Welcome to my last in a three-part article, identifying and describing the five elements of my “C.H.A.O.S. Theory” and how each item in the acronym impacts organizational success.
This article addresses Structure and as I alluded to in my last article – its importance cannot be overstated. If you have yet to read part one or part two, you can do so now and then come back to this article.
S – Structure: The underpinning of a fully functioning organization is its structure: how the organization is built, how it communicates internally, its norms, policies, processes, and procedures, its rules of engagement outside the organization, how it supports diversity (of thought and staff composition), and its internal operating system. Generally, much of that structure is depicted in a very understandable and tangible way – through a visual organizational chart. Who reports to whom; who is above and below and to the left and right? Solid lines of authority and reporting and dotted lines of relationships and dependencies help us see the organization, its structure and even its processes – all shown in that single document. Structures should be conceived of and built around everything we’ve already talked about –objectives, communication protocols, and the need to understand ourselves and the other players in the system. The structure needs to facilitate honest communication, and it does that by projecting a realistic approach to authority and decision-making. Too often, organizational structures depict a fantasyland that has just about everyone reporting to a single leader. We know the problems with that – not much gets done – that leader is far too busy, and she would simply have neither the time nor the depth of understanding to make thoughtful decisions. Conversely, other structures may show the opposite extreme and depict a multi-layered, stovepipe approach that will be equally confounding to anyone trying to get things done. This causes frustration to soar because of the baked-in bureaucracy that limits upward and onward movement. These are poorly designed structures that almost incite chaos. Even the best org chart won’t matter if the players find ways (and gain tacit approval and even rewards) for working around them. All organizations need to devote a fair amount of time to understanding what structure best supports their mission and objectives AND suits the personnel they have. Then, they need the discipline to adhere to it so it can work as intended. Structure and the problems that result from either adhering to a poorly designed structure or not adhering to a good one – allowing people to “violate” the org chart for whatever reason – causes chaos in the workplace.
Maybe it’s not realistic to envision a world, or even a workplace, as chaos-free. Perhaps a little ambiguity with a dash of occasional chaos can be a good thing. A little bit of chaos can spur new and better ways of doing business, enhanced communication practices, more sophisticated hiring processes, better self-awareness, more clearly stated objectives, or improved structures. But pervasive chaos makes work environments cloudy. What we can’t see, we can’t fix, and then we end up with lots of broken processes and constant chaos.
Author’s note: I started with a long list of traits, attributes, conditions, and elements of what leads to failures and successes. I found that over the course of thinking this through and preparing to write a book on the topic, some changes were required. For example, my initial acronym of CHAOS included HONESTY, not HISTORY. Given the choice, I felt HISTORY was the more significant. Same with ACCOUNTABILITY over its short-lived predecessor, AWARENESS. Each is important, but in today’s world, the notion of accountability has risen to new and welcomed levels of prominence.
Look for a more in-depth look at C.H.A.O.S. and its impacts on organizations of all types in my next book, tentatively titled: C.H.A.O.S. How it Can Destroy an Organization or Save the World.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and visit my website at: davemaurerconsulting.com