1st Edition

Managing in Uncertainty Complexity and the paradoxes of everyday organizational life

By Chris Mowles Copyright 2015
    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    The reality of everyday organizational life is that it is filled with uncertainty, contradictions and paradoxes. Yet leaders and managers are expected to act as though they can predict the future and bring about the impossible: that they can transform themselves and their colleagues, design different cultures, choose the values for their organization, be innovative, control conflict and have inspiring visions. Whilst managers will have had lots of experiences of being in charge, they probably realise that they are not always in control.

    So how might we frame a much more realistic account of what’s possible for managers to achieve?

    Many managers are implicitly aware of their messy reality, but they rarely spend much time reflecting on what it is that they are actually doing. Drawing on insights from the complexity sciences, process sociology and pragmatic philosophy, Chris Mowles engages directly with some principal contradictions of organizational life concerning innovation, culture change, conflict and leadership. Mowles argues that if managers proceed from the expectation that organizational life as inherently uncertain, and interactions between people are complex and often paradoxical, they start noticing different things and create possibilities for acting in different ways.

    Managing in Uncertainty will be of interest to practitioners, advanced students and researchers looking at management and organizational studies from a critical perspective.

    1.Why are uncertainty, ambiguity and paradox important for managers?  2.Taking paradox seriously  3.The paradox of involvement and detachment and the importance of practical judgement  4.Attempts to change organizational culture – the paradox of the local and the global  5.On the predictable unpredictability of organisational life: change and innovation  6.The paradox of co-operation and competition: conflict and the necessary politics of organizational life  7.Ambiguity, contradiction, and paradox in the natural sciences – creative entanglement between the knower and the known  8.Uncertainty, contradiction and paradox - so what can managers do?


    Chris Mowles is Professor of Complexity and Management and Director of the internationally renowned Doctor of Management programme at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. Previously he worked as a senior manager in the public and voluntary sectors and was finance director of his own marketing company.

    ‘This book provides a significant development of understanding organizational life from a complexity perspective. It takes the uncertainty of organizational life seriously; exploring reflexivity and making sense of one’s experience in a manner that clarifies the paradoxes of organizational life. I am sure it will appeal to all thinking managers and to academic researchers.’ - Ralph Stacey, Professor, Hertfordshire Business School, University of Hertfordshire, UK

    ‘A deep theoretical and practical exploration of how to integrate complexity and ambiguity in managing and organizing. This book represents a much welcomed inquiry of a paradigm-shifting journey into embracing complexity and paradox in organizational life.’ – Alain Guiette, University of Antwerp, Belgium

    ‘For those tired of prescriptions and protocols as substitutes for thinking and practical judgement in the face of uncertainty, this book offers managers a refreshing and satisfying read full of thought provoking examples and discussion.’ - Dr Patricia Shaw Fellow, Schumacher College, Devon and Visiting Professor, Hertfordshire Business School, University of Hertfordshire, UK