack of adequate contingency
responses: “We use best practices to avert failure but contingency responses are finite.”
Sometimes a lack of information flow created conditions for chaos.
External influences in the form of salespeople can become instrumental in
pushing a company into chaos. Pushy salespeople can push a new system onto a company
structure that was not ready to accommodate the change. S1: “The company bought the
system pushed by the salesperson.” S7: “We have an ERP because the salesperson
convinced the CEO that we needed it.”
Natural Systems
Theoretically, as complexity increases, organizations move away from operating
as rational systems toward open natural systems (Scott & Davis, 2008). Rational systems
are typically run by systems too tightly coupled, which may reduce the organization’s
ability to react as a dynamic complex system requires (2008). The two ends of
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organizational structure are rational and natural; companies will operate somewhere
within that spectrum (2008). Historically, during the time of Taylorism and scientific
management for example, the industrial era needed rational tightly coupled systems to
run efficiently. Today’s turbulent competitive environment requires loosely coupled
systems to run efficiently. The following excerpts show today’s trend of moving toward
complexity and natural systems.
S3’s viewpoint was consistent with others who worked for very large companies.
His company tended to be a rationally driven organization. “IS projects follow a very
well defined methodology, such as creating some new functionality or capability when
we worked together with the IS Group. There’s a higher level executive committee that
must approve the projects before we can get started on it. Assigning a leader is part of the
proposal of a project.”
Some manages are more dictatorial and others are more collaborative. S3 sees
himself as more collaborative and finds that complexities arise when a large company
tries to operate on a natural level. “Operating on a natural level is complicated when
thinking in terms of a global organization.” S4 similarly worked for a large company.
S4’s company has a conventional hierarchy but recently has flattened because of the
economic conditions. S4 has indicated that his leadership style is transactional. This style
seems to have influenced his way of viewing his company as hierarchical and rational.
“The organization is not a democracy but needs a leadership structure.” Even though the
company needs to operate as a rational structure at a high level, S4 points out the small
percent in which the company may operate as a natural structure: “A handful of the
environment could operate in a chaotic environment (creativity, free thinking), maybe
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5%. Many people are sheep however and need to be led.” He went on to stress the need
for rationalism at a leadership level but tends toward a natural structure by giving his
people autonomy in deciding how to carry out the tasks:
Outline needs to be provided by a leader. Vision needs to be offered by a leader.
Tell the people what needs to be done or the problem that needs to be solved, I tell
them my point of view of how to do it but then allow them to find their own way.
I welcome any alternate ways. (S4)
S4 generally operates very formally and has many contingency plans. Even with
S4’s strong proclamation of rationalism, he still described his need to operate outside of
normal process. S4 gave a clear description of operating at the edge of chaos:
One occasion, there was no time to stop a plan. I could not envision the end. I
developed very finite milestones into very small steps. It was a matter of
progressive evolution through the mess to the point to where it became clear again
that you can get back onto a groove. You have a certain finite capacity to handle
so many things at one time. When you get to that chaotic or crises stage, you find
a way to drop everything else that is not germane at the moment; this allows you
to channel all your energy into the moment until you clear through it; you can
then broaden your bandwidth again to take on the multitude of things you
normally do. (S4)
S4 continued his description of operating outside of norms: “If you need something you
can get it. If the hierarchy is stopping you, you’re not being creative enough. It can slow
you down but I don’t think it has prevented me in any respect.”
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S5 like others in the interview was part of a large global organization. “Our
company has a traditional hierarchy structure with many layers to the structure. We have
very formal structure and formal procedures. We have formal training to make sure
formalities are followed.” However, as others in this study who believed that their
company ran according to strict rules, S5 elaborated on a natural process consistent with
operations at the edge of chaos: “And once the project is running a project controls itself
and would be difficult to stop. People would become dedicated to the project not to the
management.” S5 spoke further about management’s oversight of daily operations:
“Management does not interfere in day to day decisions. Very little intervention if the
project is moving as expected.”
S6 recognized that although the company policies are strict, the people still usurp
leeway: “Company policy needs to be relatively strict. People will still follow their own
instincts and it’s up to the company to determine how strict they want to be with
enforcing the policy.” An example of social norms versus formal policy arises when
considering the rule, no surfing the Web:
But we know people are doing it all day long, checking bank accounts, going on
EBay. We had a fantastic example of that turn Michael Jackson’s funeral. The
company network came to its knees. We sent an emergency broadcast e-mail
reminding everyone that they’re not supposed to be on the Internet for personal
reasons. (S6)
According to S8, the large size of his company required a rational structure,
“There are times when we need to formalize and we sit down and review what needs to
be done. He then described how parts of the company system circumvented the
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formalities of the rational structure. “Then there are other times where we create a to-do
list of things that need attention such as a list bugs that we’re tracking; here people work
on it on their own schedule.” S8 thought that it was important for people to communicate
freely with little or no inhabitations. “Companies should allow people to do their own
thing for communications.”
The company S8 works for has created the conditions for his group to innovate by
giving the group loose completion schedules. “I actually have a list of when things should
be done but we don’t actually figure out that this should take a week or that it should take
two weeks.” S8 finds that his group will work more intently on a project if they know
there is a demand for their work. “I think it depends on how many people are depending
on us to get the work done.” If S8 knows others in the company are waiting for them to
complete the project, this is similar to moving toward the edge of chaos. If the project is
holding up other projects in the company preventing the company from moving ahead, a
sense of crisis will develop creating a condition for innovation and creativity. S8 is
sometimes forced to project a timeline because of other less consequential reasons. “If
there is actually an end date or if I’m working on a project where there are other
managers who like to micro-manage and they want to know how long projects should
take then I have to figure these things out.” S8 sometimes avoids formalities because of
the possibility of added pressure from upper management. “We avoid red tape;
sometimes upper management will find out what we’re doing then they will try to ship it
before we know which end is up.” S8 allows his group to function as a natural structure
through rational means by leaving pat of his group’s time unscheduled. “Sometimes we
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don’t schedule all the workers time. We actually give people 15% of their time to do
things that is not on the radar.”
S8 explained what could happen when trying to be too accommodating:
We had a guy that tried to run everything by consensus. This didn’t work because
everyone had their own opinion of how they wanted things done; their opinions of
course were selfish. So we got rid of that guy and brought in a guy who was a
little bit more geared toward telling people what they had to do. S8’s immediate
supervisor seems to have total recall of everything. If they didn’t have this guy
they probably wouldn’t be able to manage that way. (S8)
S8 describes the natural system construct of allowing workers more autonomy:
The director of our part of the organization is trying to figure out how to manage
innovation and actually make it happen. So we put together a team of innovators
who were intended to be self managing and self motivating.
Management is trying to push the innovation but innovation is hard to mandate
because innovation cannot be forced. So they’d let people focus on the project and
not be managed and then see how it turned out. Innovation cannot happen through
brute force. I give the team member task that needs to be done but it’s up to that
member to innovate his way through it We tell people what to do not have to do
it. (S8)
Operating at the Edge of Chaos
When a system becomes chaotic, the opportunity for creativity and innovation
becomes prevalent. “Like all complex systems in the universe, [a chaotic system] has a
tendency to produce stability and to survive” (Lewin, 1992, p. 116). The goal of the
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system is to survive and progress. Therefore, the quest for stability becomes a priority. In
the case of a social system like an organization, when experiencing chaos, people will
begin to perform tasks outside of normal activities. People will react with behaviors
influenced by intuition and instinct. In an effort to reestablish stability and reduce
uncertainty people will find themselves in a type of automatic mode of operations not
driven by formal processes. The following are excerpts from the participants that support
this theory.
S3 finds a distinction between following formal processes and allowing a natural
flow of activities to emerge when conditions require such natural processes to occur.
I think of times when I run in a state of automatic mode as a state of
unconscientiously competent. I have been through the chaos of reorganizations
numerous times during my career and know what to expect, how to effectively
manage staff through the change, and when something needs to be escalated or
simply allowed to naturally run its course. (S3)
When faced with a large problem S4 relied on instinct rather than formal planning and
began breaking down the resolution to the current problem into small steps in an effort to
avert the crisis. The activities, as described by S4, provide a description of moving
toward a natural system paradigm, which could culminate at the edge of chaos:
In general, the bigger, more involved the problem is, the more planning is
required. Planning is not automatic however; instinct rather becomes conscious
intentions. By breaking down the big scope into smaller elements, the behavior
becomes more ‘automatic’ and less scripted. (S4)
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When confronted with the duress of chaos, S5 worked to create a new technique for
tracking progress, which solved the current crisis and left the company with a more
efficient operation.
