Advertising
Advertising

How to Thrive in Chaos

How to Thrive in Chaos

John F. Kennedy once remarked,

Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

H. William Dettmer used this quote in an interesting way – commenting,

“In business, successes are usually trumpeted, while failures are normally buried in obscurity. Consequently, it may be difficult to find practitioners willing to advertise that we failed to achieve positive results with – insert name of your chosen methodology of the month.”

Dettmer used this to point out how we blindly use popular management tools and techniques in problem-solving. The problem is that we might be using a technique ill-suited for the environment we are in. So, how can we identify our environment in order to apply the right tool? One way to do this is to use the Cynefin framework.

A Sense-Making Framework

    Developed by Dave Snowden (not Edward Snowden!), the Cynefin framework is a conceptual way to assist decision makers in making decisions. The word Cynefin (pronounced KUN-iv-in) is a Welsh word for habitat. Dettmer informs us that it is a way to help us visualize and understand how systems operate within a variety of domains. Let’s take a look at how he describes this framework.[1]

    Advertising

    The external environment describes a continuum from ordered to unordered. The continuum is further divided into general contexts, or domains. It is a sense-making framework helping us make and understand where a system exists among the domains. It helps us identify the correct tools, approaches, processes, and methods that are likely to work in a given domain.

    It is not intended to categorize as most categorization matrices imply some value judgement about which cell is better. No one cell is more valuable than the other.

    Five Domains of the Cynefin Framework

      The Cynefin framework is essentially five domains, where four are associated with environmental factors or systems – the fifth domain touches the other four.

      1. Simple
      2. Complicated
      3. Complex
      4. Chaotic
      5. Disorder

      We can use this framework to identify the state of our knowledge and the state of available information. Another way to look at this is by identifying the state of what is certain to what is uncertain. An understanding of this will assist us in determining which domain we exist in as an organization.

      1. Simple

      In the Simple domain, systems are stable and we can see clearly the cause-and-effect relationship. Little uncertainty exists in this domain and we are able to make decisions by simply categorizing things.

      State of Knowledge and Information:

      Advertising

      • The information is available and we have it.
      • As an organization, we have asked questions and have found the right answers.
      • The “right” answer is easy to identify.

      Example of this domain:

      • Government departments

      Tools to use in this domain:

      • Typical top down command and control system where employees follow a simple standard operating procedure.

      2. Complicated

      This is the domain of experts. In the Complicated domain you will find that there is no single “right” answer. Dettmer informs us that the philosophy of continuous process improvement is rooted in this domain.

      State of Knowledge and Information:

      • We know the information we need, but we don’t have the answers.
      • We have asked but have not received an answer.

      Example of this domain:

      • Auto-manufacturing

      Tools to use in this domain:

      3. Complex

      The best way to determine if you have a Complex or Complicated system is to figure out if you have an emergent or complex adaptive system. Dettmer points out that a complex system will have large numbers of components or agents interacting (as well as learning and adapting).

      Advertising

      State of Knowledge and Information:

      • The information we need is out there somewhere, but we don’t know what we’re looking for.
      • We have not asked, but the answer is out there.

      Examples of this domain:

      • Stock Market, Insect Colony, Insurgency

      Tools to use in this domain:

      4. Chaotic

      This is the realm of the unknown. Here you will find that possessing an understanding of cause-and-effect is almost useless. Dettmer informs us that the recipe for disaster is to wait for patterns to emerge (thus failing to act). In this domain, decisions must be made with no time for reflection. This is also the domain for “moonshot thinkers” and for those who seek to completely destroy (not in a negative way) or change a system or organization.

      State of Knowledge and Information:

      • We don’t know what we don’t know.
      • We have not asked because we don’t know what to ask.

      Example of this domain:

      • Attacks of September 11, 2001

      Tools to use in this domain:

      Advertising

      5. Disorder

      The fifth domain is Disorder – which touches every other domain. This is the realm of the unknown. An organization can slip into this domain at any point in time and from any domain. It is also extremely difficult at times to recognize if you are in this domain. Dettmer provides the following advice if you find your organization has slipped into this domain,

      “The way out of this realm is to break down the situation into constituent parts and assign each to one of the other realms. Leaders can then make decisions and intervene in contextually appropriate ways.”

      Flow of Ideas

        Dave Snowden, developer of the Cynefin framework, discusses the dynamics an organization goes through within his framework and provides the following advice. [2]

        • To enable the partially constrained flow of ideas, we need to ensure there is good connectivity within the organization, but without central control. Leaders need to stand above the system but not engage with it.
        • As coherence starts to clump, we then shift by recognizing the structure and process of our organization.
        • A pattern of destruction to enable rebirth should be built into your system. After a period of time we should break up the formal group allowing a new knowledge to be created. We should break all links allowing new links to form.

        This last point is the one that struck me the most. I thrive in chaos and love to create new things. When I see destruction, I see it as a good thing. I see it as a paradigm shift and a way to bring forth something radically new.

        This brings to mind a couple examples that could use complete destruction, thus bringing about a paradigm shift in the way we think about them. The first one is that of climate change. The second is a topic I write about extensively – the foster care system. We need to completely destroy how we think about the two and how we operate within them.

        Lastly, I will leave you with Albert Einstein ‘s advice,

        We shall need a substantially new way of thinking if humanity is to survive.

        Featured photo credit: By Akshat Rathi via qz.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Dr. Jamie Schwandt

        Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

        How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits 5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory 10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus and Creativity 9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!)

        Trending in Smartcut

        1 How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential 2 How to Use Sticky Notes for More Productive Reading And Learning 3 8 Critical Skills for Workplace Success and Career Advancement 4 How to Use Debt Snowball to Get out from a Financial Avalanche 5 How to Find Work Motivation When You’re Unfulfilled at Work

        Read Next

        Advertising
        Advertising
        Advertising

        Last Updated on March 15, 2019

        How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

        How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

        When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

        Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

        In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

        What Makes a Leader Fail?

        A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

        If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

        And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

        What Is Effective Leadership?

        Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

        Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

        Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

        Advertising

        “… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

        How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

        To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

        1. Courage

        The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

        “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

        Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

        For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

        In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

        It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

        Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

        Advertising

        2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

        If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

        The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

        To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

        3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

        Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

        Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

        4. Likability

        Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

        When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

        Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

        So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

        Advertising

        5. Vulnerability

        Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

        When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

        6. Authenticity

        Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

        Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

        7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

        Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

        Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

        Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

        Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

        As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

        Advertising

        “A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

        8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

        Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

        This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

        9. A Passion for Continual Learning

        Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

        These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

        Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

        The Bottom Line

        No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

        Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

        More Resources About Effective Leadership

        Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

        Read Next