The Wiggly World of Organization
Muddling Through with Purpose, Courage and Skill
The well-ordered, fully aligned view of organization and management practice, with its unfailingly positive results, bears little relationship to the world that managers and others experience every day. This straight-line, ‘do this and you’ll get that’ idealization is far removed from the wiggly reality. Despite this, the former continues to dominate the ways in which management is spoken about and judged in formal organizational arenas and wider society. This creates unrealistic expectations of what managers (from CEO to the front line) can sensibly achieve independently of the actions of others. Crucially, too, it distorts the ways in which they and others account formally for their actions. And so, the fantasy continues.
Against this background, the book offers a radically different way of thinking about, and engaging with, the irreducible complexity of organization and management practice. Using straightforward language throughout, it sets out to help managers and others to become consciously aware of what they already know deep down about how organization works and what they – and everyone else – are actually doing in practice. It then offers a practical approach to everyday practice that takes complexity seriously.
Armed with these new insights, readers will be better placed to apply their innate understanding and practical judgement to the demands that they and others face day to day. Whether these arise from their roles as managers, other practitioners, policy makers, regulatory authorities, or participants more generally.
Table of Contents
Foreword By Dominic Mahony – Executive Chairman Of Lane4 Management Group
Preface: Waking People Up
1. The Wiggly World Of Organization: Taking Experience Seriously
2. Understanding The Wiggliness: The Complex Social Dynamics Of Organization
3. Management In Five Acts: Scientific Research And The Complex Social Reality Of Organization
4. Mastery, Mystery And Muddling Through: Getting To Grips With The Real-World Wiggliness
5. The Suffocating Grip Of Management Orthodoxy: Exposing The Generally Accepted ‘Truths’ That Inhibit Progress
6. Leading And Managing In A Wiggly World: Muddling Through With Purpose, Courage And Skill
7. Implications For Organizational Consulting: Influencing People’s Perspectives, Practices And Performance
8. Shifting The Patterns: A Manifesto For Muddling Through
Postscript: Perpetually Creating The Future Together
Chris Rodgers is an independent consultant, speaker and writer on leadership, change and organizational dynamics. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and was previously a senior manager in the UK power industry. His first book, Informal Coalitions, was published in 2006.
"Chris Rodgers’s timely book on the enduring complexity of organisational life is a much-needed antidote to the still-dominant prescriptions for how to lead and manage. It mobilises his substantial experience as an organisational consultant and his assiduous reading and systematic thinking, to present difficult ideas in a highly accessible way. I recommend this book to anyone interested in engaging more thoughtfully in every day organisational reality."
Chris Mowles, Professor of Complexity and Management, Hertfordshire Business School
"This is a genuinely refreshing and exciting book. It offers a clear and persuasive challenge to the prevailing taken-for-granted assumptions and conventional wisdom about how organizations work. It presents thought-provoking insights and practical advice on how to purposely and skilfully ‘muddle through’. This is a ‘must-read’ book for anyone who wants to truly understand organizing processes and meaningfully act within organizations."
Professor Cliff Oswick, Chair in Organization Theory, The Business School (formerly Cass)
"This offers a wide-ranging yet easy-to-read guide to the complex social dynamics of organisation and what these mean for day-to-day practice of managers and other practitioners. Despite challenging management orthodoxy head-on, Chris seems to have a knack of talking about complexity without talking about complexity!"
Dr Sharon Varney, Director, space for learning ltd.