complexity theory, human capital theory, strategic HRM, human resource management


The concepts of fit and alignment have been foundational to the field of strategic human resource management. And while the theoretical premises that underlie these concepts remain useful and intuitively compelling, the lack of empirical evidence to support them proves problematic. Part of the reason, we suspect, is that our research on fit and alignment does not fully reflect realities of contemporary organizations or the practical challenges faced by managers. We argue that HR researchers have an opportunity to reframe concepts of fit and alignment to better reflect the complexities and dynamics of contemporary models of strategy and organization. We suggest that an ecosystem perspective can help us study the processes of alignment, not just its static features. It can help to depict the interactions among elements of the workforce compositions, capabilities and cultures. Because these interactions are myriad and constantly in flux, HR researchers might approach alignment in an evolutionary way where practices are constantly changing and then being reintegrated into the system to assure consistency and synergy. The benefit of doing so might reinvigorate research on strategy and HR.

Original Publication Citation

Snell, S. & Morris, S. Time for Realignment: How Complex Adaptive Systems Can Help Reframe SHRM Research. Forthcoming. Academy of Management Perspectives.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Academy of Management




Marriott School of Management



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor