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

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!

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.

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenHjjWMAxWGidemhbjner@ChacJdppmvzrmasSrqEXoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Organizational Change:

Artist's conception of the Mars Pathfinder landing by bouncing on its airbagsTraining Bounceback
Within a week after we've learned some new tool or technique, sometimes even less, we're back to doing things the old way. It's as if the training never even happened. Why? And what can we do to change this?
The Scream, by Edvard MunchComfortable Ignorance
When we suddenly realize that what we've believed is wrong, or that what we've been doing won't work, our fear and discomfort can cause us to persevere in our illusions. If we can get better at accepting reality and dealing with it, we can make faster progress toward real achievement.
Hoarfrost coating Autumn leavesPiling Change Upon Change: Management Credibility
When leaders want to change organizational directions, processes, or structures, some questions arise: How much change is too much change? Here's a look at one constraint: the risk to management credibility.
A Carrick MatChanging Blaming Cultures
Culture change in organizations is always challenging, but changing a blaming culture presents special difficulties. Here are three reasons why.
Roald Amundsen, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, and Oscar Wisting at the South PoleDeciding to Change: Choosing
When organizations decide to change what they do, the change sometimes requires that they change how they make decisions, too. That part of the change is sometimes overlooked, in part, because it affects most the people who make decisions. What can we do about this?

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. rbrenDcUZcWCcMzsRLMeJner@ChacoOIxMmWaXWjEWgqZoCanyon.comContact me to discuss possibilities.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The Jolly RogerComing August 22: Dealing with Credit Appropriation
Very little is more frustrating than having someone else claim credit for the work you do. Worse, sometimes they blame you if they get into trouble after misusing your results. Here are three tips for dealing with credit appropriation. Available here and by RSS on August 22.
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912And on August 29: Please Reassure Them
When things go wildly wrong, someone is usually designated to investigate and assess the probability of further trouble. That role can be risky. Here are three guidelines for protecting yourself if that role falls to you. Available here and by RSS on August 29.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenwabMsgmOMBsLZzmOner@ChacDtjujBpwsrRHlTQdoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around.
Reader Comments About My Newsletter
A sampling:
  • Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
  • You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
  • I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
  • A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
  • …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.
  • More
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Managing ConflictFed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you the target of a bully? Learn how to make peace with conflict.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.