The Paradox of Control in Organizations. Philip Streatfield. Routledge.

The Paradox of Control in Organizations Book Cover The Paradox of Control in Organizations
Philip Streatfield
August 30 2001

This book explores a central paradox of managing in an organization. Business leaders are supposed to be “in control” of the situation in which their businesses find themselves, so if an unexpected event occurs they are supposed to be able to declare that “things are under control.” The worst thing that any business leader or manager can do is to declare that they are ” not in control” of a situatio but how can organizational leaders and managers control matters entirely out of their hands, such as the next action a competitor takes, or the next law a government may pass? Who or what, is “in control” in an organization? The author attempts to shed light on these questions by exploring his own day-to-day management experiences of life in a large pharmaceutical organization, SmithKline Beecham.

The book is about the dynamic, continually changing formation of patterns of relationships in organizations, through which managers get their work done. Philip J. Streatfield approaches actual management practice from a complexity perspective, understanding organizational life is primarily informal, self-organizing, and transformative in nature. In adopting the perspective of complex responsive processes developed in the first two volumes of the series, the author takes self-organization and emergence as integral themes in his thinking about life in organizations. Conversation is placed at the centre of the way humans develop their sense of reality and this book explores, using actual personal experiences how managers construct their reality in conversation.

The notion that the manager is “in control” does not resonate with experience. In practice, managers find that they have to live with the paradox of being “in control” and “not in control” simultaneously. It is this capacity to live with paradox, the courage to continue to participate creatively in spite of “not being in control,” that constitutes effective management.

Philip J. Streatfield is Supply Chain Director at Entertainment UK. Before taking up this position he was Global capital Medicinals Supply Chain Director at SmithKline Beecham and had spent eighteen years in the pharmaceutical industry involved in managing and improving manufacturing and supply chain activities. He has extensive experience of managing major organizational change.