Moving Beyond the Systems Approach in SCM and Logistics Research

Fredrik Nilsson, Britta Gammelgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a paradigmatic reflection on theoretical approaches recently identified in logistics and supply chain management (SCM); namely complex adaptive systems and complexity thinking, and to compare it to the dominant approach in logistics and SCM research, namely the systems approach. By analyzing the basic assumptions of the three approaches, SCM and logistics researchers are guided in their choice of research approaches which increases their awareness of the consequences different approaches have on theory and practice.

Design/methodology/approach – The point of departure for the research presented is conceptualization based on literature reviews. Furthermore, years of observations, discussions and empirical studies of logistics operations and management have also influenced the design of this research.

Findings – With a discourse set in relation to the dominant approach in SCM and logistics research, the systems approach, it is concluded that the underlying assumptions of complex adaptive systems and complexity thinking are more appropriate than systems approach for contemporary challenges of organizational complexity in SCM and logistics. It is found that the two complexity-based approaches can advance SCM and logistics research and practice especially when focusing on innovation, learning and sense-making.

Research limitations/implications – Reflections of underlying assumptions when considering and selecting methodological approaches have implications for research results. This paper provides both a framework for and an analysis of such reflection which contributes to the further development of SCM and logistics research. Future research is needed to empirically provide insights on how complexity approaches can advance the area of SCM and logistics.

Practical implications – For logistics researchers and practitioners dealing with creativity, innovation, learning and sense-making and other human-related aspects, the complexity approaches, with underlying assumptions, presented will provide reflection, inspiration and guidance for further development.

Originality/value – This paper contributes to the further development of SCM and logistics research and practice by providing a reflective analysis and discussion of established and new research approaches with potential benefits for the SCM and logistics community.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a paradigmatic reflection on theoretical approaches recently identified in logistics and supply chain management (SCM); namely complex adaptive systems and complexity thinking, and to compare it to the dominant approach in logistics and SCM research, namely the systems approach. By analyzing the basic assumptions of the three approaches, SCM and logistics researchers are guided in their choice of research approaches which increases their awareness of the consequences different approaches have on theory and practice.

Design/methodology/approach – The point of departure for the research presented is conceptualization based on literature reviews. Furthermore, years of observations, discussions and empirical studies of logistics operations and management have also influenced the design of this research.

Findings – With a discourse set in relation to the dominant approach in SCM and logistics research, the systems approach, it is concluded that the underlying assumptions of complex adaptive systems and complexity thinking are more appropriate than systems approach for contemporary challenges of organizational complexity in SCM and logistics. It is found that the two complexity-based approaches can advance SCM and logistics research and practice especially when focusing on innovation, learning and sense-making.

Research limitations/implications – Reflections of underlying assumptions when considering and selecting methodological approaches have implications for research results. This paper provides both a framework for and an analysis of such reflection which contributes to the further development of SCM and logistics research. Future research is needed to empirically provide insights on how complexity approaches can advance the area of SCM and logistics.

Practical implications – For logistics researchers and practitioners dealing with creativity, innovation, learning and sense-making and other human-related aspects, the complexity approaches, with underlying assumptions, presented will provide reflection, inspiration and guidance for further development.

Originality/value – This paper contributes to the further development of SCM and logistics research and practice by providing a reflective analysis and discussion of established and new research approaches with potential benefits for the SCM and logistics community.
LanguageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management
Volume42
Issue number8/9
Pages764-783
ISSN0960-0035
StatePublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Complexity Theory
  • Basic Assumptions
  • Paradigm
  • Logistics
  • Supply Cjain Management
  • Systems Approach
  • Distribution Management

Cite this

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abstract = "Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a paradigmatic reflection on theoretical approaches recently identified in logistics and supply chain management (SCM); namely complex adaptive systems and complexity thinking, and to compare it to the dominant approach in logistics and SCM research, namely the systems approach. By analyzing the basic assumptions of the three approaches, SCM and logistics researchers are guided in their choice of research approaches which increases their awareness of the consequences different approaches have on theory and practice.Design/methodology/approach – The point of departure for the research presented is conceptualization based on literature reviews. Furthermore, years of observations, discussions and empirical studies of logistics operations and management have also influenced the design of this research.Findings – With a discourse set in relation to the dominant approach in SCM and logistics research, the systems approach, it is concluded that the underlying assumptions of complex adaptive systems and complexity thinking are more appropriate than systems approach for contemporary challenges of organizational complexity in SCM and logistics. It is found that the two complexity-based approaches can advance SCM and logistics research and practice especially when focusing on innovation, learning and sense-making.Research limitations/implications – Reflections of underlying assumptions when considering and selecting methodological approaches have implications for research results. This paper provides both a framework for and an analysis of such reflection which contributes to the further development of SCM and logistics research. Future research is needed to empirically provide insights on how complexity approaches can advance the area of SCM and logistics.Practical implications – For logistics researchers and practitioners dealing with creativity, innovation, learning and sense-making and other human-related aspects, the complexity approaches, with underlying assumptions, presented will provide reflection, inspiration and guidance for further development.Originality/value – This paper contributes to the further development of SCM and logistics research and practice by providing a reflective analysis and discussion of established and new research approaches with potential benefits for the SCM and logistics community.",
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Moving Beyond the Systems Approach in SCM and Logistics Research. / Nilsson, Fredrik; Gammelgaard, Britta.

In: International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 42, No. 8/9, 2012, p. 764-783.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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AU - Gammelgaard,Britta

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AB - Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a paradigmatic reflection on theoretical approaches recently identified in logistics and supply chain management (SCM); namely complex adaptive systems and complexity thinking, and to compare it to the dominant approach in logistics and SCM research, namely the systems approach. By analyzing the basic assumptions of the three approaches, SCM and logistics researchers are guided in their choice of research approaches which increases their awareness of the consequences different approaches have on theory and practice.Design/methodology/approach – The point of departure for the research presented is conceptualization based on literature reviews. Furthermore, years of observations, discussions and empirical studies of logistics operations and management have also influenced the design of this research.Findings – With a discourse set in relation to the dominant approach in SCM and logistics research, the systems approach, it is concluded that the underlying assumptions of complex adaptive systems and complexity thinking are more appropriate than systems approach for contemporary challenges of organizational complexity in SCM and logistics. It is found that the two complexity-based approaches can advance SCM and logistics research and practice especially when focusing on innovation, learning and sense-making.Research limitations/implications – Reflections of underlying assumptions when considering and selecting methodological approaches have implications for research results. This paper provides both a framework for and an analysis of such reflection which contributes to the further development of SCM and logistics research. Future research is needed to empirically provide insights on how complexity approaches can advance the area of SCM and logistics.Practical implications – For logistics researchers and practitioners dealing with creativity, innovation, learning and sense-making and other human-related aspects, the complexity approaches, with underlying assumptions, presented will provide reflection, inspiration and guidance for further development.Originality/value – This paper contributes to the further development of SCM and logistics research and practice by providing a reflective analysis and discussion of established and new research approaches with potential benefits for the SCM and logistics community.

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KW - Paradigm

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KW - Supply chain management

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KW - Complexity Theory

KW - Basic Assumptions

KW - Paradigm

KW - Logistics

KW - Supply Cjain Management

KW - Systems Approach

KW - Distribution Management

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SN - 0960-0035

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