Ever since seeing the movie Jurassic Park, the theory of chaos has intrigued me. Chaos theory looks at how disruption changes events. I am sure you have heard something along the lines of, “A butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world causing a hurricane in another.” Wikipedia describes it as:
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.
Think about it, a SMALL change can result in a LARGE difference later. Normally, procedures and processes are designed to minimize disruption in order to drive sustainability. The processes account for the butterfly flapping. But what about when they don’t? What happens then? How do you right the ship and get through the storm?
Here are a few ideas you can use the next time that pesky butterfly flaps his wings halfway around the world and creates a storm for you:
Volunteer whenever you can
Sometimes the butterfly has flapped so hard it causes a really big storm. It is very tempting to provide a “not my job” answer when asked to help in an area outside of your normal responsibility. Here’s a radical idea, instead of waiting to be asked to help, why not offer your help? A pre-emptive “I can help” goes a long ways in fostering teamwork. If you can help – then help.
Follow through no matter how mundane the detail
Stay engaged until the last “T” is crossed and “I” is dotted. It’s the little things that can be easily over looked but not forgotten in the chaos. Forgetting to sign the paperwork or missing a part count can cause the next team to grind to a halt until the T gets crossed. This just adds to the storm.
Create a timeline or at least a checklist (task list)
Identifying timelines allows you to prioritize by week, day or hour depending on your delivery schedule. Leaving it up “to someone else” can cause continued disruption in your organization.
Over-Communicate with your immediate and extended team
Keep everyone informed on progress, risks, and completion. Use the best means to communicate with the team which could be by phone, in-person, instant messaging, or video conference. It’s important to include those teams that are outside your normal communication loop as they may be working in-parallel with your project.
Learn from the storm
The best learning happens in the chaos. When things run smoothly, the process and procedures do the heavy lifting. It is in the storm you can learn how to
- Manage your time
- Manage resources – your team and others
- Prioritize schedules and tasks
- Ask better questions
- Solve problems – yours and others
- Communicate – with your team
- Balance risk and manage its fallout
Remember what happened in the movie. They thought everything was under control until it wasn’t. Take a moment and think about how you can help “calm the storm” in your organization.