C.H.A.O.S. in the Organization – Part One of Three

C.H.A.O.S. is pervasive in all facets of life, perhaps especially so in our work lives.

The presence of such chaos can make us wonder how we can be successful leaders in spite of it all. C.H.A.O.S is my acronym for exactly what we observe and deal with on an almost daily basis. We face decisions on our Communication processes and strategies; our understanding of our personal, professional, and organizational History and its impact on what we do and how we do it; our inclination or disinclination to hold ourselves Accountable for the choices we make and the decisions that follow;  our ability to decide on and clearly present reasonable and attainable Objectives and; to develop and adhere to a well- designed Structure that we follow or make the sometimes difficult choice to abandon and re-work to something that enables and complements our workflow. These elements are the causes of confusion, animosity, shortfalls in productivity and profit and, possibly, organizational or personal failure. But when properly identified and leveraged, they can also be our savior.

This is the first of a three-part series that will identify and address the 5 elements of this “new CHAOS theory” operating in our world of work.

We’ll begin with the first two elements in the acronym: Communication and History:

C – Communication: We have all either experienced the consequences of poor or unclear communication, or we have been the cause of it. Poor communication occurs often and for a number of reasons. Perhaps chief among them is fear: if the boss loves to instill fear in those around him, effective and reliable communication is stifled. No one wants to tell the boss bad news if the messenger will be shot. Predictably, once the bad news does reach the boss by other means, he blows his top and the blame game begins – with it rarely ever coming back to the very environment of fear that the boss created and fostered.  Nearly all organizations have created “communication plans” that appear in internal literature, employee handbooks, and project management plans, but my own experiences tell me they are often discarded as overly cumbersome, slow, and unrealistic. Ineffective communication leads directly to chaos in the workplace.

A lack of clarity in daily communication is also problematic. We often find it difficult to identify and then clearly articulate the problems we encounter at work. Sometimes the problems are very complex and layered but, often, it’s because we fail to do the work and take responsibility and accountability for what we find and need to fix as leaders or colleagues. I like the “Check Engine Light” analogy for identifying something is wrong, but no one knows or says what it really is. We need to clean this up, and we can do it; but it takes some work and some courage to tell someone exactly why they are failing, what to do about it and to enforce corrective action.

H – History: Consideration of organizational history – our successes and failures and the reasons for them should influence our choices and the actions we need to take to ensure success or the best chance of success. In addition to collective organizational history, each member of the team brings along his or her own individual personal and professional history. All should be part of the rubric used to seek, perform, and in some cases, abandon seemingly enticing opportunities. Of course, it isn’t always or necessarily true that what is past is prologue, but there is an element of truth that should demand our attention. Yes, innovation happens when individuals and organizations step out of their comfort zones, but we should be careful to devote the appropriate time and effort to analyze the costs and benefits of such actions. Our history tells us much – some of it should be considered a warning.

Two down and three to go. Watch for my next blog that will address Accountability and Objectives.

In the meantime, I look forward to your comments and thoughts on this approach to my examination of what makes or breaks organizations.

Email me at: dave@davemaurerconsulting.com and visit my website at: davemaurerconsulting.com

Dave served a full 22-year career as an Army officer and followed that with more than 2 decades as a senior executive in several consulting firms in the Northern Virginia area. He has managed and led thousands of soldiers, Army civilians, and private sector employees in more than 43 years in leadership positions. He speaks and writes about leadership, relationship management, career transition, and keys to success.  READ MORE

David S. Maurer

Lieutenant Colonel, USA (Ret.) , Project Management Professional (PMP)

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