Repository logo

Career planning and management in a complex adaptive system.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The world of work is constantly changing. This variation is brought about by the changes happening both inside and outside an organization. In addition, the individuals in an organization also change as a result of internal and external factors. For this reason, careers of individuals in an organization evolve in response to the change in their environment. Sometimes, people can plan their careers paths, whiles at other times the changes are unexpected. The aim of the study is thus to understand how people plan and manage their careers while taking into account the unpredictable nature of their environment. This study was undertaken at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), where two thirds of the employees are science, engineering and technology professionals, while the other one third is support staff. The data was collected through open-ended interview questions on a select number of employees of different professions and ranks. This study applied chaos theory in an attempt to understand the career planning and management strategies that employees of the CSIR employ. The decisions that employees make at any given time are informed by what is happening in their surroundings. In this case, employees were studied as agents in a complex adaptive system. As agents, employees are influenced by what is happening amongst themselves, within an organization, as well as outside the organization. Therefore, looking at employees in the context of their surrounding gives a more accurate picture of the factors that influence their careers. In addition to consultation with employees, career management policies and strategies of the CSIR were studied to determine if there is a fit between employee expectation and the organization. The information gained will assist the Human Capital Development unit to introduce development interventions that will be relevant to the employees. From this study, it is evident that people are responsible for planning their career trajectories. However, it was also apparent that management was responsible for ensuring that the organization’s policies and strategies are supportive of people’s careers. In addition, it was clear that career growth of the individual was also dependent on one’s manager, leading to a dual responsibility. The manager was responsible for providing relevant exposure that compliments an individual’s aspirations. Of course, this can only be so if those aspirations are in line with the organization’s strategies. In addition, it is clear that the careers of individuals are affected by what is happening externally. This results in complexity in career planning and management. For that reason, long-term career planning has proven to be a futile exercise as there are too many influences on careers, which are unpredictable. For that reason, only those individuals who are flexible and willing to change with changes in the environment have had success in their careers. The said success was not at all times planned.


M. Com. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2013.


Career development--South Africa., Chaotic behavior in systems., Personnel management--South Africa., Theses--Leadership and management.