Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 1, Issue 38;   September 19, 2001: Now We're in Chaos

Now We're in Chaos

by

Among models of Change, the Satir Change Model has been especially useful for me. It describes how people and systems respond to change, and handles well situations like the one that affected us all on September Eleventh.

Everything changed on September Eleventh, and we're still learning the meaning of "everything." People working on projects, especially those that involve air travel, are now struggling with Change. Among models of Change, the Satir Change Model, developed by Virginia Satir, stands out for me as especially useful. It describes how we respond to change, using six elements:

Old Status Quo
European UnionThe initial state of the system, before the change cycle begins. Example: September 10.
Foreign Element
The event, incident, or new information that disrupts the Old Status Quo. Example: the events of September 11.
Chaos
The state of confusion and disruption that persists following the recognition of the Foreign Element. Example: where we are now — we haven't yet adjusted to the new situation.
Transforming Idea
The realization or concept that takes us from Chaos toward a new way of operating. We probably don't yet have the Transforming Idea for the change cycle resulting from the events of September 11.
Integration and Practice
A period of assimilation of the Transforming Idea, when we practice ways of incorporating it into our operations.
New Status Quo
The Chaos of change
can create stress,
fatigue and
erratic performance
After we've integrated the Transforming Idea into our operations, a New Status Quo begins, in which we continue to enhance performance.

For many of us right now, after the Foreign Element that arrived on September 11, disruptions persist:

  • Loss of key personnel, plant, equipment, and communications infrastructure
  • Business disruption
  • Unwillingness of staff to travel by air
  • Restricted travel budgets
  • Reductions in flight availability
  • Increased inconvenience in traveling by air

These consequences become Foreign Elements themselves, with new change cycles of their own. The Satir Change Model provides a useful guide for dealing with them. I'll focus for now on Chaos, where most of us are right now.

When in Chaos, acknowledge it
Recognize that you're in Chaos, and that most people are under stress. Watch for signs of fatigue and erratic performance, and give people time to rest and to share their concerns. Use Temperature Readings to help people vent. See "Take Regular Temperature Readings," Point Lookout for August 29, 2001.
Recognize the tug of Old Status Quo
Chaos is uncomfortable. Many of us don't like it, and try to resurrect the Old Status Quo. Let go. Accept the change, and know that there's no going back. For example, if air travel now takes much longer, adjust project schedules — and employee compensation — accordingly.
In Chaos, make no major decisions or commitments
While we must make decisions, beware of making long-term decisions. When the Transforming Idea arrives, it will certainly provide better guidance than we now have. For example, avoid committing to a new project involving air travel.
Watch for the Transforming Idea
The Transforming Idea can come from anywhere — any level of your organization, even a competitor. Be open to ideas from all directions and all employees.

Chaos is not a bad thing. It just is. To manage through it, we must first accept it. Perhaps this is what Dorothy knew when, as she entered the Land of Oz for the first time, she said, "Toto, I have a feeling that we're not in Kansas anymore." Go to top Top  Next issue: Coaching and Haircuts  Next Issue

For more on the Satir Change Model, see "Change How You Change," Point Lookout for March 20, 2002, and "Piling Change Upon Change: Management Credibility," Point Lookout for October 18, 2006. For other examples of the effects of change-driven Chaos, see "The True Costs of Cost-Cutting," Point Lookout for January 30, 2008.

101 Tips for Managing ChangeIs your organization embroiled in Change? Are you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt? Read 101 Tips for Managing Change to learn how to survive, how to plan and how to execute change efforts to inspire real, passionate support. Order Now!

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See also Organizational Change for more related articles.

Related programs

Managing in Fluid EnvironmentsAlthough the Satir Change Model model was originally developed by Virginia Satir for managing change in individuals and family systems, it's no less valuable for managing change in the workplace. My program, "Managing in Fluid Environments," explores how to apply this model in situations where changes come along at such a rapid rate that the next change comes along before we reach the "New Status Quo" of the changes we're already dealing with. More about this program.

Changing How We Change: The Essence of AgilityMy program, "Changing How We Change: The Essence of Agility," focuses more intently on applications of the change model in a wide variety of situations at work, from the perspective of organizational agility. This point of view is especially valuable to people in organizations that use agile product development processes. By applying the Satir Change Model, and more recent developments from group psychology, we can substantially enhance an organization's ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and to transform itself to more competitive stances. More about this program.

Are you planning an offsite or retreat for your organization? Or a conference for your professional society? My programs are fresh, original, and loaded with concrete tips that make an immediate difference. rbreneYWNEhpxJlbqLvQHner@ChacephzvhoqnsGRqbABoCanyon.comContact me to discuss possibilities.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

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Controlling meeting blowhards is difficult enough in face-to-face meetings, but virtual meetings present next-level problems, because techniques that work face-to-face are unavailable. Here are eight tactics for controlling virtual blowhards. Available here and by RSS on March 29.
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Ramblers are people who can't get to the point. They ramble, they get lost in detail, and listeners can't follow their logic, if there is any. How can you deal with ramblers while maintaining civility and decorum? Available here and by RSS on April 5.

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Conflict Resolution Skills for Leaders
ConflConflict Resolution Skills for Leadersict is inherent in collaborative work. When conflict is constructive, it produces better outcomes. When it's destructive, it can be an insurmountable obstacle to success. In this program, we explore the connections between the outcomes of collaboration and conflict in both of its forms. And we emphasize the skills needed most by leaders. The leader's task is to manage conflict so as to ensure that the group achieves its objective with its capacity to collaborate intact, or even enhanced. Rick Brenner shows team leaders and team sponsors the techniques they need to manage team conflict for relationship safety and better outcomes. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Influencing Outcomes Without Authority
Your Influencing Outcomes Without Authorityability to influence others — whether upward, downward, laterally, or within a team — always depends on both the quality of your relationships with the people you influence, and on your perception and their perception of your personal power. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you the techniques for making things happen not by using formal organizational power, but by using informal, personal power. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Strategies for Leading Teams in Hard Times
When Strategies for Leading Teams in Hard Timesa project team is on task, the contributions of leaders are important, and little noticed. Sometimes the team encounters unexpected difficulty, or requirements change, or budgets are reduced, or any of a number of other things might happen. In these cases, the leader must make or facilitate decisions about how to respond or how to revise the plan. We get through it somehow. Hard times are something else altogether. Despondency, disillusionment, resource shortages, unexpected and severe failure of the plan, and toxic conflict can erode morale. How can leaders deal with such situations? Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Strategies for Technical Debt: A Workshop for Enterprise Leaders
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Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
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