External Environment Effect on Strategy

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The external environment’s effect on management and strategy A complexity theory approach
Roger B. Mason
Durban University of Technology, Kwa Zulu-Natal, South Africa, and
Honorary Research Fellow, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK
Abstract
Purpose – This paper seeks to investigate the influence of the external environment on the choice of strategic management activities, from a chaos and complexity perspective, since a business environment is a complex adaptive system.
Design/methodology/approach – The study in this paper was of an exploratory nature, using the qualitative techniques of case study, depth interviews and document analysis to collect data from two companies each in the IT and packaging industries, namely, more successful/less successful companies.
Findings – The paper finds that first, it was proposed that more successful companies in turbulent environments would use radical, fast and disruptive strategies. Furthermore, strategy making should be a democratic, bottom-up process and should be organic, self-organising, adaptive and emergent.
The results confirmed these propositions. Second, it was proposed that more successful companies in stable environments would use more traditional management and strategies and more formal strategy planning activities. The findings did not confirm this proposition, probably due to the fact that in reality a truly stable environment does not exist in South Africa.
Originality/value – This paper is of benefit to managers and strategists by emphasising a new way to consider the future management and strategies of their companies. Since businesses and markets are complex adaptive systems, using complexity theory to increase understanding of how to cope in complex and turbulent environments is necessary, but has not been widely researched.
Keywords Strategic management, Complexity theory, Chaos theory, South Africa
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
The business environment is

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