Managing Complexity


Managing Complexity Within and Across Organizational Boundaries, Special Issue of Journal of Management Studies, Edited by Penny Dick, Dries Faems and Bill Harley; Deadline 31 Jan 2015

Claims that we are living through a period of unprecedented volatility, complexity and even chaos are not new. Consultants and business gurus routinely pronounce epochal shifts and put forward prescriptions for managing in a complex age. Social scientists have produced a variety of labels in attempts to capture what they see as the essence of these changes, for example the ‘network society’ (Castells), the ‘risk society’ (Beck) and the ‘audit society’ (Power). Changes in technology, markets and regulatory frameworks coalesce to produce a situation in which organizations must operate in increasingly complex and pluralistic environments. In addition, organisations must increasingly engage with actors outside the economic domain, such as NGOs.

This special issue seeks to explore responses to complexity within and across organizations. Among the key changes, which appear to be contributing to greater complexity are:

  • The emergence of new economic and political powers that question traditional governance structures and management practices.
  • Increasingly complex regulatory frameworks, with a plethora of regulatory institutions at local, provincial, national, regional and global levels.
  • Increased scrutiny of organizational actions rendering ceremonial responses to complexity ever more problematic.
  • New technologies, which allow rapid transmission of data and assets between individuals, markets and organizations.

We seek papers, which address organizational responses to complexity from a variety of conceptual and methodological perspectives. We do not favour any particular epistemological or theoretical perspective and we wish to attract a diverse range of papers. Questions that papers might explore include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Do we need new theoretical frameworks and/or methodologies to make sense of complexity? What do the changes mean for the working lives and practice of scholars of management and organization?
  • What are the performance implications of complexity for different kinds of organizations in different kinds of environmental settings?
  • What are the implications of complexity for different facets of management such as strategy, innovation, entrepreneurship, and HRM?
  • Have organizations become more complex in response to complex environments? If so, what does this imply for organizational management and organizational behaviour more generally?
  • What are potential intra-firm and inter-firm governance structures and management practices that might help organizations in addressing the increased complexity in their environment?
  • What critical issues are raised by responses to increasing complexity? Are there winners and losers for instance? Whose interests are served and whose may be marginalized?
  • What are the implications of increasing emphasis on management practices geared towards external actors, such as NGOs? Do these practices reinforce or challenge societal inequalities and power imbalances?

Submissions should be prepared in accordance with the JMS Style Guide for Authors:

Manuscripts should be electronically submitted by e-mail to the JMS Office at

The deadline for submissions is 31st January 2015. Papers will be reviewed by the editors as soon as they are received and, if suitable for the special issue, immediately entered into double-blind review processes in accordance with JMS standard procedures. Please direct any questions regarding this Special Issue to the guest editors Penny Dick, Dries Faems or Bill Harley