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Books

The Wiggly World of Organization – Muddling through with purpose, courage and skill

Chris Rodgers | Routledge 2021

We all know how organizations work. We’ve read the books and magazines, seen the research, and attended the courses. If we’re looking for ways to change, develop, restructure, merge, demerge, turnaround, or otherwise transform things for the better, we are spoilt for choice. These – always “new” – ways of working tend to be neatly packaged, politics-free, and presented as common-sense responses to the challenges that we face. Provided that everyone follows the prescribed models, programmes and procedures, we’re assured that the outcomes we’re looking for will come to fruition. Sorted!

The trouble is, this well-ordered, fully aligned view of organization and management practice, with its unfailingly positive results, bears little relationship to the world that managers experience every day. The straight-line, ‘do this and you’ll get that’ idealizations are far removed from the wiggly reality. Despite this, it’s the former that continue to dominate the ways in which management is spoken about and judged in formal organizational arenas and wider society.

Against this background, the book offers a radically different way of thinking about, and engaging with, the irreducible complexity of organization and management practice. Its aims are twofold. First, to help managers and others become consciously aware of what they already know deep down about how organization works and what they – and everyone else – are actually doing in practice. Secondly, to provide them with practical ideas on how they might lead and manage in ways that take this complexity seriously. Armed with these new insights, they will then be better placed to apply their innate understanding and practical judgement to the demands that they and others face day to day. Whether these arise from their roles as managers, other practitioners, policy makers, regulatory authorities, or participants more generally.

The book draws on Chris Rodgers’s extensive experience as an in-house manager, independent consultant, and long-time commentator on these matters (via the Informal Coalitions blog, LinkedIn, and so on.).

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What people say about The Wiggly World of Organization …

“Chris Rodgers’s timely book on the enduring complexity of organisational life is a much-needed antidote to the still-dominant prescriptions for how to lead and manage. It mobilises his substantial experience as an organisational consultant and his assiduous reading and systematic thinking, to present difficult ideas in a highly accessible way. I recommend this book to anyone interested in engaging more thoughtfully in every day organisational reality.”
Chris Mowles, Professor of Complexity and Management, Hertfordshire Business School

“This is a genuinely refreshing and exciting book. It offers a clear and persuasive challenge to the prevailing taken-for-granted assumptions and conventional wisdom about how organizations work. It presents thought-provoking insights and practical advice on how to purposely and skilfully ‘muddle through’. This is a ‘must-read’ book for anyone who wants to truly understand organizing processes and meaningfully act within organizations.”
Professor Cliff Oswick, Chair in Organization Theory, The Business School (formerly Cass)

“This offers a wide-ranging yet easy-to-read guide to the complex social dynamics of organisation and what these mean for day-to-day practice of managers and other practitioners. Despite challenging management orthodoxy head-on, Chris seems to have a knack of talking about complexity without talking about complexity!”
Dr Sharon Varney, Director, space for learning ltd.

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Informal Coalitions – Mastering the hidden dynamics of organizational change

Chris Rodgers | Palgrave MacMillan 2007

“A fantastic book on organizational change…”
Bonni Stachowiak, Professor, Vanguard University, Southern California

According to conventional wisdom, change is brought about through formal, rational analysis of ‘the facts’ and step-by-step decision-making by people whose agendas are fully aligned. Informal Coalitions exposes this as a fiction. It shows how outcomes arise instead from informal interactions, joint sense-making, and political accommodations, made by people who are trying to make a difference in the complex, uncertain, and ambiguous conditions of everyday organizational life.

The book makes it clear that the only meaningful choice leaders have is whether or not to engage with these dynamics in a deliberate and informed way. For those who choose to do so, Informal Coalitions offers new insights and practical ways of addressing these powerful influencers of organizational change and performance. Using straightforward language throughout, Chris Rodgers presents a provocative but compelling argument for change leaders and other practitioners to embrace this new agenda and master its challenges.

The book has its roots in Chris Rodgers’s background as a practising manager in UK industry, and as a management consultant to both private- and public-sector organizations in the UK and internationally. It is further underpinned by insights he gained as part of a master’s degree in managing change. The informal coalitions approach therefore draws on a deep understanding of organizations from the inside, as well leading-edge thinking on the complex dynamics of organizational change and performance.

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What people say about Informal Coalitions…

“I found this book very readable. It has the rare merit of being theoretically robust and of great practical value.”
Bill Critchley, Organisation Consultant and Director of the Ashridge Masters in Organisation Consulting

“Certainly, this is a worthwhile book for those of us who prefer complexity theory to simplistic reductionism, and it will appeal to the leader reluctant to accept the unquestioned assumptions of traditional change management practice.”
Dr Anne Murphy, Learning Development Officer, Dublin Institute of Technology

“Bring together vast experience in managing organizational change, intelligent and critical reflection on how it works, thorough engagement with some exciting new perspectives on organizations, and a belief in the centrality of everyday conversation in organizations, and you will see why I’m excited by Chris Rodgers’s new book.”
David Sims, Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Cass Business School

“This book … legitimises the informal, conversational style that has served me so well throughout my career…”
Lord Tunnicliffe, CBE, Chairman of the Rail Safety and Standards Board

“Chris Rodgers’s book… offers an exciting new vision of organisational dynamics that highlights the powerful role played by everyday conversations in making change happen …”
Adrian Moorhouse, MBE, Olympic Gold Medallist and Managing Director of Lane4

“Chris Rodgers’s ideas provide for a much richer understanding of why and how change really happens, and more importantly how it can best be managed.”
Guy Eccles, Board Director of Human Resources, Screwfix Direct

“Chris Rodgers has that rare quality, a deep and sympathetic understanding of human and organisational behaviour combined with an engineer’s analytical nature. His personal insights from rapidly changing organisations have combined with these qualities to produce a book that I would recommend to any leader.’
Andy Duff, Group Chief Executive RWEnpower

“I felt very comfortable reading this book. It rang true in so many places for me. The sub-title is “mastering the hidden dynamics of organizational change” and it delivers on that promise. For me it confirmed many of the observations I have made working in a large state-funded organisation… Really a great book and it was written in a way that reads well.”
Henk (Jan) Roodt, Technology Program and Project Manager, Contract Management, Simulation Expert, System Engineer & Analyst: Dunedin, NZ

“I am not aware of a book that has explored these issues in such detail nor developed such a practically orientated approach – this latter is impressive, both in the organization of the material and in the level of detail achieved. This book can be recommended for academic colleagues as well as practitioners. Whilst you may not agree with him throughout you ought to find much stimulating argument here.”
Colin Carnall. Professor and Associate Dean of Executive Programmes at Warwick Business School

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