Aadaptive change in complex and uncertain policy environments

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Policy Essentials


Frameworks and processes to understand and enable adaptive change in complex and uncertain policy environments.

How to lead and manage in a complex and uncertain business landscape.

A range of global and national forces inter-relate with each other and surge and decline at different times to create the complexity and uncertainty that we experience on a day-to-day basis. Much of what we witness is unpredictable and becoming increasingly difficult to manage. Leaders and managers in government and business need new frameworks and processes to better understand complexity and uncertainty. These frameworks and processes will enable them to develop and lead adaptive organisations so as to respond to the adaptive nature of business and society.

This course enables participants to build their current and future capability and expertise to better understand complexity and uncertainty and develop programs and processes that will support adaptation within the organisation and the society that they serve. The principles and practices of complex adaptive systems will be presented. Participants will use these principles to explore contemporary and emerging issues to develop adaptive responses.

See related Emergent Leadership Series.

#132 Crawford Building, Lennox Crossing, ANU


Course overview

Topics include:

  • An overview of the concepts and principles of complex adaptive systems;
  • Application through group-work of those principles to contemporary issues identified by participants to better understand complexity and how to respond to it;
  • An overview of how we can use the concepts of complex adaptive systems to better understand human behaviour relating to decision-making, strategy and policy development and the implications for leading and managing as adaptive organisation and projects; and

Workshop structure:

  • Examples and case studies are presented prior to presentation of theory to provide the participant with experiences that they can relate to
  • Theory and frameworks are presented to assist the participant to make sense of their experience
  • Exercises, group discussions and stories presented by the participant as a means to make sense of the theory are encouraged and supported.
  • Participants will also work in small groups to complete various tasks and exercises to deepen their understanding of the principles and concepts.

Learning outcomes:

  • The capability to lead and manage for adaptation to a changing business environment
  • The capability to lead and support cultural change
  • Learn the skills and techniques that will assist to deal with complex policy and strategy development and a range of other issues
  • Understand and apply the principles of complex adaptive systems
  • Understanding and practicing how people work together, to make decisions, develop strategy and policy using the frameworks and principles of complex adaptive systems
  • Identify with the WV of complex adaptive systems

Anticipated behavioural and business impacts include:

  • Participants will be able to frame the issues/external operating landscape from a complex adaptive systems perspective. Such a perspective will provide deeper understanding why and how issues are arising and proprose appropriate solutions. This process strongly supports new kinds of conversations within the business that lead to new insights
  • As a result of the course, participants will tend to work more as a team to explore the nature of the system under study. They would identify key driving forces shaping the system and consider the complexity around those driving forces. A series of conversations would lead to suggested strategic responses given the complexity and uncertainty that will shape the system under study.
  • Participants from the course will begin to talk about intended outcomes and results in response to key driving forces and emergent patterns in the operating landscape. They would then identify contextually relevant solutions/activities to achieve those results. This is in contrast to more usual approaches to just presenting solutions without firstly considering the intended results that are to be achieved.

Who should attend?

  • Any sector that needs to understand the nature of its business environment and develop an organised response with the capacity to identify emerging trends and be able to respond to them
  • Policy development and implementation business units
  • This course is suitable for APS6 - SES, or equivalent level.

Course presenter(s)

Dr Gary Saliba

Dr Gary Saliba is Director of Strategic Journeys, a management consulting company, which assists people in organisations in strategy development work.

The unique role of Gary and his company is the integration of systems thinking, complex adaptive systems with futures studies and strategy development. This approach has enabled him to consult extensively across a range of government and commercial enterprises to develop organisational strategy that is based on plausible futures, using the scenario development methodology.

Gary’s approach is to work with people to enhance their processes in understanding their organisation’s operating environment and their own ways of operating. This all leads to more informed decision-making and improved responsiveness and flexibility in an ever increasingly complex environment.

Gary holds a BSc(Hons), PhD in Applied Mathematics and Dip Ed from the University of Sydney. He is a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Previous positions include:

  • CEO- Regional Development Australia- Murray Region
  • Manager Australian Taxation Office
  • Projects Officer and participant on the Middle Managers Program- Department of Defence
  • Manager, Ionospheric Prediction Service- Department of Administrative Services

Updated:  1 June 2020/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team