System testing came to a crawl because of a bottleneck situation with the QA
group, which was overloaded with a test case to review. Together with my
counter-part, we developed a visual tracking board where each test case was
represented by a post-it note and each stage of the testing (from test case writing
to execution to (if applicable) problem resolution to review to (if applicable)
needing review follow-up. (S7)
This simple visual helped to create transparency for the work-load and greatly
contributed to solving the problem.
S6 found that formal plans will go only so far when dealing with cultural issues:
When working with an organization with very deep/strong cultural
history/influence, the initial problem-solving plan will only work so far (even
when the cultural influence is already considered up front). These are the periods
where most personnel will either fall-back or get trapped into the same old
cultural rhythm again and slow down the formal change processes.
It is in my humble opinion that a cultural shift will have to happen first (or in
parallel) as a natural process to ensure the overall success of the formal
process/plan. Major business process changes will not happen automatically
without a supportive cultural/work ethics. (S6)
S7 had the most comprehensive narrative as he described his reaction to a
company crisis. S7 stated:
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In my role, I basically spent a year living here, working with management, going
over tons of numbers, working with inventory controls. We had reduction in
force, reduced pay. No one’s gotten a raise since 2007. We tried to get inventory
down and reduced pays for employees. (S7)
S7 began to innovate and attack the problem from several angles. This narrative is a clear
view of operations at the edge of chaos. S7’s activities were reflexive unplanned:
I was, spending hours on the phone with customers trying to collect money, made
deals with them. There was an attack at many levels. Two years ago I would’ve
put the customer in collections for not paying but I can’t put our whole account
base in for collections. I call China and told them look, you have to work with us,
we do millions of dollars of business with you, you’ve seen over the last years we
pay you one time, you’re going to get your money you just need to work with us.
For the most part these vendors worked with us; it was a lot of push and pull back
and forth. The difficult thing is, usually when you go into negotiations with these
guys you are working for a better pricing or more terms the companies leverage is
that we’re going to buy more from you but now we’re in an opposite mode, we
were in cutting mode and were going to buy a less from them which made
negotiations very difficult. I was literally scraping for every $1000 that I could
because it all added up and it all mattered. It got really bad but no one put us in
for collection the bank didn’t pull our loan and we worked with our customers.
We had reductions in core space. I went through every expense line item. I was
told that we can’t spend $100,000 on this ad campaign. You cannot take this trip
to a convention. I basically had to speak to every manager about every line
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expense line item and say no, no, no, no, no, no. Sometimes I had to say yes.
Like, I really have to take this trip. I was getting emails all day asking for example
can I spend $150 on some postcards to promote a sale. Every dollar added up. In
2008 when things started to get really bad the fourth quarter of ’08, the CEO
brought in some consultant to help us try to figure out how to reduce expenses
and the paid this consultant $200,000, it was just insane. Then he wanted to bring
the guy back in January and the board of directors told him no. That was fantastic.
(S7)
New Dissipative Structure
As people working for an organization that is operating near chaos, scramble to
achieve order; a new dissipative structure may emerge out of the chaos (Lewin, 2007).
Usually the system operates at a higher order of complexity needing additional resources
(Nicolis & Prigogine, 1977). The following excerpts indicate a fit with the theory of the
formation of a new dissipative structure because of the emergence out of a crisis.
S2: “The new system brought us into regulatory compliance with improved
communications, cooperation, and trust.
S3: “The merger caused a company to hire consultants and review processes of
the entire company. As a result many processes were improved.”
S4: “Company was running scattered in vintage systems (7 different platforms
have been consolidated).” “The warehouse management system was consolidated down
from 9 platforms to 1 system.” “The goal was to consolidate business processes and
duplication of effort, the SAP System was the enabler.” “Integration that would not have
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been possible before is now enabled. All departments are now connected in real time with
the finance department.”
S5: “We consolidated the disparate IT systems and now have a consolidated
system”
S6: “Our reporting structure is now shifted toward our sales effort, which is now
more efficient.”
S7: “When things do a turnaround we should be a lot more profitable. We should
be more flexible with our inventory and buying decisions and things like that. I created
and implemented the first general ledger information system.” “We used to have to write
a memo before going to the bathroom and no one bothered coming up with any ideas
because it would be rare to hear anything back about your idea. Now things are very
different.”
And now looking back on the balance sheets to see what was done; it is a
tremendous sense of accomplishment. Before, we were afraid that the bank was
going to come and close our loan and now we’re out of those woods, which is an
uplifting feeling. (S7)
“There have also been structural changes to the company. The financial reporting
structure has changed. How the Retail Stores interact with the parent organization has
changed.”
Bifurcations
The third and final research question asked if teleological influences could drive
bifurcation solutions. A bifurcation occurred each time a participant had to make a
decision that would help the company emerge from an inhibiting crisis. According to
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Nicolas and Prigogine (1989) a bifurcation is a source for innovation because bifurcations
offer symmetry breaking solutions and symmetry breaking is a prerequisite for
information flow (See Appendix B for an explanation of bifurcation analysis). For
example, S2 stepped in and hired a vender to allay disagreements among her team: “I had
to override the committee and choose the vender.” S7 made a decision to call China to
negotiate a new payment structure,
I called China and told them look, you have to work with us, we do millions of
dollars of business with you, you’ve seen over the last years we pay you one time,
you’re going to get your money you just need to work with us. (S7)
In chaos theory, a bifurcation occurs at mathematically specified times and chaos
emerges at specified times (Gleick, 2008). Although analysts run into difficulties when
trying to predict future events involving social systems like organizations but bifurcations
can be anticipated when they approach. A manager is at a bifurcation point whenever the
need to make a decision is forced upon him or her. In chaos theory, small initial
conditions can have large outcome as time progresses (2008). Managers receive inputs
from the competitive environment. These inputs can be view as perturbations, which can
sometime be strong enough to alter the system or organization when the perturbation
cannot be dampened by the system contingency responses.
Tautologies
When managers make decisions in response to the environmental feedback, the
consequent of the decisions is interpreted as a feedback to the environment. Figure 6
shows a model of this feedback configuration. For example, when S6’s company decided
to reduce excess capacity by closing low-output locations, the company was part of the
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evolutionary process of weeding out organizations not fit to continue competition. The
effect on S6’s company is that the environmental feedback notifies the company that
more capacity is needed for the locations still in operation. When S7 decided to allow a
customer more time to pay the receivables, the environment responded by enabling the
business to continue instead of dissolving the relationship. As the company makes
decisions that affect the environment, the environment feeds information back to the
organization. This tautology forms a coevolution of the subsystem and its suprasystem of
which the subsystem is a part.
This study consisted of an examination of such tautologies at two levels. Level 1
was an examination of organizational actors as influenced by subsystems of subworkers
and other internal influencing events. Level 2 was an examination of the organizational
leader as the subsystem and the emerging environment as the suprasystem. The level 1
and level 2 tautologies are not mutually exclusive or each other. Although interactions
form between the entities as described, interactive influences also exist in an open system
process among all agents of all systems and subsystems inside and outside of formal
boundaries thus forming the complex dynamisms of which was an objective for analysis
of this present study.
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Macro developments
Emerging outcomes
Feedback
(External
perturbations)
Decisions
Feedback
(External
perturbations)
Perturbations from within the
organization
Stimuli from internal feedback processes
Other stimuli
Figure 5. Model of Universal Order Tautology
Guiding Forces - Attractors
As subsystems can be viewed as driving the emergence of the macro entity, the
opposite also can be considered. The suprasystem can be viewed as pulling or guiding the
subsystems to perform the requisite tasks to create the needed environment for the
suprasystem to exist. This guiding force sets the boundaries for the operations of the
subsystems by guiding them into attractors. Attractors, as explained in chapter 1 are
forces charged with drawing an entity toward the point of attraction. As an example, S7
was in an attractor when he found himself in an automatic mode trying to pull his
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company out of a crisis. The reader of this paper is in an attractor. You are reading this
paper because of an attraction for knowledge of the source of creativity, which is
ultimately the source of life.
Free Will versus Boundaries
Free will and determinism are still debated today in the study of human behavior
(Wegner, 2002; Olson, 2005); Lipet, Freeman, & Sutherland, 1999). If organization
leadership is driven by free will, this study shows evidence that the free will is only free
within the boundaries set by the complex interactions described in complexity theory. For
example, when S8 said that his group came up with a new plan, S8 did not have the free
will to make any plan. If considerations are taken to the absurd, S8’s plan could have
included holding a cake sale. The new plan was, in reality, bounded by the demands
made by the open environment. The open environment at the group level includes any
input or expected future input from other interactive groups, departments, supervisors,
and entities existing in the competitive environment. S8 for example, knew of the
competition’s products with which his group needed to compete. He also knew the
expectations of his supervisors. In essence, the activities of the environment caused or
drew out the decision that S8 needed to make. This construct of interactions drawing out
decisions is viewed as a teleological purpose and answers question three of the research
questions. Managers make decisions with the expectations of the perceived consequences
of the decision. The consequences are delivered as cybernetic feedback loops that keep
the goals and objectives on track. As projects take root, they seem to take on a type of life
force that will keep the project going even in the absence of a leader, as S5 points out,
“And once the project is running a project controls itself and would be difficult to stop.”
