Complexity and Managing the Unexpected

Complexity and Managing the Unexpected

Date: 14 November 2013 Time: 11.30 am


Buried within the operations of every large enterprise are the seeds of its own destruction. This applies to private and government sector organisations alike.  These are typically opaque, obscure forces, not at all visible to normal managerial scrutiny. By ‘normal’ I here mean a perspective that is largely grounded in a linear, Newtonian view of the world.  I claim that this perspective is unlikely to prove helpful when it comes to the challenge of attempting to ‘manage the unexpected’. This is especially the case in a 21st century business environment characterised by increasing levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – the so-called ‘VUCA’ syndrome.  I go on to argue that we need to educate our leaders in the art and practice of Organisational Complexity Analysis (OCA for short) in order to better prepare them for this challenge. By drawing on the so-called ‘complexity sciences’, but also on certain intellectual disciplines not traditionally taught in our business schools, OCA provides a systematic method for unearthing the insidious forces that give rise to the complex problems situations that, in turn, tend to produce unintended and unexpected outcomes. More specifically, I will describe one intervention model that has proven enormously helpful in managing the unexpected in the cut and thrust of both large-scale industry and government.

About the presenter

Robert Flynn is a Melbourne-based consultant working in the arena of Organisational Complexity Analysis. While independent, he is part of an international network of individuals and firms with a particular focus on this increasingly relevant management discipline. For the past twelve years he has concentrated most of his research and consulting efforts in the OCA arena, working primarily in the oil & gas, mining & minerals, construction and government sectors. He received his BBS (Hons) and MA degrees from Trinity College Dublin, and a PhD in philosophy from the University of Tasmania.

For further information please contact Jim Sheffield,
School of Management  Ph. (04) 463 5085