September 8, 1992
Conventional rules of management dictate that success is achieved by establishing and maintaining organizational stability and harmony. According to Ralph D. Stacey, however, just the opposite is true. In Managing the Unknowable he demonstrates how winning organizations have learned to embrace instability and benefit from its inherent tension and conflict.
Stacey shows executives and managers how powerful strategic planning is based on uncovering and directing the complex, often chaotic interactions that take place daily within companies. He explains how chaos can inspire creativity and describes the vital roles contradiction and conflict play in developing strategy. He offers guidance in building the skills required to handle unknowable futures, including advice on establishing self-organizing teams, encouraging multiple cultures, and improving group learning skills.
Stacey uses examples from real-life companies to illustrate his theories, showing how:
- Sony has attained competitive advantage without a control plan, leaving much of its new-product R&D, for example, entirely to chance.
- Global competition has forced Kodak to embrace a management process that leverages small, chance changes into major strategic successes.
- Federal Express, Amstrad, and Honda discovered their organizations’ strategic missions through day-to-day operations.
Ralph D. Stacey is lecturer in strategic management at the Business School of the University of Hertfordshire, Hertford, England. He is also the author of The Chaos Frontier: Creative Strategic Control in Business (1991) and Dynamic Strategic Management for the 1990s (1990).