Sunday, November 12, 2006

Chaos Theory

There are 3 types of business:
  1. Businesses in Chaos
  2. Businesses Managing the Chaos
  3. Businesses not in Chaos
Which business would you like to be a part of? If you answered '3', then I would worry. In order for there to be chaos there needs to be motion. Something has to be propelling forward. A business that is not in chaos, is a business that is not propelling forward. A business that is quietly milling about in an almost static state.

Answering '1' is not good either. Chaos is not necessarily something we wish for, it's simply a natural entity. To resolve chaos you need to be in control of every angle that impacts your business. The chances are, even if you have perfect control over every minute little thing (doubtful at best), your business will still be reliant on at least one factor that you cannot control... your customer's freedom of choice maybe?

'2' is where a business should be. There should be an expectation of chaos because it is moving forward. Expecting it means we can prepare for it. Preparation means we can manage the randomness of the potential outcome chaos can bring to a business.

For employees however this fact is clear. Therefore an employee who finds themself in chaos will demand the support they need to reduce the effect on them. Possibly a good thing... providing the chaos is felt by all. i.e. The business is in chaos, and not the person themself.

An employee who is not in chaos: pretends! Pretending that they are in chaos deflects the attention of their managers on the fact that the business is not going forward.

Heres a test for the workplace. Take a book. A blank sheet of paper will do just as well. Now walk about the office with a distant concerned look on your face. Don't look at anybody directly - just look very hurried and busy. See how long it takes someone to question you.

You might want to set a limit to how long you try this test as it's probably not healthy to continue it forever. However, this is just one of many simple, trivial things that an everyday employee of a lacking direction business will do to look 'busy'. To look like they are contributing to 'managing the chaos'. Chaos that just is not there!

I've heard managers detail exactly how busy their department's staff are and how they simply cannot take on any more work, when I've sat in that manager's exact same department and listen to how everyone is bored, with nothing to do, trying to look busy.

Chaos is neither good nor bad, however chaos is required for a business to exist. For a manager, make sure that that chaos is because of direction, because of something you can quantify and see moving forward, not simply because employees are bored and need to find something to justify their salaries.

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