Within an organization, chaos can manifest itself in different ways. Maybe it’s focusing purely on financial aspects to the detriment of others. Perhaps it’s an inability for teams to work together productively, or when people are managing stress or frequently on sick leave. There may be a merger and acquisition in progress or an imbalance of reward across the hierarchy. The Field Model™ codifies what you need to do inside organizations to overcome the chaos that can occur.
Managing Organizational Chaos
For an employee, chaos can feel like ineffective management structure, no induction, ancient hardware or an atmosphere of fear. Most of us will have experienced this at some point in our career.
Chaos that is detrimental to the employee experience or damages well-being, efficiency or the overall success of the organization is toxic. This distinction is important, because to some degree you need an element of chaos to allow for creativity and innovation, but it should never become harmful.
I believe that most sources of chaos inside organizations can be fixed with better communication. I developed The Field Model to ensure organizations explore the root causes of any chaos, rather than just treating the symptoms or finding short-term quick fixes. Once we understand the root cause of issues, we can work to improve communication and tackle those issues head-on for the longer term.
Understand. Diagnose. Fix.
There are three elements to The Field Model: understand, diagnose and fix. I always talk about a medical analogy when I’m describing this model because of its link to treating symptoms. If you have a headache, you can take a painkiller to get rid of the pain. But you haven’t explored the root cause of the headache. If the reason behind the headache is because your eyesight is getting worse, then your treatment needs to be a trip to the optician or new glasses.
The painkiller is a quick win for the pain, but it isn’t a long-term solution. Eventually, if the headache continues, you need to explore the root cause and treat it. Treating the symptom alone for too long will just make the eyesight worse and the treatment longer.
The “understand” phase of the model is about the symptoms. You can identify what is happening, and you know something is wrong. “Diagnose” is where you delve into the issues using the right tools for the situation. This might take the form of interviews or surveys. This can unearth some golden nuggets to help you see the full picture, but it is important to ensure that the questions you ask will get you the results you need. Matching the questions with the right tool for your situation is key to success.
The “fix” is the final part of the model. This allows you to focus on fixing the root cause of the symptoms and move forward. This is the bit that is uncomfortable, because we are likely to explore issues that have been swept under a carpet or ignored for some time. When it comes to the fix, we are usually exploring the following:
- Leadership: Improving the skills of anyone who leads people, from line managers up to the board
- Blockers: Individuals who can block transformation inside an organization, as it is important to determine why that is happening
- Culture: Is the way things get done inside an organization right for the people and the strategy? Are behaviors aligned to what is written down? Is it real?
- Strategy: A lack of understanding often is part of the root cause, and everyone needs to know why things are happening and where decisions are made.
There are always other things to consider, and every organization or team will be different, but these are the four core areas that tend to come up. For a communicator, it’s important that all areas link to communication. And what’s important for a leader is that all of them link to how work happens. Whether it’s how you behave and the language you use or how you work together and how meetings are managed, all routes lead to communication.
This model can support any team, and for communication professionals, it can be used as a structure to resolve chaos.
5 Quick Tips
When it comes to applying The Field Model, here are five quick tips:
- You need data to make decisions, so invest time into diagnosing what’s really going on.
- Remember that you need to take people on the journey of applying the model so they know what is happening, why it’s happening and the part they can play.
- Use the right tool to gather data and insights for your organization and your situation. The tool you use to listen says so much about how much you care.
- Don’t underestimate the bigger impact of small ripples of chaos. Team friction in one place can have a huge impact in another, so don’t ignore the small things — they will soon become too big and harder to fix.
- Make sure you know the organization’s strategy for the future — what’s the vision for growth, are you likely to move to M&A, is there a long-term aim to sell, etc. It’s better to have conversations to know what could cause chaos in the future so you’re ready.
The Field Model was created to enable people to take small steps forward inside organizations. Working through the symptoms and recognizing how they impact the organization is key to finding the root cause of the issue and fixing it for the long term. The three phases allow you to transform your workplace from a place of chaos to a place of calm.
Making long-term changes and creating a calmer organization is always a difficult, but essential, journey if communicators are to drive efficiency and engagement for the future.