Chaos Theory Offers Insights into How Teams Function

Article

Maguire, Miles   (1999, ASQ)   ASQ, Milwaukee, WI

Quality Progress    Vol. 32    No. 6
QICID: 13403    June 1999    pp. 41-45
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Article Abstract

Complexity science or chaos theory contributes concepts like self-organization, co-evolution, feedback, and nonlinear dynamics to organizational excellence. These were among the ideas covered in an interview with Susanne Kelly and Mary Ann Allison, the authors of The Complexity Advantage. Thinking about self-organization helps us realize that everyone is responsible for the organizational environment. Members of a group can co-evolve, as they and their team take on new behaviors and use feedback to reinforce their environmental ecology. One key to new behaviors is the realization that complex systems are beyond the total control of any single person, such as the boss. At the same time, every person has the power to influence change, for as is known from nonlinear dynamics, even minor adjustments can lead to pervasive effects. When individuals become autonomous agents, they take on the responsibility to speak constructively about what they think. In some organizations, personal responsibility might be subverted by an overemphasis on teams and efficiency. The greatest barrier to applying the ideas of complexity science is a mind-set of linear cause and effect. This mind-set obscures the power of nonlinearity, interaction, and systemic behavior. Keys to doing away with closed-system thinking are learning about self-organization and making real changes in personal paradigms. These ideas can help produce a nimble and competitive organization that has an enhanced clarity of its vision. This article includes a comparison of 14 steps for success from The Complexity Advantage with 14 elements of total quality management.

Keywords

Teams,Cultural change,Chaos theory


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