Order v Chaos

It’s not unusual for the leader of a team to feel that their main purpose is to effectively manage the flow of work. The flow is determined by business rules and system solutions.

The manufacturing principles of mass production – automation and assembly lines – have reinforced this.

Now and again things go out of whack and repairs need to be actioned. (The conveyor belt breaks)

But these days, leaders are experiencing disruptive breakdowns more frequently. Chaos is raining down.

The leader’s job is to manage this chaos.

If only their job were to get the team(the conveyor belt) to follow the order of execution of a task without error and simply penalise those that don’t follow the rules.

Work is no longer that pre-determined.

Teams are asked to pivot and react to new challenges, almost weekly. How to work through the chaos to bring order has always been a leader’s challenge – now it is a constant challenge.

  • How to respond to a pandemic that affects your workforce
  • How to respond to a sudden reversal in consumer trend
  • How to respond to viral negative feedback about the company

Chaotic scenes follow and the leader’s responsibility is to restore order.

Team members are frustrated; managers become frustrated, but leaders restore order.

What is the Antidote to Workplace Chaos?

Chaos occurs when rules are broken and the system falls over. And yet order is re-established if the team understand the guidelines and knows the values to work with.

Agreed principles of engagement govern all responses and empower the team member to react to any scenario.

The team leader knows these guidelines and can offer the direction that best suits.

It’s not dissimilar to our life values. We bring our kids up according to our beliefs and every challenge they bring to the doorstep has a response that is framed by our values. The values and the response may not always be right, but they are a template to provide order.

When there is no template, then there is stress

Not knowing how to respond because there is no process is a stress.

The team member then needs to fall back on principles and guidelines.

When there are no agreed principles or guidelines on direction then the stress is debilitating.

We are resilient when we have clear guidelines (not rules)

The leader is the one who makes sense of the principles and converts the chaos into order.

Managers maintain order, leaders order chaos.