172
Such dynamics can be viewed as universal order. As subsystems feedback information to
the suprasystem the suprasystem feeds back information to the subsystems in a
tautological fashion as shown in figure 4.
Implications
This present research showed that tautological feedback between a company and
the competitive environment form a link in which information flow creates a dynamic
complex relationship that evolves over time and keeps projects running through
teleological forces. When considering thermodynamics, molecules can interact to form a
Bénard cell. When the cells form, the molecules do not know that they are forming a
macro structure as part of a whirlpool. The molecules only know the information that is
passed between them on an angstrom level. When a whirlpool begins to form, the
whirlpool begins to inform the molecules as to how they should react to keep the
whirlpool flowing. Similarly, when managers interact with fellow workers within their
company, they are generally unaware of the larger macro development that manifests as a
segment of the competitive environment. Managers can be unaware that the
environmental inputs are driving their decisions.
Phenomenological Reductionism
Many of the precepts drawn in the study arose from the use of Husserl’s (1971)
teaching on phenomenological reductionism. Precepts of this study may leave the reader
with new horizons of thoughts on influential causation of decisions and actions. The ageold argument between free will and determinism was a tacit part of this study. Findings of
the study support an interactive dynamism between the two. Free will seems to serve a
part but is inhibited by strong boundaries set in place and driven by external influences.
173
Einstein complained earnestly during the development of quantum physics about
the superposition of atomic particles that decide on their own volition the position and
velocity of the particle. The particle made its decision only at the point of detection by an
outside observer (Einstein, Podolsky, & Rosen, 1935). Even if subatomic particles do get
to decide their own fate, any decision would be strongly bounded by the particles’ known
probabilities. In quantum physics, all particulate activities are governed by the
probabilities of occurrence. As shown in this study, organizations fit the model of natural
systems of which quantum physics offers a fundamental basis. As quantum particles are
bounded by the probability of an event occurring, the decisions and actions of an
organizational leader are bounded by the probability of any action taking place. Any
experience of free will is only free within governed boundaries.
Intuition and Universal Order
Day (2000) stressed the importance of intuition when defining evident but not yet
obvious understandings, “We are reminded that it will take energy, intuition, and
informed judgments to extract useful lessons.” The findings of this study conclude with
the intuitive notion of a universal order as a driver for organizational change. Universal
order is examined further in the tautology section.
Prevalent accounts of quantum physics and quantum entanglement view particles
as possessing an attribute with similarities to consciousness. Clegg (2006) quotes
Einstein’s opposition to quantum mechanics, “I find the idea quite intolerable that an
electro exposed to radiation should choose of its own free will, not only its moment to
jump off, but also its direction” (p. 20). The notion of molecular or atomic particles
possessing attributes, similar to feelings as described by humans, is a disputed and thus
174
far improvable phenomenon, but nevertheless surmised in this dissertation as possible
and required for maintaining universal order. Likewise, organizations also have
anthropomorphic qualities, as expressed by Day et al. (2000), “Just as firms must learn,
they should also try to forget. Some degree of corporate amnesia is desirable since the
past can be misleading when facing a new world” (p. 37).
Emergence of Macro Entities
As the macro manifestations of each system become evident and are considered in
sequence beginning with molecular systems, complexity becomes apparent as each
subsystem forms part of a suprasystem with each subsystem forming part of a macro
manifestation of which the subsystem have no notion. As the prior example of the
formation of Bénard cells by water molecules that seem to know nothing of the macro
whirlpool formed at a macro level. Organizations likewise form macro entities of which
the organizations (or agents of the organization) in general are unaware. These macro
entities may emerge as sectors of competitors in the open competitive environment.
Knowledge of these theoretical aspects of organization formation and operation
can allow organizational theorist and organizational leaders gain a more complete
understanding of organization development, maintenance, and change dynamics from a
holistic perspective. Salkind (2003) considered the less structured holistic perspectives a
strength rather than studying a system by considering the sum of the system’s
components. The strength of complexity theory becomes apparent when trying to analyze
a complex dynamic system such as an organization.
175
Implications to Leadership
The implications of this study that relate to leadership were formed by
considering three leadership factors. As the essence of the bifurcation change
phenomenon unfolded, leadership emerged as a central factor for driving organizational
changes: (a) Leadership is the most salient contributor to change, (b) leadership becomes
a central beacon for communication and cultural interactions, and (c) leadership is central
in leading companies out of chaos and into the creation of new dissipative structures.
These three factors imply that leadership needed for the emergence from chaos
phenomenon, and the creation of new innovative structures suggest the need for a new
understanding of change phenomenon by organizational leaders. As this study is only that
nascence of change theory that relates to natural science and in particular,
thermodynamics, this study provides a firm foundation for additional research with
complexity theory as a guideline for organizations seen as complex dynamic adaptive
systems.
The findings of this study are more applicable for leaders leading companies in
turbulent fast changing industries. An understanding of the dynamic interactions
however, can be beneficial to anyone involved in any sector of the global environment
because understanding the evolution of companies in the global economy from a
complexity standpoint can help organizational leaders by letting them understand that
company failure and company nascence are products of a dynamic adaptive system and
not predictable by reductionist means.
176
Recommendation
This study provides a comprehensive description of autopoietic systems and
offers an understanding of the concepts as displayed in the conceptual model of figure 6.
The phenomenon of innovation emerging from the edge of chaos could offer contributive
insight if understood by organizational leaders who lead in today’s turbulent global
economy. Three segments of recommendations stem from this study. The first segment of
recommendation focuses on the awareness, understanding, and preparations of
organizational leaders for managing companies operating on the verge of chaos.
Knowledge of the applications of complexity theory can help organizational leaders
develop a better understanding of the concepts of change theories from a more holistic
perspective which, as explained above, may augment the leader’s decision-making
capacity.
The second segment of recommendations considers ideas for future research.
Further research involving complexity theory constructs can help increase the knowledge
base and response techniques for companies finding themselves in trouble and may reveal
way of avoiding trouble. For example, Ted Case of the University of California, while
examining ecosystems, found that “interaction among the species in the community
create ‘an invisible protective network’ that tended to repel potential invaders” (Lewin,
1992, p. 123). This interaction between species should be examined with respect to global
competitors from a complexity theory standpoint to see if such relations exist and how
the relations could benefit organizational leaders.
This study evaluated the interactions between the organizational leader and
internal influences such as interactions and communication with associates and other
177
workers and the study looked at the interactions between the organizational leader and
the competitive environment. Further studies may evaluate the interactions at other levels
such as between departments or teams.
The third segment of recommendations is that developers of business curricula
consider the inclusion of complexity theory perspectives as part of a rounded repertoire
of coursework for business students. As found by many theorists (Lewin, 1992; Scott &
Davis, 2007; Prigogine & Stengers, 1984), reductionist approaches to systems are
inadequate. The study of systems requires the paradigm shift of study techniques to a
general systems and complexity theory approach.
Summary
The foremost goal of this study was to examine organizational development
through change dynamics as expressed through complex dynamic systems. An objective
of the study was to produce a rich and thick description of the organizational change
phenomenon from a complexity theory perspective modeled by autopoietic systems. The
contents chapter 5 portrayed the essence of the research by mapping the chapter 4
findings into useful knowledge that could augment the decision-making capabilities of
organizational leaders. Chapter 5 provides evidence that natural systems can form
analogies with social systems and in particular organizations. This chapter was divided
into three parts: (a) a restatement of the problem and purpose of the study, (b) a summary
of the research procedures, (c) interpretations of the chapter 4 findings, (c) a brief
summary of the findings, (d) implications, and (e) recommendations. This study showed
that organizations fit the behavior traits of organic systems (autopoietic). If researchers
can continue this paradigm of investigation, much can be learned from by observing
178
natural systems. Understanding change modeled by autopoietic systems from a
complexity theory vantage point can conceivably open an unforeseeable horizon of
organizational development.
179
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APPENDIX A: CELLULAR AUTOMATA
Figure A1. Cellular Automata Rule 110.
Retrieved January 25from http://mathworld.wolfram.com
Figure A2.Rule 110 Carried out to over a million iterations.
Retrieved January 25, from http://images.google.com
196
APPENDIX B: BIFURCATION ANALYSIS
Logistic Difference Equation Xn = rx(1 - x); originally published by Pierre
François Verhulst in 1838 as a differential equation. dN/dt = fN(1 - N/K) where N(t) was
the population at time t and K is the maximum population able to be supported. Figure A1
and Figure A2 are original creations using Microsoft Excel.
