Organizational Values as ‘Attractors of Chaos’: An Emerging Supply Chain Management Change Designed to Overcome Organizational Complexity
Published Online: Sep 30, 2004
This paper considers supply chain management organizations with the aid of ‘chaotic systems theory’ developed originally in physics and mathematics. Since innovations in supply chain management are vital for organizational survival ‘complex systems theory’ may assist in fine-tuning managerial philosophies that provide stability in supply chain management because it is on the boundary of chaos that the greatest innovational creativity occurs. Neither ‘management by rigid objectives’ (MBO) nor ‘management by instruction’ (MBI) will be suitable for the information society of the twenty-first century because chaotic social systems will no longer be effectively managed. However, the capacity for self-organization will be derived essentially from how supply chain management members accept a shared set of values or principles for action—‘management by values’ (MBV). Complex systems theory deals with systems that show complex structures in time or space, often hiding simple deterministic rules. This theory holds that once these rules are found, it is possible to make effective predictions and even to control the apparent complexity. The state of chaos that self-organizes is attributable to the appearance of the ‘strange attractor’ and provides the ideal basis for creativity and innovation in the twenty-first century. In the self-organized state of chaos, social members are not confined to narrow roles and gradually develop their capacity for differentiation and relationships, growing progressively towards their maximum potential contribution to the efficiency of the organization. In this meaning, values act as organizers of ‘attractors’ of disorder, which, in the theory of chaos, are systems represented by usually regular geometric configurations that predict the long-term behavior of complex systems. In supply chain management organizations (as in all kinds of social systems) the initial principles end up as the final principles in the long term. An attractor is a model representation of the behavioral results of the system. The attractor is not a force of attraction or a goal-oriented presence in the system; it simply depicts where the system is heading based on its rules of motion. In supply chain management organizations that cultivate or shares values of autonomy, responsibility, independence, innovation, creativity, and proactivity, the risk of short-term chaos is mitigated by external complexities that organizations are currently confronting. The strategy is to alter the supply chain management's surroundings so that they can benefit from management by values (MBV).