Shifting Mindsets for Managing Complexity: A Municipal Case Study

Research Repository

Peter Jones, Manuel Riemer, Gryphon Theriault-Loubier, and Brittany Spadafore

Applied Research / Case Study / City of Kitchener (Ontario, Canada) / SSHRC / REFOCUS  / Enterprise Evolution

The research report describes a project with members of the City of Kitchner’s corporate leadership team and selected management staff to understand how municipalities might adapt to increased complexities and develop best practices of successful approaches.

The project is an initiative of the City of Kitchener to engage in a process of reviewing their own needs for adaptation of their strategic management practices.

Funded by SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant 1008-2020-0134

Publication date: November 15, 2022

Suggested citation:

Jones, Peter, Riemer, Manuel, Theriault-Loubier, Gryphon and Spadafore, Brittany (2022) Shifting Mindsets for Managing Complexity: A Municipal Case Study. Project Report. Flourishing Enterprise Institute. Available at


From the Case Study Overview (p. 10)

While there is a growing recognition among municipal leaders of the need to address complex system interactions in strategic management, there is a gap in our knowledge of how municipalities can adopt a complexity orientation most effectively from a practical standpoint. The integration of major global issues such as climate change into strategic management, practicing applied systems thinking, breaking through organizational silos, and engaging with key stakeholders in co-creative partnerships, ultimately require major organizational transformation. Research allows us to systematically study how municipal leaders facilitate these transformations, providing an opportunity for co-learning and reflection. This case, in particular, provides an in-depth investigation of key processes, experiences, and outcomes within the recent period. The experience of the City of Kitchener and REFOCUS in applying the Enterprise Evolution approach provides a meaningful case for our research because we are afforded the ability to follow the process changes in the municipal organization, following the systematic presentation of the EE process from the very start. This enables us to evaluate this case from both a theoretical lens and empirical observations. Our research with the City of Kitchener and REFOCUS provides a great opportunity for co-learning; learning that can be shared with other municipal leaders as they are facing similar challenges. Below we will first introduce the context of the case study before briefly describing our approach and methods.

Mindsets: complexity

Relationships: municipalities, leadership teams, stakeholders


  • Applying innovative, systemic management knowledge, methods and tools that are grounded in systems thinking and designed to handle the increasingly complex conditions that are emerging.

Through Enterprise Evolution workshops, the municipal leadership came together to:

  • Understand and assess the value of adapting strategic management practices to their municipal context
  • Consider the implications of facilitating cross-organizational transformation


Dr. Peter Jones | email:

Funded by

Government of Canaada, SSHRC logo