PURPOSE: The purpose of this paper is to analyse context as a means for interpreting and making sense of evolving strategic management theory and practice.
PROBLEM INVESTIGATED: Traditional strategic management theory based on rational deductive methodologies assumes contextual predictability, yet contemporary conditions tend to contradict this assumption. In response, alternative theories and practices for dealing with complex contexts have emerged (Brews & Purohit, 2006; Grant, 2003; Kurt & Snowden, 2003and Stacey, 1995).
METHODOLOGY: A literature study was undertaken to determine the nature of emergent strategic management theory and practice, in response to contextual complexity and how it differs from traditional practice (Mintzberg, 1994 and Weeks &Lessing, 1993).
FINDINGS: An important conclusion drawn from the study is that context acts as a determinant for making sense of the evolution of strategic management theory and practice. While traditional strategic management practice still assumes relevance in contexts of linear causality, it breaks down in complex contexts. Emergent strategic management theory, based on complex adaptive systems, is increasingly assuming relevance. Notably, many institutions are still attempting to make use of scenario planning in an attempt to deal with contextual complexity, a practice not supported by leading researchers(Stacey, 1995 and Kurt & Snowden, 2003).
VALUE OF THE RESEARCH: The insights gained from the study assume relevance, in view of the contextual complexity confronting modern-day institutions. The findings suggest that emergent strategy based on complex adaptive system theory needs to be considered as a means for dealing with increasing environmental turbulence.
CONCLUSION: It is concluded that context serves as the Rosetta stone for making sense of strategic management theory and practice. In view of the research findings, as reflected in the literature, it would seem that the use of complex adaptive systems theory is gaining in relevance, as a means for dealing with complex contexts. Also important is the finding that traditional and emergent practices can in effect coexist, depending on context.