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December, 2009

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Bringing Order to Chaos

We have all been there! Taking over a company or group that has lost its way or suffering under market conditions that has overwhelmed it. Or, a major customer relationship erupts requiring immediate triage to stabilize and return to a normal business relationship. Or, you are blind sided by a third party trying to disrupt your organization by hiring away key employees affecting product development, sales and operations, or undercutting you position at key accounts. What do you do?

Your plan of action is a result of a quick but careful assessment of the conditions that exist. Many contradictory factors may be in play: Lack of organization and individual confidence, trust issues (mistrust, blame, defensiveness), break down in business discipline, poor communication, poor vision execution, etc. The effectiveness of your action plan is based on how you organize and prioritize what you do first, second and so on!

The following is a five-step process that I have used successfully to deal with severe organization dysfunction and poor performance:

  1. Focus Employees On What They Can Control - The biggest distraction that I find that needs to be contained is the disruption that things people cannot control causes. Uncontrollable events can be very distracting to many employees and they are far more productive and satisfied when they can offload the unexpected and uncontrollable issues and Focus on What They Can Control.

  2. Establish a Crisis Path - As a sizable part of the organization returns to processing controllable events there needs to be a timely response to the uncontrollable. Every organization has people who are more adept and comfortable dealing with uncontrollable problems where boundaries are poorly defined. They thrive on solving crisis. These people are capable of rising to the occasion in creating and developing solutions that solve tough problems in a timely and effective manner.

  3. Establish a Horizon - A dysfunctional organization has lost track of what it is working toward. It may be difficult to target a long term goal right away. Daily (or in more severe cases hourly) goals or targets might be necessary at the beginning to measure progress and accomplishment for the organization. A sustainable track record of attaining daily goals will lead to increased confidence in setting longer term weekly and then monthly goals.

  4. Eliminate the Root Causes of the Uncontrollable - As the organization begins to redirect itself toward a successful direction and uncontrollable crisis are contained; resources need to be applied to eliminating the causes of repetitive crisis. Possible reasons for this condition are:
    • Poor quality that is either occurring in the organization or by a supplier in the supply chain.
    • Critical business processes that are not being complied with.
    • Customer communication on commitments and expectations has broken down leading to an unrealistic demand on company resources.

  5. Honesty, Transparency and Communication - Through all of this it is imperative to be as honest with employees and customers as possible. Ongoing urgent or crisis situations breeds skepticism. Telling the ruth is golden over telling people what they want to hear. I have had amazing response from employees and customers alike when I present the truth about a situation rather than using double talk or worse - delay and deny - to deal with a problem.

Are these the only steps you can use to bring order to chaos. No! These five-steps have worked successfully for me in laying a foundation of stability in addressing severe organizational dysfunction in a number of management assignments in my career. Some of you may have circumstances that required a different tact and I would certainly appreciate hearing from you on what worked best for you.


Mike Brice
Phone: (206)226-1617

Feature Article

Is there a Mobile Phone app Strategy in Your Company's Future?

The feature article this month is focused on Want to Revolutionize Advertising? There’s an App for That and Five Strategies for Making a Smart App that point to the rapidly emerging smart app market as a the new marketing space. Millions of people are now using smart phones. This mobile utility was introduced with the iPhone and recently accelerated with other smart phone platforms being released using the Google Android operating system. In either case there is a very robust app market for mobile users that brings a variety of creative applications to your mobile fingertips to either occupy idle time or in some cases provide real value. The question is "Does this technology direction offer a new way to serve your customers and brand your products and services?"

In the beginning when websites emerged on the internet there were many who were slow coming to the party. This allowed aggressive and innovative competitors, often much smaller companies, to emerge with and grab a power position on the web. The larger companies finally arrived but only after falling way behind. Is the smart phone app market another example where traditional companies will be slow to react when other more nimble companies recognize the opportunity and develop mobile apps that will reach their intended market and desired customer.

Have you investigated the mobile app market? Would it provide a way to brand your company in a novel way? Possibly younger minds in your company have the genesis of an idea that can be turned into an app that could provide value for a significant number of people that ultimately influence buying decisions for your product and services. Do not dismiss the opportunity that is available here. The big company's are not slow this time. Read how established companies are taking advantage of this portal to the marketplace now.

Do you have a mobile phone app strategy?

Management Resources


Are you ready to start the hiring process? If markets recover in 2010 their will be a scramble to add new talent to your organization.
Time to Start Hiring?

How are you managing your leadership talent? In a contraction or hold-on economy developing leaders can be overlooked as an essential objective. Do not overlook the need to develop leadership in your organization.
What's Your Leadership Mindset?

A good primer for those in "project management" situations. Take a proactive role in developing those who have project responsibility. Good project management is an essential during a down market when meeting cost, performance and commitments are so visible to partners and customers.
The Quick-and-Dirty Guide to Getting Things Done

Encouraging your employees to voice their complaints--and doing something about them--might effectively boost your company's morale.
The Office: Fine Whines

Here is good insight on how to communicate with your company as news continues to be bad or discouraging. Things to do and what to avoid doing that can improve how your employees react to what you have to say.
How Do You Lead When All The News Is Bad?

Are you strapped with all of the administrative tasks associated with running your business and office. Find out how a virtual assistant may be the answer for you.
Small Business Owners Hiring Virtual Assistants


If you are build-to-order or have begun a move in that direction to meet your customes needs you may find what this company has done to be of interest.
Avoiding the Guesswork with a Build to Order Business (
5:12 min)


While this book dates back to the mid-1990's it still has a number of practical examples and lessons that are timeless. Do not assume that because of today's economy that there is a new way to attract customers in your market. It still comes down to the basics of blocking and tackling and not a fancy game plan.
The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema

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