Parameters
R= 3.5
x= 0.4
Figure B1. Graph of Logistic Difference Equation for Specified Parameters.
Note. This diagram illustrates four stable states that the logistic difference
equation reaches when r=3.2 and x begins with .37. The data shows that repeating values
are reached at The spreadsheet location D33 at which point the values .874997264,
.382819683, .826940707, and .50088421 repeat indefinitely (column D). Figure A1 and
A2 are original creations by the researcher using Microsoft Excel.
197
As can be seen below, the plot becomes random when the r parameter is
increased by 1/10 and there are no repeating values (column C).
Parameters
R= 3.6
X= 0.4
Figure B2. Graph of Logistic Difference Equation for Specified Parameters.
198
Figure B3. Bifurcation Diagram.
Bifurcation diagram retrieved June 8, 2009 from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bifurcation_diagram
As explained by Tufillaro, Abbott, and Reilly (1992), nonlinear equations are not
additive and thus can be difficult to solve. Solution to nonlinear equations often involves
patterns of solutions. To find such patterns, analysts use a process called iteration on a
system of equations where results feed back into the original equation producing another
result. For example the logistics difference equation as used to produce the above
diagram uses the equation x1 = x + rx (1 —x). The results of the equation feed back into
the equation producing another solution. This process allows mathematicians to explore
the behavior of the nonlinear systems.
199
When x is set at 0.5000, the values of r are allowed to range between 1.5 and 3.0,
and the results are plotted on the y axis; the peculiar pattern characteristic of bifurcations
(the geometrical splitting of the solution) to chaos emerges. These splits occur quite
suddenly at certain values of r (Barton, 1994. P.6). The Figure 1 representing
bifurcations, plots solutions after the solution becomes stable (150 iterations for each
value of r). Figure 1 is a two-dimensional map of a time series. Plotted numbers represent
the repetitive pattern for each value of r.
200
180 Iteration with r equal to 3.6
r=3.6
0.4
0.864
0.4230144
0.878663583
0.383810008
0.851399589
0.455465984
0.892860197
0.344379116
0.812815706
0.547726803
0.891799748
0.347374647
0.816139805
0.540200244
0.894182185
0.340633457
0.808568298
0.557228179
0.888209768
0.357455434
0.826851768
0.515404517
0.899145723
0.32645769
0.79157904
0.593933988
0.868235061
0.411850582
0.872026849
0.401745686
0.865245923
0.419743496
0.876812017
0.388845735
0.855521026
0.444977281
0.889101001
0.354961479
0.824269778
0.521456799
0.898342581
0.328763478
0.794440993
0.587896206
0.872187325
0.401315743
0.864941103
0.42054477
0.877272719
0.387595064
0.854514469
0.447550168
0.890096455
0.352169122
0.821325713
0.528299229
0.897116953
0.332273252
0.798723857
0.578750606
0.877674031
0.386504374
0.853627474
0.449811394
0.890931974
0.349819891
0.818805365
0.534107301
0.895812091
0.335998038
0.803172083
0.569112077
0.882804675
0.372458091
0.841439021
0.480309822
0.898604269
0.328012693
0.793513318
0.589859756
0.870930808
0.404677209
0.867288836
0.414356079
0.873594428
0.397537933
0.862205489
0.42770586
0.881184807
0.376913316
0.845458805
0.47036957
0.896839335
0.333066751
0.799679845
0.576691166
0.878826474
0.383365808
0.851027275
0.456407467
0.893158888
0.34353392
0.811866117
0.54986229
0.891049507
0.349489019
0.8184472
0.534928971
0.895607881
0.336579855
0.803857883
0.567613393
0.883542345
0.370422972
0.839555257
0.484928018
0.899182207
0.326352835
0.791447984
0.594209061
0.86804875
0.412344424
0.8723394
0.400908137
0.86465089
0.421307023
0.877706695
0.386415548
0.853554861
0.449996258
0.890998653
0.349632192
0.818602281
0.534573312
0.89569687
0.336326354
0.803559375
0.568266141
0.883223042
0.371304359
0.840374755
0.482922093
0.898950042
0.327019909
0.792280398
0.592459809
0.869224261
0.409224401
0.870335246
0.406266499
0.868370511
0.4114914
0.87179842
0.402357366
0.865677298
0.41860841
0.876151473
0.39063625
0.856942453
0.441331507
0.887608829
0.359133826
0.828564195
0.51136405
0.89953509
0.325338162
0.790175673
0.596873084
0.86621618
0.417188553
0.875312152
0.39290684
0.858711798
0.436773045
0.885608468
0.364701995
0.834100019
0.498157837
0.899987783
0.324035184
201
180 Iteration with r equal to 3.5
r=3.5
0.4
0.84
0.4704
0.87193344
0.390829307
0.833286159
0.486221177
0.874335504
0.384555256
0.828353789
0.497643262
0.87498056
0.382863528
0.826976664
0.500801914
0.874997749
0.382818408
0.826939661
0.500886604
0.874997249
0.382819722
0.826940739
0.500884137
0.874997264
0.382819682
0.826940706
0.500884213
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
0.826940707
0.50088421
0.874997264
0.382819683
202
APPENDIX C: CONSTRUCTION OF BÉNARD CELLS
Figure C1. Bénard Cells.
Figure 3 shows the convection of Bénard Cells with a volume of liquid contained
between two conducting steel plates. The direction of rotation of any two cells that are
adjacent to one another will flow in opposite rotational directions. According to
Prigogine (Nicolis & Prigogine, 1977), molecular chaos exists just before an external
energy source (the finger) increases the heat in the lower plate. The finger communicates
energy into the system thus affecting the behavior of the liquid molecules. The applied
external constraint can alter the system’s equilibrium. When the applied energy flux
exceeds the system’s ability to absorb or dampen the perturbation, thermal energy will
conduct toward the upper plate. As the perturbation continues to what Prigogine call farfrom-equilibrium, the energy conduction will undergo a phase shift at some thermo
critical temperature at which point energy conduction transforms to a bulk flow of liquid
203
molecules known as convection. The experiment demonstrates the phenomenon of selforganization. Prigogine posits the viewpoint that the liquid convection flow is
deterministic but the direction of the cells which occur at a bifurcation point are
stochastic thus bringing the dichotomies of chance and determinism together. Figure B3
is an original creation by the researcher.
204
APPENDIX D: PARTICIPANT REFERRAL FROM
I recommend the following candidate as a participant for the study titled,
Organizational Change at the Edge of Chaos: A Complexity Theory Perspective of
Autopoietic Systems:
Name:
__________________________________________________
Phone Number:
__________________________________________________
Email Address:
__________________________________________________
The study will be administered by Domenico Susini, a Doctoral learner enrolled at the
University of Phoenix. Participants of this study must be qualified leaders who reside in
Northern New Jersey of the United States. The participant needs to have had decisionmaking authority during a company crisis and must possess experience in either crisis
remedy involving information technology or company failure. Qualifying participants
included corporate leaders who filled manager level to top executive level positions at the
time of their crisis experiences. I am referring this person as candidate participant for this
study for the following reasons:
1. _____________________________________________________________________
2. _____________________________________________________________________
3. _____________________________________________________________________
Name of individual making this referral:
_________________________________________
All names and information will remain confidential.
205
APPENDIX E: INFORMED CONSENT FORM
Dear _______________:
My name is Domenico Susini III and I am a student who is studying at the
University of Phoenix and presently working on a Doctor of Management, in
Organizational Leadership with a Specialization in Information Systems and Technology.
I am conducting a research project entitled “Organizational Change at the Edge of Chaos:
A Complexity Theory Perspective of Autopoietic.” The purpose of this qualitative
phenomenological study is to explore the interchange between environmental factors as
psychologically perceived by subjective organizational leaders and as influenced by the
leader’s decision-making activities causing the development of a new organizational
structure, while responding to triggering crises. An objective of the study will be to
provide possible patterns for recovering from a survival-threatening crisis. Processes of
the phenomenological study will employ recorded interviews using open-ended questions
offered to an appropriate number of organizational leaders.
Your participation will require one-on-one tape recorded interviews via telephone
conversations with an expected interview time of 40 minutes. Interviews can be broken
into three sessions. Your participation in this study is voluntary and if you choose, you
may withdraw from the study at any time with no penalty.
If the research results become published, your answers will remain confidential
and your name will not be used. Although participation in this study offers you no direct
benefit per se, probable benefits of this study’s completed results may offer you the
following thematic representations: (a) delimited meanings of clustered themes that may
lead to improve understandings of organizational change processes, (b) improvement in
206
leadership skills, and (c) an understanding in complexity theory constructs may benefit
companies endeavoring to compete in today’s turbulent competitive environment through
applied leadership perspectives that can bring a unique set of efficiencies to a company.
