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Title: Adaptive tension, self-organization and emergence : a complex system perspective of supply chain disruptions
Author: Tewari, Anurag
ISNI:       0000 0004 6425 0164
Awarding Body: Cranfield University
Current Institution: Cranfield University
Date of Award: 2017
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The purpose of this thesis was to explore how microstate human interactions produce macro level self-organization and emergence in a supply disruption scenario, as well as discover factors and typical human behaviour that bring about disruptions. This study argues that the complex adaptive system’s view of complexity is most suited scholarly foundation for this research enquiry. Drawing on the dissipative structure based explanation of emergence and self-organization in a complex adaptive system, this thesis further argues that an energy gradient between the ongoing and designed system conditions, known as adaptive tension, causes supply chains to self-organize and emerge. This study adopts a critical realist ontology operationalized by a qualitative case research and grounded theory based analysis. The data was collected using repertory grid interviews of 22 supply chain executives from 21 firms. In all 167 cases of supply disruptions were investigated. Findings illustrate that agent behaviours like loss of trust, over ambitious pursuit, use of power and privilege, conspiring against best practices and heedless performance were contributing to disruption. Impacted by these behaviours, supply chains demonstrated impaired disruption management capabilities and increased disruption probability. It was also discovered that some of these system patterns and microstate agent behaviours pushed the supply chains to a zone of emergent complexity where these networks self-organized and emerged into new structures or embraced changes in prevailing processes or goals. A conceptual model was developed to explain the transition from micro agent behaviour to system level self-organization and emergence. The model described alternate pathways of a supply chain under adaptive tension. The research makes three primary research contributions. Firstly, based upon the theoretical model, this research presents a conceptualization of supply chain emergence and self-organization from dissipative structures and adaptive tension based view of complexity. Secondly, it formally introduces and validates the role of behavioural and cognitive element of human actions in a supply chain scenario. Lastly, it affirms the complex adaptive system based conceptualization of supply chain networks. These contributions succeed in providing organizations with an explanation for observed deviations in their operations performance using a behavioural aspect of human agents.
Supervisor: Varga, L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Complex adaptive system ; micro to macro ; dissipating structures ; adaptive gradient ; agent behaviours