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Learning from Chaos to
When everything changes and you
have not experienced this change
before – how do you lead and
As you gain experience how do you
support your teams progress?
Mike Cardus - www.MikeCardus.com 1
Mike Cardus - www.MikeCardus.com 3
Disorder – when you are unsure, uncertain, and
confused you are in a state of disorder. This is the
place you stand by yourself or with your team. This is
where you make sense of what is happening, then
determine which domain (Obvious, Complicated,
Complex, Chaos) you may be standing.
Obvious Challenges – there exist
current best practices, and your
team can find or ask others how to
The ambiguity is limited to the
process data, and the understanding
of the pieces that make the whole –
Mike Cardus - www.MikeCardus.com 4
Complicated Challenges – there exist subject-
matter-experts who have good practices, in-depth
knowledge, and expertise in the control and how to
affect these processes.
Your team can meet with these experts, and the
experts can provide some methods to improve, i.e.,
most IT implementations, SixSigma, Lean, or quality
The current staff does not currently understand the
ambiguity, and an outside expert helps share their
steps and processes.Mike Cardus - www.MikeCardus.com 5
Complex Challenges – cause and effect are
not obvious, and changes to one area will
affect many other areas in unknown or
To make sense of progress, your team and
organization have to look for patterns and
attempt multiple safe-to-fail experiments. The
safe-to-fail experiments happen while seeking
what is working to increase and not working toMike Cardus - www.MikeCardus.com 6
Chaos Challenges – sudden, unexpected,
unplanned shift happens internally or
externally. No one expected or was prepared.
The potential damage to the organization,
you, your team is great.
Immediate action is needed. You need to act,
make sense of the what you just did and
In chaos you want to get to complex as soon
Mike Cardus - www.MikeCardus.com 7
Mike Cardus - www.MikeCardus.com 8
Some steps to take:
1. Identify what decision or challenge you are facing.
2. Determine where you might be in the framework ::
Obvious, Complicated, Complex, Chaos.
3. Ask other people and gather feedback.
4. Based on where you feel you are ask yourself, your
team, or other people:
a. Obvious – is there an obvious, written, tried and
true best practice for our decision our challenge?
b. Complicated – does someone outside our
immediate team have expertise and expert
knowledge of this type of challenge or decision?
c. Complex – based on our time pressure and
multiple right/wrong options how many
experiments or tries can we make to better
understand our decision or challenge?
d. Chaos – When in chaos What immediate action
can we take to stop this chaos? Before or planning
chaos When this happens how will we best
Mike Cardus - www.MikeCardus.com 10
1.Frame the boundaries of the work. Where are the far edges that cannot
2.Identify who or what will be affected by progress. How to best navigate
these volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous changes.
3.Share all the factual data you can. Share all the good and bad, not just
4.Do not attempt to interpret or serve as a subject-matter-expert who has
to translate the data for people. Share the data in a format that others can
understand and needs little to no expert opinion. Abstain from giving your
5.Openly tell people that you do not know what to do, and we are here
today to determine what we might do. Doing nothing is an option.
6.Identify things that are working well enough to make progress
7.Identify things that are not working well enough and are causing regress
Mike Cardus - www.MikeCardus.com 11
Mike Cardus - www.MikeCardus.com
8. Ask, from the things that are working what we can do more of? How? When?
What will be measured?
9.Ask, from the things that are not working what we can do less of? How? When?
What will be measured?
10.Commit to 1 area from what working to increase, and what is not working to
11.Determine what you expect to learn from the commitment in #10. Write it down
12.Choose a date to meet and share what happened and what was learned
13.From what changed that works and does not work, determine how you did that.
Assign one person to be responsible for understanding, learning and sharing what
now works and does not work. Know you have some knowledge of a goal to be
achieved. Determining goals that can be achieved only works when the goal has
been achieved before, and we can diagram or understand how it happened the last
14.Ask, do we know enough to make this into a standard goal/ project plan? If yes,
develop a project plan; if no, repeat from step #1 12