Supply Chains as Complex Adaptive Systems

As recently discussed on this website, the paradigm of SCM research should refer to the system “supply chain” rather than to the system “company” or to the system “supplier-buyer relationship”. In their interesting conceptual note, Supply Networks and Complex Adaptive Systems: Control versus Emergence, Choi et al. (2001) acknowledge the notion of a supply network as a system. The authors go even further and argue that supply networks should be recognized as a complex adaptive system (CAS). Choi et al. propose that many supply networks emerge rather than result from purposeful design by a singular entity. They also emphasize that when managing supply networks, managers must appropriately balance how much to control and how much to let emerge. A similar viewpoint has later been taken by Surana et al. (2005; Supply-chain Networks: A Complex Adaptive Systems Perspective). Can the notion of a supply chain as a complex adaptive system be a building block for the missing paradigm of our discipline?

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About Andreas Wieland

Andreas Wieland is an Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management at Copenhagen Business School. His current research interests include resilient and socially responsible supply chains.

One response to “Supply Chains as Complex Adaptive Systems”

  1. C.F. Durach says :

    A very interesting note about CAS – mentioned in the very same article: Choi et al. cite Jeff Bezos (CEO, stating that contrary to most supply chain managers beliefs, one can increase the robustness of a company by giving up a bit of control. This may suggest that keen observation of what emerges is sometimes more important than rigor strategic planning.

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