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A Wild Horse Called Chaos

Page history last edited by Henry T. Hill 11 years, 11 months ago
A Wild Horse Called Chaos Print E-mail
Monday, 14 April 2008

Is chaos like a wild horse?

The root for the word "manage" is an Italian word that means "to train a horse."

Inhumane horse trainers (managers) see a rebellious animal who must adjust to a new environment. They transform the horse through a process they call "breaking." They break the will of the horse so it submits to the will of the human. Their methods may include:

  • Saddling and riding the horse until its will is broken
  • Tying the saddled horse to a tree until it ceases to struggle
  • Drowning the horse until it submits

Humane horse managers see a frightened animal who can adjust to a new environment. They transform the horse through a process they call "gentling." The horse is led to trust human beings. Their methods include:

  • Observing the horse carefully
  • Familiarizing the horse gradually with the saddle and additional weight
  • Securing the horse's willing agreement

If a people manager sees chaos as rebellious, they may resort to tactics similar to a inhumane horse trainers. They may try to break the will of the people in the organization. That makes the surface of the organization look smooth, but underneath it's churning with fear and anger.

Effective organizational leaders, in my experience, see chaos as a period of adjustment. A time when things that were working have broke down and need renewal. A time when things can be reassembled in creative ways to respond to the disturbance between the organization and its environment. For instance, when the organization doesn't make its revenue goals for two consecutive quarters.

Leaders realize the things can't be recreated until the impacted individuals discover their own transformational ideas for how to respond so that it benefits themselves and the organization. They give people the time and space to respond willingly.

This is not some touchy feely nonsense. Would you rather own a horse that was gentled or a horse that was broken? I'll take the horse that was gentled every time. I want a partner rather than a servant.

Some people believe that a leader who is kind can't be firm. I guarantee you that a humane horse trainer is firm. You can manage horses and people both kindly and firmly.

Chaos doesn't have to be interpreted as a rebellion. If it's interpreted positively, as a signal that the organization is adjusting to it's environment, there will be more opportunities for growth and positive change

I suggest following the lead of humane horse trainers -- transform chaos through gentling rather than breaking.

©2008 Steven M. Smith

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