The Change Workshop

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Chaos finds its own order

This past week I was part of an effort that proves once again that chaos finds its own order. I was part of a group of people who were asked - in a very short time - to find possible solutions to some important issues in our organization. Everyone wanted to give their all but with so many conflicting priorities it was hard to give the assignment the time it deserved. Trying to find time to meet and considering everyone's ideas was a challenge, yet we managed to converge our ideas into some common themes. But we needed to bring our efforts to a conclusion and make recommendations. One person was coordinating the effort but had to go on a planned trip so I jumped in and took on the task of getting everyone to together to tackle the work of putting it all into a written report and creating a powerful presentation of our recommendations. You don't often get these kind of opportunities and I wanted it to have power since we were to present to our senior management at their bi-monthly meeting. We had about three days to get the work done.

My intent here is not to pat myself on the back for taking it on and leading the team to create the recommendations in what might have appeared to be some wild and woolly meetings. My point is that I've learned that to accomplish great things one must be able to hold creative tension. Peter Senge, in his book "The Fifth Discipline" gives Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of a leader who was a master at holding creative tension. When everything seems to be out of control, a great leader holds the vision of the final result that can be achieved. In Dr. King's case the marches and protests he led to call attention to civil rights often seemed tense, uncomfortable and chaotic. Yet his calm strength gave everyone involved a feeling of confidence, even pride because they knew they were part of something that was bigger than themselves. It's like being in the eye of a hurricane - all around you the storm rages but a great leader holds it all together in a system that has a purpose. The experiences of Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi, and other great leaders who changed the world are, to me, a social example of the fundamental fact of nature - that chaos finds its own order. My experience with our team seemed chaotic but I had a vision in my mind of us doing the presentation and everything coming off beautifully - as did others who were working with me. We knew we were creating something important, and guess what? That's exactly what happened . . . you gotta love chaos!