As a child deeply in love with nature, living on the edge of a park, and the 5th child of 6, I knew a lot about chaos, the beautiful, free, creative and exhilarating kind. Starting out free to explore, school at age 5 felt like bitter confinement and at times crushing domination, with me acutely aware of the down-side to our civilization process. As a result, I have always been drawn to unorthodox concepts of how people might form community and in the last 20 years have turned that awareness into an obsession (and a company), leading to questions which have since liberated my life.

How can we shift the civilization process so that rather than diminish people and demean the human spirit, each person is assisted in expanding into their wholeness?

What can we do to create a world in which it feels safe to be powerfully influential, inventive, and collaborative so that we are authentically free co-creators? What does an organization look like in which people thrive rather than simply survive?

It’s clear that our current organizational structures are not working well. News headlines make us all too aware of the meaning of the term dysfunctional within schools, families, businesses and institutions. Schools struggle to effectively educate, many businesses, marriages and families are in a state of crisis. And then there’s the current state of health care, the economy, welfare, our judicial systems, the environment, and governments.

Additionally, a requirement for mutual cooperation is essential as we expand our increasingly technological and global community. We are evolving at an accelerated pace which creates greater stress and a pressing need to be more inter-dependent and streamlined in our evolution. What once took years and even decades to create now takes only months or days and our outdated organizational systems can’t keep up with our present or future. What’s the answer?

Recently, in studying a variety of organizational models, I was delighted to discover a human system that is synonymous with the work of my company LifeWork Systems. The model is called a chaord, derived from a combination of the words chaos and order. In a chaord, all the best within human beings and all manner of systems is honored and focused towards what is both most meaningful and effective.

Leading scientists from many disciplines have recently discovered that life itself thrives on the edge of chaos with just enough order to give it patterns we have taken for granted and assumed developed in a linear, plodding manner. It’s not true. Much of what exists in nature formed in both a complex and simultaneous way. In other words, a variety of systems acting independently worked in harmony to rapidly collaborate and create what could not otherwise occur. Nature literally explodes with creativity and cooperation.

A chaord is similar; people share power, are equipped to co-create change, and independently self-govern so that everyone can then harmoniously blend available chaos with order for rapid, effective change. In ordered chaos, each person is first and foremost purpose-oriented, focused on the vision and intent. Next, everyone is organized to expediently harness the creativity, gifts, initiative and collective talents available in service to that purpose or vision. Ordered chaos is to vision what a bow and arrow is to a target. Control is released so the arrow can literally fly to the target!

What does this mean specifically? Organizations operating as a chaord function by a set of principles in which power is shared, knowledge and initiative are distributed at all levels and self-governing teams work independently to accomplish their goals with faith in each other to deliver their part. Imagine families and classrooms in which children and adults learn to share decision-making, governing, and whole tasks are delegated to individuals and teams independently and yet, interdependently. In this system internal motivation, purpose, vision and self-management are top priorities that replace traditional command and control, linear top-down managing so that joyful participation from passion and purpose reign. I have successfully created this very system in my own family and in client sites within schools and businesses.

A great recent example of a chaord is Best Buy. Management chose 2,000 of their employees to participate in ROWE, a result oriented work environment. There are no mandated work hours or schedules and employees are free to work at the local coffee house or on their patio, take off in the middle of the day, work in the middle of the night, or even hike all day when they want. There’s no need to ask permission because they are self-governing. The only requirement is that the job gets done and they have been prepared for it socially, professionally and emotionally as well as given the authority to make it happen.

Best Buy management was delighted to discover their people actually worked harder and produced better quality outcomes, processing 10 to 20 percent more orders than contract workers doing the same job in a traditional office setting. They found a focus on results and not the number of hours at a desk fostered an entrepreneurial spirit. Employees began thinking about their jobs differently and coming up with innovative ideas that save the company time and money. Some employees even passed up promotions because the other team wasn’t operating in a chaordic ROWE manner yet.

We live in exciting times with tremendous opportunity to expand into the amazing, capable, creative human beings we are and to have fun alone and with others. A chaordic model is exciting because it provides meaningful uncertainties, risks, challenges and opportunities to contribute that cannot be found in traditional models. Vision, with action, leads to infinite possibilities. It’s time to buckle up, and go for the ride of our lives. We are designed by nature itself to function within organized chaos on purpose!

Why People Hire LifeWork Systems

Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace and recognize a systems approach ensures consistency and sustainability in the transformation process. They know that conscientious employees grow your business and improve your reputation, giving you competitive advantages.

We help organizations instill into every person a common language and toolset for how to participate in a responsibility-based workplace. Visit our website at www.lifeworksystems.com, and click the link at the bottom to complete a culture assessment and schedule your first consult to review a report on your feedback, all at no cost.

 You can also contact Judy Ryan at 314.239.4727 or at judy@lifeworksystems.com.

As published nationally in the Women’s Journal, October/November 2006.