What To Do When 1 + 1 = 37: 6 Possibilities

Sometime ago, a prospective CEO client contacted me because of her “organizational chaos” and a situation that was becoming “out of control.”  When I asked her how long this chaos had been in effect she responded with “the past week.”  That might seem odd to some, but when most of us are in the midst of chaos time is internally distorted and the experience seems all-consuming.

All of us have had times like this, with the accelerating fire of chaos and the feeling that we lack control and direction.  As this experience impacts your organization here are some possibilities for action:

  1. Calmly ask yourself “what is occurring right now?”  I sometimes refer to this as “mapping it out,” which is simply taking the time to identify all parties to the chaos and how they are behaving in their environment.
  2. Wait a moment and don’t do or say anything.  Quiet time with self-observation is often a decelerant for the fire of chaos.
  3. Identify one or two simple acts to further slow the speed of chaos.  Not a big, new strategic plan but very elementary behavior that increases the ability and willingness of others to listen and look at themselves.
  4. Bring the attention back to the immediate project and the larger mission and strategy of your organization.  The metaphor of recalibration is appropriate – re-syncing is a necessary part of any successful sustainable effort.
  5. As you move through these steps keep some post mortem notes. You don’t need conclusions and, in fact, they may work against good observation.  Share and invite the observations of others in a positive manner and you will further aid the recovery process for your larger team.
  6. In the process of moving forward it is useful to predict the reoccurrence of chaos with your team.  The difference in this case is that prediction makes it tougher for team players to accelerate the reoccurrence.  If they do, they might not really be on your team.

The last point is reminiscent of what Rudolph Dreikurs referred to as “spitting in your soup.”  “You can still drink the soup” he said, “but it doesn’t taste quite as good.”  When you are honest and predict human imperfections together, you can make it easier for everyone to be aligned in their fire prevention and suppression efforts.