Publication: New study challenges conventional supply chain wisdom by “dancing the supply chain”


In his new publication, Associate Professor Andreas Wieland challenges conventional supply chain wisdom and argues for a move towards a more dynamic understanding of supply chains.



Photo credit: Anna Holte

For the past decades, research into supply chain management has largely followed the global political agenda of growth and globalization. The supply chain has been seen as a machine that a competent manager can operate and bring back to stability if a bolt or a gear is making the clockwork seem broken. The political economy and the world at large has been seen as something external – as a given condition for the supply chain. This view may be about to change as COVID-19 has firmly shaken the assumption that the supply chain can be considered in a vacuum.

In his new article: “Dancing the Supply Chain: Toward Transformative Supply Chain Management”, Associate Professor Andreas Wieland of the Department of Operations Management argues that “[i]t is time to replace the modernist tropes of designing, planning, and optimizing the supply chain with a new metaphor that accounts for the transformative power of management: that of dancing the supply chain“.  The article challenges the conventional static assumptions of the supply chain and reinterprets it as a social-ecological system, where you cannot take the political, sociological and natural worlds as simply a given frame and certainly not as something unaffected by the supply chain.

The study then uses the adaptive cycle from panarchy theory to describe the supply chain’s behavior: “An adaptive cycle sequentially accounts for growth and stability, as well as change and variety”. The adaptive system of the supply chain, the publication argues, lives in a panarchy, which is “a structure of adaptive cycles that are linked across different levels on scales of space, time, and meaning” (supply chain level, political-economic level, planetary level). This panarchy, and its internal interactions between the different adaptive cycles is an exciting new unit of analysis for supply chain research. Viewing the supply chain as part of a panarchy opens up a new research agenda “that will allow understanding the world’s empirical complexity differently and challenging the effectiveness and relevance of SCM research in a turbulent and uncertain environment”.

This view fundamentally changes the role of the supply chain manager from an engineer-like character, optimizing and controlling her machine. To a navigator in a highly complex system of cycles that affect each other. Like a dancer, they have to foresee the next steps of the dance, improvise, experiment, innovate and, keeping with the metaphor, affect the dancefloor, the ballroom and in turn the entire party with their steps.

“Bold ideas like the ones presented by Andreas in his newest publication is the lifeblood of our Department’s research. Our research, much like the dance, should be innovative and reimagine status quos.”

Carsten Ørts Hansen, Head of the Department of Operations Management

You can find a journal spotlight with Andreas Wieland by following this link. The full publication can be found here:

Wieland, A. (2021). Dancing the Supply Chain: Toward Transformative Supply Chain Management. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 57 (1).

For more information contact Andreas Wieland at +45 38 15 23 80 or

The page was last edited by: Department of Operations Management // 12/11/2020