Thursday, 10 December 2009

A walk to the edge of organisational chaos - even in a tidy office

So one of the problems with the internet is the opportunity for almost endless (perhaps that should be eternal?) distraction.
I should be writing my diploma - instead I keep on researching and finding new books which could really help me understand organisations and leadership - this is my own personal walk to edge of organisational chaos - yes even after I have tidied my office! The other problem is that Dr B gets almost as interested in my research as I do and adds to the level of distraction by saying from behind his computer screen "ooh that's interesting I'll send you the link."
So last night this led in the direction of a small publishing house called Triarchy press which seems to have a series of fascinating titles on trying to improve understanding of organisations.

The name 'triarchy' refers to the three fundamental ways of getting things done in organizations: hierarchy, heterarchy and responsible autonomy.
All organizations use a mixture of these three ways, but the proportions can differ widely. At present, hierarchy is usually considered essential for all organizations. Heterarchy and responsible autonomy are often misunderstood or neglected. Here is an outline;Triarchy theory suggests that our "addiction to hierarchy" drains the energy from collaborative projects and sometimes fails to recognise the input of able individuals whose contributions can be overlooked in a formal reporting structure.
Pictured here is Adventures in complexity, for organisations near the edge of chaos by Lesley Kuhn.

A complexity approach removes simplistic hopes of an ordered and controllable existence where, if only we had the right ‘keys’ or ‘tools’, we would be able to fashion a successful organisation. Instead, it offers a way to identify underlying patterns of order and indicators for influencing future sustainable practice; it shows how simple recurrent rules result in complex behaviour and that ‘influential interventions’ do not take a neat cause-and-effect path but may generate unexpected outcomes.
The focus of Adventures in Complexity is not so much organisations as the ‘life of organisations’. Author Lesley Kuhn sees organisations as ‘collectives of human activity’ and here describes how complexity theory can be applied in and to organisations.
Complexity theory acknowledges that people are self-organising, dynamic and emergent beings who are capable of discerning thoughtfulness and innovative responses to change both within and between organisations. It argues that sustainability is best served by tapping into this entire pool of potential.
It embraces uncertainty and change. It uses terms like non-equilibrium and turbulence to show that, when systems reach ‘the edge of chaos’, they are most likely to exhibit creative, innovative responses and new patterns and structures are most likely to emerge. In the current unpredictable climate many organisations may consider themselves 'near the edge of chaos'. Yet most will not realise that this is where the greatest potential for success lies.


Dr B said...

What's particularly interesting are the six key complexity principles:
* fitness landscape – the need for an organisation to act coherently within its wider environment
* communicative connectedness – organisations can be seen as existing through conversations between all participants and the nature and quality of those interconnections is critical
* sensitive dependence on initial conditions – often referred to as the butterfly effect – small differences to the initial conditions of an organisation can have dramatically disproportionate consequences to the sustainability of the organisation
* edge of chaos-chaotic edge – edge of chaos thinking allows organisations to handle change effectively and develop new strategic directions as they flexibly encounter new situations and opportunities; chaotic edge thinking is where organisations perceive themselves to be under threat rather than full of potential, and retreat to rules-based behaviour
* attractors – the energies that motivate us in our work; to be aware of and to understand these enables managers to constructively review work practices
* fractality – thinking fractally means recognising that the global and the local are embedded in all levels of social practice.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Curse you, Jane!! here's another book I'll need to read as soon as I get my feet up after Christmas. reminds me of Margaret Wheatley & Peter Block, where we try to understand working flows as whole systems which display complex and variably predictable behaviours, rather than as mechanistic systems.

A lot of the frustration religious people feel with the way their antics are reported may be connected with the inability of superficial analysers to connect with such complexities. The result is that formulaic flatpack reportage, which frustrates and annoys anyone who knows anything of the story from the inside.

janetlees said...

Ah-ha a place for chaos in orgnaisations - there's hope yet.
I love it.Keep blogging and more power to your diploma writing too.

Jane said...

Alan have you seen that you can actually download one of the books for free 10 ideas in a conceptual emergency
I just love teh title
here's the link

Andrew Carey @ Triarchy said...

Thank you for writing about us and I hope you find plenty to interest you in "Ten Things to Do..."
I'm really interested in your idea of Holy Disorder and the notion of faith near the edge of chaos. Is creativity something one wants to encourage with respect to faith?
If you ever want to buy a book from us, use the promotional Code Tp20 on our website to get a 20% discount.
Best wishes,