If you have any questions concerning the research study, please e-mail me at
Sincerely,
Domenico Susini III
Sign____________________________________
Date________________________
207
APPENDIX F: INTRODUCTORY LETTER
[Title]
[Name]
[Company]
[Address]
[City, State, ZIP]
[Date]
Re: Doctoral Leadership Study for the University of Phoenix
Dear Sir/Madam:
I am a doctoral learner from the University of Phoenix and am conducting a
leadership study in partial fulfillment of my Doctor of Management Degree in
Organizational Leadership with a Specialization in Information Systems and Technology
and I cordially invite you to become a participant in my study. Your involvement will
require a one-on-one telephone interview covering about 40 minutes of conversation
about your involvement in bringing your company into a new structure. I guarantee
your Anonymity and confidentiality of all subject matter. To fulfill the university’s
requirements to produce a verbatim transcript the interview will be recorded. Upon
completion, the transcript will be sent to you for approval before applying any evaluation
of the provided information. Neither your name nor your company’s name will be
included unless instructed otherwise by you in writing.
To accommodate your time constraints, I can split the interview into multiple
parts as is convenient for you. Your participation will be particularly appreciated and
highly valued. If you agree to participate, please sign and return the attached Letter of
Consent (LCxx.doc). The Letter of Consent is formulated in accordance with high ethical
standards of the university’s policies to protect the research participants’ anonymity.
Please provide convenient date(s) and time(s) for the interview(s). Upon the
return of document LCxx.doc and TIxx.doc, I will promptly provide you with the outline
of the questions that will serve as a guideline for our conversation. Review of the
interview questions will allow you to become familiar with the nature of my study. For
your convenience, I am attaching my dissertation’s topic, the problem statement and the
purpose statement.
I thank you in advance for your supporting my doctoral endeavor by participating
in this leadership study. I am looking forward to working with you in this investigation.
Sincerely,
Domenico Susini III
[Date]
*** Please return the attachments LCxx.doc and TIxx.doc no later than [Date]. ***
208
APPENDIX G: INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
The Research Questions
Three research questions guided this study’s purpose: (a) what environmental
stimuli drove leadership decisions through a bifurcation point to form a new theoretical
dissipative structure? (i.e., what drove the planning process and implementation strategy
for restructuring the company’s information strategies?), (b) what mechanisms drove an
organization’s response to a structure-altering crisis, and (c) can teleological influences
drive bifurcation solutions?
Interview Process
Describe the interview purpose to the interviewee and the intended process for
achieving answers that are in alignment with the study’s research questions.
General Instructions
The core themes this phenomenological enquiry explores drivers of organizational
change by evaluating stimuli to leader’s emotions, adaptation responses by the leader,
trends toward organizational stability (or chaos), and changing mechanisms of
information flow. This objective will be accomplished by asking the subject open-ended
questions that draw out the subject’s experiences and thoughts regarding their feelings
leading up to decisions to implement changes. The initial goal of this research project is
to establish a sense of trust and purpose between the interviewer and the participant.
Initial conversations will try to draw out a narrative involving the history of the
participant’s experience leading up to a chaotic situation and the feelings and
perspectives that led to decisions that would alter the structure of the company hierarchy
or the implementation of an enterprise information system.
209
Rapport Building
1. There are no right or wrong answers to any questions.
2. Do you have any familiarity with university research projects and have you ever
participated in a research study? What are your initial thoughts regarding this study?
3. Considering the notion of change in today’s fast moving competitive environment,
what do you feel gives you the ability to administer appropriate change
requirements?
4. Can you share what types of leadership activities with you have experienced when
participating in crisis situations (e.g. bankruptcy, layoffs, capital acquisitions,
changing the company information systems, mergers and acquisitions).
5. Do you follow a formal leadership style?
Initial Questions
1. What is your understanding that the role of information and feedback has on
organizational viability within the competitive environment, on company general
performance and effectiveness, and on worker’s effectiveness for adaptation and
change?
2. Please give your assessment on the importance of pervasive information flow among
managers, employees, suppliers, and competitors. Do you have any examples where
withholding information was appropriate and helpful to the company?
3. Please describe how free information flow affects the adaptation of individual workers
and the enhancement of organizational performance.
210
4. When you consider the stabilizing role of management and the environment’s
destabilizing demand for change, what do you feel are the consequences of inhibitive
or inadequate information flow?
5. How do you gain employee loyalty?
Questions focusing on work history
1. In terms of traditional hierarchical control how would you characterize the structure of
your organization (i.e., tall hierarchy structure, moderately structured, organic or
non-bureaucratic)?
2. In your view, what would stand out as the most notable similarities that most
organizations face concerning changes?
3. What do you believe are important reasons for organizing (i.e., what are the
objectives)?
4. How would you describe your role with the company and what has been your most
salient impact on the organization?
5. Can you describe areas of substantial change that your company has undergone? What
do you believe has influenced these changes (e.g., market forces, competitive forces,
customer demands, financial position)?
6. Can you give examples of what you feel were the largest challenges your organization
has faced?
7. Can you describe major challenges that you and your colleagues are expected to face in
the future?
211
Questions regarding experiences that led to decisions to act
1. Can you remember your initial thoughts relating to the actions that you were
instrumental in implementing?
2. Were the steps you took formal and planned or were they random with little or no
planning?
3. At that time, what do you believe were the issues that prompted you to take the actions
you employed?
4. What do you believe were the driving reasons for taking action for implementing a
new program in response to the crisis you faced?
5. Can you describe instances when you felt conflicted because your actions did not align
with your beliefs?
6. Can you explain how your personal involvement may have met the goals or
expectations of your organization?
7. Do you feel that your level of involvement differed from your personal expectations?
8. Can you describe your relationships with the people who were involved with your
program?
9. Can you describe whether the relationships that you formed during your crisis turnaround processes were internal or external?
10. Can you describe any change in hierarchical structures among participating
individuals and how did such hierarchical changes affect company effectiveness?
11. Do you recall any instances where issues of hierarchy (red tape) inhibited your
program?
212
12. Can you describe principal modes of information flow? How did participants
communicate? Please describe verbal and non-verbal forms of expressions.
13. Reflecting back on your program implementation, did you ever consider that your
changes could ultimately fail?
14. How long ago did you face the crisis.
14. How would you rate the program’s success today?
15. What factors do you believe contributed to the success or inhibitions of your
program?
16. Have you considered the relationship between employee communication and program
success?
17. Can you talk about your thoughts relating to your perceived level of control while you
were endeavoring to change the organization’s direction.
Details of Experience
1. Did you ever feel that you could not adequately express yourself?
2. Did you find inhibiting factors when trying to communicate your remedies.
3. Did you have any concerns that if you expressed your full intentions things may not go
right?
4. Can you describe examples when you felt that a smoother flow of information could
have enabled a smother implementation of your program?
5. Regarding feedback mechanisms, describe your feelings regarding when feedback
communications were appropriate and when they may not have been appropriate.
6. What were any reactions to your program that may have encouraged your further
participation?
213
7. Can you give examples of instances when you offered positive feedback that was taken
negatively?
8. Were there instances when you decided to withhold information or feedback?
9. Explain your thoughts regarding how an organization should control the information
flow among organizational actors.
10. What are your thoughts on whether companies should control communications among
workers or if organizations should allow communications to grow through natural
emergence?
11. Can you describe situations when you felt that social norms of the organization
should be controlled and nurtured?
12. Have you had instances where you personality encouraged individuals to innovate
without offering any direction.
13. Do you feel that your organization’s culture inhibits efforts of progression or change.
14. Have you run into instances when you discovered conflicts between the expected
goals of your program and the organization’s cultural norms? If so, how did you
address the issue?
15. Describe your perspective between subordinate control and allowing subordinates to
have freedom to respond on their own.
Closing
1. Are there other applicable experiences that you would like to share before we conclude
the interview?
2. Do you have any questions regarding the research process?
214
5. After participating in this study, do you now feel you have expanded your perspective
on organizational change requirements?
