Strategic development process and complex adaptive systems

  • Roger Julius Hammer

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The two areas of theory upon which this research was based were „strategy development process?(SDP) and „complex adaptive systems? (CAS), as part of complexity theory, focused on human social organisations. The literature reviewed showed that there is a paucity of empirical work and theory in the overlap of the two areas, providing an opportunity for contributions to knowledge in each area of theory, and for practitioners. An inductive approach was adopted for this research, in an effort to discover new insights to the focus area of study. It was undertaken from within an interpretivist paradigm, and based on a novel conceptual framework. The organisationally intimate nature of the research topic, and the researcher?s circumstances required a research design that was both in-depth and long term. The result was a single, exploratory, case study, which included use of data from 44 in-depth, semi-structured interviews, from 36 people, involving all the top management team members and significant other staff members; observations, rumour and grapevine (ORG) data; and archive data, over a 5½ year period (2005 – 2010). Findings confirm the validity of the conceptual framework, and that complex adaptive systems theory has potential to extend strategy development process theory. It has shown how and why the strategy process developed in the case study organisation by providing deeper insights to the behaviour of the people, their backgrounds, and interactions. Broad predictions of the „latent strategy development? process and some elements of the strategy content are also possible. Based on this research, it is possible to extend the utility of the SDP model by including peoples? behavioural characteristics within the organisation, via complex adaptive systems theory. Further research is recommended to test limits of the application of the conceptual framework and improve its efficacy with more organisations across a variety of sectors.
Date of AwardMar 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorEfstathios Tapinos (Supervisor) & John Edwards (Supervisor)


  • Longitudinal
  • case study
  • emergent process
  • latent strategy development

Cite this