It’s spring here in southern California the butterflies are starting their annual emergence. What effect will the butterflies have on the weather remains to be seen. The so called “butterfly effect” is an often used phrase used to refer to a property of nonlinear systems where a small change in initial conditions can have large effects later on. The name derives from the notion that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil might set off a tornado in Texas. Sometimes these conditions even create chaotic movements such as can be seen in this video of a double pendulum. Notice that if you don’t swing the double pendulum too far, it seems to act like a regular single pendulum.
Why do you think that Dilbert cartoons are so funny? Perhaps because they represent the experience of so many in the everyday life of an organization. Yes, the pointy hair boss spewing management speak and disengaged from what is actually happening, while the individual contributor (I just picked up that term somewhere and wanted to use it) like Wally is learning to play the game and respond in humorous ways that shed responsibility and hold commitment and power at bay. And how is it that the average contributor learns to play the game of organization?
The leader, very facilitative by nature, welcomes everyone to the conference room. She reminds everyone how this meeting was proposed and that the topic at hand is to understand the “goods” and “bads” of something that has happened in order to learn. She then explains … “What we can talk about is what happened on project X. What we’re not going to talk about is Y and we’re also not going to do is critique the individual who has left the organization that was on project X. This isn’t about Mr. A.”
Quizzical looks, a few tentatively raised hands. She calls on one. “So just to be clear what can we talk about again?”
“In general terms we can talk about X”, was the response.
Another raised hand, “So we can’t talk directly about B then?”
“Well yes if that applies we can talk about B, we just don’t want to bash A”, was the response.
Another raised hand, “So I’m not sure what I’m supposed to talk about now.”
Another comment, “I think we might need to talk about things more broadly than just X”.
VUCA is a term borrowed from the military via the Army War College. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity and represents how military leaders see much of today’s world. I suggest that in our terms, VUCA are all attributes of complex adaptive systems. According to the National Defense University description, the “C” in VUCA sounds more like what we would call complicated since it stems from the interdependency of our choices (complicated) and not interdependency of actors (complexity). Nonetheless, I think they are on the right track toward leading in complexity. The caution is that some might incorrectly believe that we can reduce VUCA if we only had more accurate information. Complexity theory would tell us that no matter how much information we have, we still cannot reduce VUCA nor predict the future with increased accuracy. Read More→
Recently we had an opportunity to give a short leadership workshop to 2 high school engineering classes. The teacher wanted us to help the students understand how to work together since later in the year they will be working in teams. We learned an important lesson ourselves while observing the two groups. Read More→