3. Will you be available for follow-up questions?
4. Thank you for participating.
215
APPENDIX H: INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
Name_____________________________
Date_______________
Company__________________________
I would like a:
telephone interview
I will be available on
Date 1__________________
Time ________________
Date 2__________________
Time ________________
Date 3__________________
Time ________________
216
APPENDIX I: CATEGORIES OF RELEVENT EXPRESSIONS
Sub-
Category
Expressions
ject
S1
Failure
Lack of functional understanding
Lack of functional documentation for end-user
Lack of alignment between CEO, CFO, and CIO
Business goals developed in a silo
Project not adequately funded
Scope creep
Poor information flow
S2
no expectation of failure, full success
S3
A smaller company acquired a larger one and was
inexperienced in global processes
Too many levels of management (extraordinary number)
S4
Running vintage systems
Acquisitions caused inefficiencies
Inefficiencies cause clumsy responses
Poor economy
Culture not wanting change
217
S5
Cultural differences from merged companies
S6
Present economic conditions
Use best practices to avert failure
Internal audits for all processes avert failure
People involved in the distribution and supply chain activities
are unwilling to change to the ERP processes. For example
Manual approval, some people want to remain involved with
the approval process
S7
Inventories too high
Present economy
Cultural impediments with other countries
Loose spending
Internal culture not wanting to change to the new system
S8
deadline move too far out
Reasons for
Change
S1
Salesperson push
Regulatory compliance issues
Improved communication, cooperation, and trust
218
Improvement in information flow at
Cost issues
Change recognition could take years
Budget constraints
S2
Financially driven
Need to reach the younger generation
Need to compete with larger organizations
Web site was outdated
S3
Redirection by new CEO
Needed improve processes
Not set up to take advantage of growth opportunities (Asia,
Europe)
The company is over centralized (France)
Acquiring company was a small company and after a
acquiring the larger it still ran as a small company would run.
Need a global view and while being tailored locally
The greater distribution of authority autonomy
Remove redundant IT systems
Parts of the company run as separate systems need to be
consolidated
Needed to flatten the hierarchy in France
219
Need to empower the project teams
Allow the project heads to evaluate workers from another
functional department
Coordinate processes instead of the piecemeal used now
There are too many locations because of the mergers
S4
Company was running scattered in vintage systems (7
different platforms have been consolidated)
The warehouse management systems was consolidated down
from 9 platforms to 1 system
The goal was to consolidate business processes and
duplication of effort, the SAP System was the enabler.
Facilities were underutilized.
Acquired companies cause the accumulation of
infrastructures which caused inefficiencies.
Economic troubles had to be dealt with.
They need to get rid of underutilized facilities (Warehouses)
S5
Wanted to consolidate disparate IT systems that existed
because of many acquisitions
S6
Usually begins with a new CEO.
Recently shifted reporting structure toward sales
220
Recent changes involved reducing excess capacity in
personnel.
ERP implementations usually begins with a new CEO
The presence state of the economy is causing organizational
leaders to question why they might need an ERP system.
Saw the implementation of an ERP system as creating a
paradigm shift among its users.
S7
Too much inventory
Too many people
S8
Push for innovation
Using disruptive technologies to keep ownership of the
competitive space
Become more modular
Cut humans out of the equation
Improve the accounting system
Information
flow
S1
People withhold information to hide faults in judgment
Poor flow is reason for failure
S2
Use mostly meeting format with some e-mail
We give people adequate time to absorb information
221
Less formality equals better flow
Flow should be natural but with a constrained culture
S3
Proprietary information needs to be controlled
Acquired Co. had one global network. Taking Co had two
networks one for R&D and one for everyone else. This didn’t
make any sense globally because of the resulting restriction of
information flow.
They’re moving away from the Taking Co model back to the
Acquired Co’s way which had fewer inhibitions on
information flow. The Acquired Co allowed cross country
collaboration on drug testing results.
They have to be careful that information is not being
misinterpreted so will sometimes delay the release of
information
S4
Inefficient information slow will cause the company to be
efficient clumsy and slow to react
After the ERP change, integration that would not have been
possible is now enabled.
All departments are now connected in real time with the
finance department
Want free flowing information to be ubiquitous
222
Email is the efficient office norm.
Do not use much text messaging (doesn’t leave a trail).
We find a lot of benefits with conference calls WebX and
ilink technology (like being in the same room).
Some video conferencing, which is still a little clumsy
because the cameras just don’t cut it, in my mind.
We use Shareware and GroupWare (SharePoint) for
document retention in one repository.
I shun email for document retention because it’s too difficult
to track document versions.
S5
Information flow is absolutely critical.
Disparate systems will greatly inhibit information flow.
One system might show too much inventory; another might
show an adequate amount.
Should be no information flow with competitors unless there
is a joint venture.
Accounting is in the middle of everything; it’s important to
have information flow readily available with accounting to all
departments.
We use face-to-face, e-mail, and video conferencing.
We had a lot of face-to-face when we were working in one
location. When implementing company-wide we used video
223
conferencing extensively.
Effective communication means people understand the
project. And people understand each other’s words.
Information sometimes needs to be withheld.
Sometimes organizational information could be
misinterpreted. For example there may be job eliminations
coming up.
Some information has just not been released yet.
S6
Company information has to be kept every secure
S7
Information flow is pretty open.
When things are good it’s all they want to know is if we’re
making money; when things are bad they analyze everything
to death.
We used to have to write a memo before going to the
bathroom and no one bothered coming up with any ideas
because it would be rare to hear anything back about your
idea. Flow is better now
S8
At the manager level, we have projects that fly below the
radar.
Sometimes oracle acquires a company and that information is
not allowed to be let out.
224
Sometimes decisions are made not to pass information down
because they are working with or against other companies and
they don’t want information being leaked out ahead of time.
Company heads were sometimes upset when the information
would be leaked out to the press.
Oracle sends out a weekly newsletter that informs the
employees about customers that have been won or new
products that the company is launching.
The company worries when workers use Internet applications
like yahoo and instant messaging.
Instant messaging is good if you need a quick response.
Normally we use email for our asynchronous communications
which works well with multiple time zones.
We support software for blogs.
A big popular thing here is wikis for exchanging information.
People include information about how processes work or
design documents and of all sorts of things like that on wikis.
The wikis became so heavily used that we were unable to
access the data at certain times in the afternoon. Each
development team has their own wiki in the farm. It includes
everything from team members to design to process scenes.
The company provides the resources to use the wikis but it is
generally a bottom-up development.
225
Feedback
S2
All feedback is appropriate other than off color remarks
S3
Acquired Co had empowered project teams. Taking Co
disabled project teams.
Acquired Co asked for feedback regarding support personnel
from other departments. Taking Co only required feedback
from the workers direct department head. No project head
from another department ever asked for feedback on the
employee that was on loan to S3’s department. These workers
would sometimes be redirected by their immediate
supervisor. This lack for evaluation feedback reduced S3s
ability to control the work of personnel from other
departments. There was no consequence for doing a poor job
for an outside department.
S4
Feedback communications can be improved but time factors
largely prevent it.
My approach is that in general there isn’t too much
226
information that should be withheld.
The variable is not whether you should say something or not
but how you deliver it and position it.
People need to be treated honestly. For example, if you need
to tell someone you’re going to lose your job, should you
hold back or a lie? Or do you confront it head on and say this
is what is going to happen.
I don’t think you can do an annual performance review
without somebody getting thin skinned about something.
Sometimes I’d try to pick an analogy to get a point across and
find the analogy was taken wrong.
Because I am German and direct, people sometimes take me
wrong.
S6
The presence state of the economy is causing organizational
leaders to question why they might need an ERP system.
S7
S8
Generally it was people who had been on the project for a
long time and had a good feel for the product and what
customers would like to see and what would be good
development practices. That group got together and came up
with a list of ideas that they propose about innovative things
that we could do with the current products. In some cases
227
they were adding new functionality in other cases they were
branching out into new areas for the software. And then we
did an analysis of those ideas with elevator pitches which
were 5 or 10 minute pitches of why their ideas were good.
And then the group voted and ranked the 15 ideas from 1 to
15. Interestingly enough there was quite a bit of agreement
for the top five ideas. The next step will be to drill down on
those and see what a development plan would look light if we
actually went ahead with one of those ideas.
Autonomy
S2
Gives people ownership of the project
Sense of urgency would be inhibited if control is too tight
We give enough autonomy for people to feel ownership
Even with autonomy the committee has the ultimate authority
S3
The number of signatures needed on a given document has
been reduced with the new system.
A lot of bureaucracy can be eliminated during this
reorganization.
Too many people of the hierarchy are involved in decisions.
This creates problems trying to figure out who should decide
228
S4
Autonomy for subordinates is medium.
I probably have a tighter grip on things than other peers might
have.
If you allow the creative freedom to solve the problem the
company can be high performing.
If you don’t set the direction and say what the problem is and
define success, you’re going to flounder.
I don’t provide a lot of autonomy, like, what are you guys
going to do today, I provide a lot of guidance and a lot of
structure saying this is what we have to do.
S5
The hierarchy, or red-tape, sometimes hindered what I wanted
to do.
Implementing software is a very creative experience. We are
either coming up with new business processes or ways of
trying to make processes more effective.
