Date of Award

Winter 1999

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)



First Advisor

Michael White


Organizational change, both developmental and transformational, is an issue of central and enduring concern in the organizational sciences. However, the processes, mechanisms and sequencing of events that describe how and why social systems change have not been satisfactorily explicated at a theoretical level and constitutes one of the major challenges facing the social sciences. This research examines issues and implications from an emerging perspective—the complexity sciences—developed to explain the mechanisms and processes of change in physical and natural systems. The purpose is to develop a theoretical approach to the study of change in social organization that integrates these implications, while remaining grounded in current knowledge of organizational and social processes.

The complexity sciences are eminently suited to address this lack in the field. However, the implications accruing to the complexity sciences are little understood or appreciated by organizational researchers. For the complexity sciences to be of value to organizational scholars, the research imperative is for the development of a rigorous, internally consistent, and empirically adequate theory. The challenge facing organizational researchers is not to apply the complexity sciences to organizational phenomena. Rather, it is to develop a science of complexity and derive theories, principles and implications for organization science, knowing them for the natural sciences. Thus, the fundamental problem of integrating the complexity approach is for development at the philosophical and theoretical levels.

To that purpose, an analytic model of the processes and mechanisms of organizational dynamics is developed that: (1) derives from complexity science implications—the complex adaptive systems (CAS) approach in particular; (2) incorporates elements critical to an explanation of change phenomena—the driver, director, source, and modality of change; and (3) integrates these implications and issues at the theoretical and metatheoretical levels of analysis.

This research purpose is accomplished by comparing and contrasting assumptions and implications of the complexity sciences to those of “traditional” science. Critical issues in the development of an adequate theory of organizational dynamics are considered. Finally, a theoretical model of organizational dynamics is presented that integrates implications of the complexity approach into current perspectives on social and organizational change. The analytic model explicates the mechanisms and processes of organizational dynamics and provides theoretical guidance for subsequent empirical work on social and organizational change.