How does chaos become complexity?


Yesterday, I came across this wonderful post by Harold Jarche: Complex is the new normal.

In it, he posits that complexity is the new “normal” state of business and that those who exist in chaotic, or disordered business environments need to shift into complexity to be truly innovative.

For definitions of complex, complicated, and chaotic systems, please refer to another of his posts: It’s not complicated, you see?

The bottom line is that we function in a constant state of change these days, and depending on the specific pattern your business adopts, or falls into, you may have to take a different approach to personal and professional development.

Change and change management

My employer has just hit its stride in the business transformation game and right now, it’s utter chaos.  Add to that budget cuts that are resulting in further staff reductions.  Still business has to be done, training has to be delivered and we all have to find some way to deal.  The environment is hostile, reactionary, protectionist, and uncommunicative.

It’s difficult to remain positive in such an environment.  I must admit, I’m not doing well in this department.

We’re facing one of the biggest and most prolonged processing backlogs ever and employees are getting letters.  No one is safe, I’ve learned.  Even those who were assured that their jobs were not in jeopardy are learning otherwise.

What concerns me is that once the main thrust of the transformation process is completed, and the dust begins to settle, the chain reaction continues.  Several positions are staffed at a ratio of processing staff, including mine.  If insufficient numbers have been culled by attrition (those in a position to are seriously considering retirement) or promotion, further reorganization will be necessary.

Fortunately, I’ll have some time to wait for that nether shoe to fall.

My boss and team are a clever bunch, and they’ve decided to wade into the fray by offering Change Management training to affected staff.  Because I think it’s an important and valuable service offering, I’ve thrown my hat into that ring and will be part of the implementation team.  In other words, I’ll be training again 🙂  My wee trainer’s heart rejoices.

But change management is only part of the puzzle.  In order to pull out of this chaotic nose-dive we’re in, we have to strive for a more ordered, but still deadly flat spin, a more complex state from which we might have a chance of recovering.  If we’re clever.

Failing that, we could always eject.

But how do we achieve a complex state?

In an associated post, In an increasingly complex world, Harold Jarche shares Robert Warwicks’s seven essential criteria to consider in an increasingly complex world:

  • Go out of your way to make new connections.
  • Adopt an open, enquiring mind-set, refusing to be constrained by current horizons.
  • Embrace uncertainty and be positive about change – adopt an entrepreneurial attitude.
  • Draw on as many different perspectives as possible; diversity is non-optional.
  • Ensure leadership and decision-making are distributed throughout all levels and functions.
  • Establish a compelling vision which is shared by all partners in the whole system.
  • Promote the importance of values – invest as much energy into relationships and behaviours as into delivering tasks.

Jarche states that these criteria are a good place to start when trying to align one’s business environment to high-functioning complex from less efficient chaos, something he says he doesn’t see in most businesses these days.

I’m trying.  Sweet googly-moogly, I’m trying.  No “but” face here.  I’m seriously givin’ ‘er.

Will let you know how this all pans out.

Is your workplace in a state of flux?  Is there any strategy in place to help staff adapt and grow?  How are you dealing with change personally?  Let me know.  Seriously … commiserate!

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