People working under me were experts; information flow was
not encouraged but expected.
S6
In the beginning of the ERP implementation, scope is defined
and guidelines are followed by the implementers. Best
practices are used that best suits the customer.
229
S7
My controller eventually became the SAP guru instead of me.
She is now the SAP expert and I realized that I rely on her
expertise to get information out of the system. I know from a
high level what needs to be done and she knows from the
trenches what needs to be done. It’s kind of the meeting of the
minds. I tell her what my expectations are on numbers I need
to have balanced and she’s the one that makes it happen. I
don’t tell her technically what to do, I tell her from a high
lever what I need and she makes sure it gets done. This works
very well because she knows I count on her expertise and she
knows I am appreciative of how she performs.
The approach I’ve always taken is that I’m not just putting
these numbers together for me I’m putting the numbers
together for others in the organization to make informed
decisions. So I’ve always empowered my people to reach out
into other departments and to interact in to find out what they
actually need as far as accounting information. For example,
the salespeople and asked, if we know what accounts are on
hold we won’t waste time trying to get an order out. Or, if
you tell me what accounts are on hold, maybe I can call them
and get some money out of them for you. So, I count on my
people to interact with others in the company. I think it’s
important for people throughout the company to be able to
230
approach my staff and tell them I need to see this information
in this format so I will be able to make better decisions in my
department.
S8
The director of our part of the organization is trying to figure
out how to manage innovation and actually make it happen.
So we put together a team of innovators who were intended to
be self managing and self motivating.
Management is trying to push innovation but innovation is
hard to mandate because innovation cannot be forced. So
they’d let people focus on the project and not be managed and
then see how it turned out.
Innovation cannot happen through brute force. I give the team
members tasks that needs to be done but it’s up to that
member to innovate his way through it.
We tell people what to do not have to do it.
Culture
S2
Culture needs to be nurtured to be more member-centric
Cultures or nurtured through award and recognition
Cultures are nurtured by upper management setting examples
We talk about the changes and get people to feel part of it
S3
U.S. branch was managed by people in France
France is very hierarchical.
231
French workers receive details from above.
Professionals in France work like manufacturing workers in
the U.S.
U.S. workers feel micro-managed.
Difficult to close redundant locations in France because of
union regulations
They are able to do it now because the government
recognizes the need(courts are allowing).
Language was a problem. France wanted two official
languages. Lack of English inhibited French workers
promotions.
Working from home seems taboo in France but accepted in
the U.S.
S4
The Co. is a benevolent company, you tend to turn a blind eye
to some things that other companies would crack down on. If
that happens too much it will affect overall performance,
S5
After acquisitions people sometimes identified themselves
with the acquired company.
Team leaders assigned from different acquired companies
would sometimes compete instead of working together
232
S7
Have not noticed any cultural disputes.
S8
We have a big time zone difference.
Some foreign locations are not allowed to see all our codes.
People in other countries change jobs way too often.
Sometimes there are too few people doing the work.
Some cultural norms require an architect for development
whereas workers in another country like working without an
architect.
Some foreign locations feel they’re not being and understood
properly.
We have an alliance with a location in South Jersey because
we’re both from New Jersey. This offers added power.
People complain about “why does that location get all the
good work.” or “that location is more connected and gets
better work.”
Challenges
S1
Determining customer’s expectations
Managing the customer’s expectations
S2
Time constraints in testing phase
New design will be accepted
Functionality of changed site
233
S3
Are the right people in the right locations?
Many mergers throughout the history of the two companies.
Redundant processes.
Eliminate duplicate locations.
Disproportionate allocation of resources (Staff).
Mismatch of alignment.
Reposition to take advantage of the growth opportunities.
Diversify to expand into broader healthcare services such as
over-the-counter medications.
Strict unions in France create difficulties for consolidation.
Dealing with bosses from France.
Red-tape will sometimes cause someone from initiating a
project just to avoid the hassles.
S4
Largest challenge is people, especially those that have been
doing the same thing for decades.
S5
Largest challenges are always on the people side.
Because I am German I am more direct and communication
can sometimes be misunderstood.
S6
Recent challenges concern the economy.
Recent changes involved reducing excess capacity in
234
personnel.
Business processes have to adjust to the software. People
changing their processes therefore become reluctant or
apprehensive.
Needed to coach people for buy-in.
S7
Proving to the banks that we have control over our expenses
and inventory.
Company-wide pay cuts had to be explained to the workers.
The CEO was choked up when he had to tell everyone they
were going to take a 13% pay cut. Normal pay rate has now
been reinstated.
By the end of September inventory reductions and back to
school season helped bring us back in line.
The Board of Directors took no paycheck for August and
September. Family owners took a very large cut.
Our bank loan was up for renewal back in November. A bank
would not renew the loan until they saw that we turn things
around. So they checked month to month then finally in July
they decided that the company was turned around and they
renewed the bank loan.
We’re still not where we were three or four years ago but we
are better than we were a year ago.
235
The unit hit a home run with the pseudonym1 project and then
S8
hit another home one with pseudonym2 and that whet even
better. The philosophy was that there’s one product that
grows then starts to tail off than we want the next product
which will grow even higher before it starts to tail off and
then you want the next big thing. So they hit two home runs
and were swinging for the third one but could never find it.
They weren’t satisfied with just hitting a single in baseball
analogy they were always swinging for a home run but never
got it.
Conflicts
S1
The need to remove team members who are not up to par
S2
Choosing a vendor; misalignment
Creating group alignment (time constraints)
Change is apprehensive
Rogue folks who want to do things differently
Entrenched people don’t like change
S3
Micromanaging from a global level does not work
S5
My performance generally met my own expectations although
there were times you can look back and find ways that you
could have done things better
236
S7
I have conflicts when I have to let people go because it is a
very difficult thing to do. The first reduction in force were the
people who probably shouldn’t have been there in the first
place. After that, good people have to be let go. Other people
we had to let go were the older entrenched people that did not
want to learn the new system.
I felt very conflicted in the 2006 to 2007 period; I felt very
conflicted because I was following orders to increase
inventory and add people in different areas. I had to develop
budgets and forecasts based on numbers that I knew were not
appropriate.
A vendor asked if they can pay $100 a week until the busy
season of September. $20,000 was sent by the end of
September.
S8
My direct mode of communications is sometimes taken
wrong.
Rewards
S2
Offers recognition awards
S7
Lunch was brought in for the whole company.
Testing
S2
Used a focused group (outside the company)
237
Used a cross section of membership percentages
S3
The merger caused a company to hire consultants and review
processes of the entire company.
Expectation
S2
Met.
S3
Growth opportunities are in Asia and South America
The U.S. and Europe are mature markets
Emergent economics in countries like India and China allows
the culture to become more interested in Health Care Services
S4
Tasks are more demanding and more tactical than expected.
My pay grade and my title would want a more strategic point
of view but I feel I need to balance in more elements of
tactical to get somewhere.
I knew an ERP implementation could fail but I have searched
to make sure I knew where other companies have failed.
S5
Never expected to fail
Relationship
with
Subordinates
238
S2
Mutual respect
Give opportunity to express with no judgment
S3
Gain loyalty by making sure subordinates understand.
Treat workers as collaborators.
Focus them by asking questions, soliciting input, giving
recognition awards (recognition, not since merger).
S4
Firm but fair, collaborative.
I like as much engagement as I can get.
S5
Normally I had very good relationships with assigned
counterparts. Conflicts would sometimes arise with superiors
because my loyalty aligned with my immediate management
and those I had direct contact with. A little bit of the
Stockholm effect.
S6
Talk every day.
Will sometimes have dinner with employees.
S7
Relationships are very good.
I came up through the ranks and have had horrible bosses and
very good bosses. So I know what it’s like.
239
The main thing is to talk to people and be open.
Tried to make people understand and be open and honest and
show appreciation when they’re doing good job.
S8
They know I don’t ask them to do anything that I don’t do
myself.
I go out to lunch with my workers once a week. I was the one
that got the Christmas party together. Sometimes we go to a
movie. Not like we get together on the weekends and we’re
not social at that level but it is a friendly relationship.
Natural vs.
Rational
S3
IS projects follow a very well defined methodology, such as
creating new functionality or capability when we worked
together with the IS Group. There’s a higher level executive
committee that must approve the projects before we can get
started on it. Assigning a leader is part of the proposal of a
project.
Some manages are more dictatorial and others are more
collaborative. S3 is more collaborative.
Complicated when thinking in terms of a global organization
S4
Company has conventional hierarchy but has recently
flattened because of the economic conditions.
240
The organization is not a democracy but needs a leadership
structure.
A handful of the environment could operate in a chaotic
environment (creativity, free thinking), maybe 5%.
Many people are sheep and need to be led.
Outline needs to be provided by a leader.
