Balance – Chaos Versus Structure

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in Change, Innovation, Leadership | 0 comments

Image of chaos


Too much chaos and nothing gets done, people lose faith and ultimately become apathetic.  Too much control and they feel stifled and want to revolt, or leave.  Where’s the sweet spot?  I was introduced to a concept called the Chaordic Model, which immediately resonated as a useful description of  many circumstances.

The order of a fern

The term was coined in the late 90’s by the former CEO of Visa, Dee Hock.  The idea is based on combining characteristics of chaos and characteristics of order, with neither dominating.  It applies to an organization, a team, a meeting, or even a relationship, and was said to have evolved from Hock’s fascination with the study of organic systems.  He described their dynamic state:

“Life is eternal, perpetual becoming, or it is nothing.  Becoming is not a thing to be know, or controlled.  It is a magnificent, mysterious odyssey to be experienced.”

This diagram explains the various system states and identifies the place where the system has enough strength to tolerate risk, and enough openness to respond to change. 

The circle on the right is the old command and control, ask no questions type of leadership that creates an organization that can’t respond to change.  It’s useful in very specific situations, but not as a steady diet.  The circle on the left is the complete anarchy that occurs when there’s no leadership, either formal or informal.

Instinctively, I gravitate toward that overlap in the middle of chaos and order, as a leader of an organization, as a facilitator of a meeting, and in the way I lead my life.  When I was younger, though, I needed more order, more control.

Take a look at the way you lead – do you tend to lean one way or the other?  Is it right for your team, and for your organization?

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