Vision needs to be offered by a leader.
Tell the people what needs to be done or the problem that
needs to be solved, and here is my point of view of what you
need to do then tell them go do it.
I welcome, an alternate way.
S4 operates very formally. Has many contingency plans but
still may have to wing it on occasion.
[Edge of Chaos]One occasion, there was no time to stop a
plan. I could not envision the end. I developed very finite
milestones into very small steps. It was a matter of
progressive evolution through the mess to the point to where
it became clear again then you can get back onto a groove.
You have a certain finite capacity to handle so many things at
one time. When you get to that chaotic or crises stage you
find a way to drop everything else that is not germane at the
moment; this allows you to channel all your energy into the
moment until you clear through it; you can then broaden your
241
bandwidth again to take on the multitude of things you
normally do.
If you need something you can get it. If the hierarchy is
stopping you, you’re not being creative enough. It can slow
you down but I don’t think it has prevented me in any respect.
An example of social norms vs. formal policy is the rule, no
surfing the Web, but we know people are doing it all day
long, checking bank accounts, go on eBay. We had a fantastic
example of that with Michael Jackson’s funeral. The
company network came to its knees. We sent an emergency
broadcast e-mail reminding everyone that they’re not
supposed to be on the Internet for personal reasons.
S5
Our Co. has a traditional hierarchy structure with many layers
to the structure.
We have very formal structure and formal procedures.
We have formal training to make sure formalities are
followed.
There were very few occasions where a company policy was
used to enforce something.
After a person would do a good job he may be given the
company expense account for dinner. This is against company
policy but we still did it.
242
S6
Company policy needs to be relatively strict.
People will still follow their own instincts and it’s up to the
company to determine how strict they want to be with
enforcing the policy.
Red-tape could be inhibitive. For example, if I need to stay a
day or two longer in a particular location, I need to get
approval.
S7
Because of the circumstances we’ve been following a more
natural process but the natural processes are evolving into
formal processes. For example, the inventory control is
looking at approaches in a whole different light right now.
I have had to be more transactional for the past year or two
because of the nature of things.
In general I am more transformational.
This is a family owned business and management changes
with the wind. Sometimes a family member is in charge of
one division another family member is in charge of another
division and sometimes it switches around.
One CEO was there for 10 years and he was recently replaced
by another family member back in March.
The other CEO had a hands-off approach. “I’m CEO and I’m
243
a family member and am not going to be removed. I will just
let my managers worry about getting things done.” The new
CEO took the door off the CEO office as a symbolic gesture.
“I’m here, I’m accessible; I want to hear what people have to
say.”
He’s here in the building almost every day, talking to people,
empowering people. For example, we have a manager who
reports to our inventory control department who probably
never interacted with anyone on a management level before
but me. Our CEO now talks with her about how our products
are moving and the best way to get products in the door and
keep them on the shelves.
He probably talks to her as much as I do and she comes up
with great ideas. In the past, she told me ideas that I passed on
to our previous CEO, it went nowhere. She threw them at the
new CEO and he has implemented some of them and it has
made some very positive changes to the organization.
He’s taken a sales administrative type person and has put her
in charge of customer service because the customer service
person did not really understand how to make the department
a proactive group.
There have also been structural changes to the company. The
financial reporting structure has changed. How the Retail
244
Stores interact with the parent organization has changed.
S8
We run by more of a top-down rational structure.
There are times when we need to formalize and we sit down
and review what needs to be done. Then as a to-do list of
things to do or a list bugs that we’re tracking and people work
on it on their own schedule. I actually have a list of when
things should be done but we don’t actually figure out that
this should take a week or that it should take two weeks. I
think it depends on how many people are depending on us to
get the work done. If there is actually an end date or if I’m
working on a project where there are other managers who like
to micro-manage and they want to know how long projects
should take then I have to figure these things out.
The size of the company mandates a higher level of formality.
Companies should allow people to do their own thing for
communications.
We avoid red tape; sometimes upper management will find
out what we’re doing and try to ship it before we know which
end is up.
Sometimes we don’t schedule all the workers time. We
actually give people 15% of their time to do things that is not
on the radar.
We had a guy that tried to run everything by consensus. This
245
didn’t work because everyone had their own opinion of how
they wanted things done, their opinions of course were
selfish. So we got rid of that guy and brought in a guy who
was a little bit more geared toward telling people what they
had to do. S8’s immediate supervisor seems to have total
recall of everything. If they didn’t have this guy they
probably wouldn’t be able to manage that way.
Success Factors
S2
People, we have a great group of people
Hire people with a cultural fit
People have best interest because they all feel like owners
Provide a non-inhibiting environment
People are encouraged to participate
People are given respect
A culture with an open architecture
Talk freely
S4
Don’t rely on a third party; I don’t believe in system
integrators;
I became the system integrator working directly with SAP.
I don’t believe in farming out responsibilities to someone
else. I had experience using a system integrator and I know
how they can run down a path because the clock running.
246
That doesn’t mean I do not use consultants for extra capacity,
horsepower, and skills. I know when I should use external
agencies and when we should not. To me we were successful
because I did not introduce a third regular stool that allowed
things to deflect and drag on.
There was a no modifications strategy for the ERP system,
completely vanilla.
The business processes had to morph into what the system
could do. Changing the system is a death spiral.
SAP is not a competitive advantage whatsoever; it’s an
opportunity to stop thinking so hard about your computer and
go on and do things to help your products.
Half of the world’s gross national product goes through SAP.
So you just use what is already benchmarked then put all your
creative juices into something else.
Testing, test everything fully, especially the integration to non
SAP systems. SAP does not have solutions to everything you
do in your company so you have to use third party products
which inherently are not going to talk. So you have to write
middleware and conversions and mappings and so on. Most
are stories of failures of SAP systems was 1) software
changes and 2) failure to test the integration fully. That’s key.
S5
Senior management support
247
An adequate budget
Well planned out
It was made a priority throughout the entire organization
Sponsorship came from the business side and not a push from
IT.
Inhibiting factors: bit off too much, could have used more
time.
S8
Good people have contributed to our success.
Open communications
Control
S2
I hold the reins however; project would complete if I were
gone but would take longer and cost more
The organization needs someone to begin the process and
push the process through; I bring that value
S4
There needs to be some practical control on information flow.
Sensitive information could jeopardize the company. And a
more generic sense I would air on the side of not prohibiting
information flow. But content in the wrong hands could be
dangerous.
S5
Once the project is running a project controls itself and would
be difficult to stop.
248
People would be dedicated to the project not to the
management.
Management does not interfere in day to day decisions
Very little intervention if the project is moving as expected
S6
Company employees follow guidelines
S7
Prior to March of this year we had a very structured and
organized Co. Very structured and very organized. Now we
have moved exactly away from that to natural processes.
There are still managers, people are still held accountable. It
is now a more natural environment where people at different
levels have a lot more interaction and lower levels of people
know what has to be done. Some people’s roles have changed
radically. A sales personnel is now doing budget forecasts.
Another personnel used to have to report to me before
contacting outside vendors, now she is uninhibited in whom
she contacts.
S8
Usually I think I am in control but occasionally workers will
go off and do something else and I will see that I am not
really in control.
After the last merger the company didn’t know what they
were going to do with my group so they gave us some really
249
ridiculous things to do. At that point I was not in control. In
20-20 hindsight they knew it was wrong and when you look
back on it you can see it was ridiculous. In general I think I
am in control.
Encouragement
S2
The vendor understanding what we are looking for
The vendors the adequacy
S4
Feel bad about having to force people to work hard. How can
I preserve bandwidth for when they will have to work even
harder. This can cause me to hold back and sometimes lose
time.
S5
Receiving positive feedback from the End-User
S6
End-users who felt a loss of job security came around and
began using the new system.
S7
I was getting all the financial guidance but the interactions
company-wide looked like a minor miracle. And now looking
back on the balance sheets to see what we’ve done, it is a
tremendous sense of accomplishment. Before we were afraid
that the bank was going to come and enclose our loan and
250
now we’re out of those woods, which is an encouraging
feeling.
Communication
S4
“There’s got to be another way to get this point across”
S5
People need to know what the organizational changes are and
how they will be affected by it. If not, they will be very
distracted and may not know what to do.
Communication becomes more effective over time as you get
to know the people.
There are two partnerships where we augment each other.
S6
Email is most prevalent
S8
We use a lot of e-mail and a lot of instant messaging. And
when we have to we have real meetings we use conference
calls.
There is one meeting a week where everyone has to be on a
call your problems with time zones. Here in New Jersey we
need to meet at 7:00 PM system since there is a 12 hour
difference with China they will be meeting at 7:00 AM. We
tried video conferencing but it was too much hassle. So we
lose some of the body language.
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