Overview.  From a previous post, The 5 Types of Challenging Situations, the various challenges were explained along with their consequences. Here are the 5 challenges with brief definitions:

  • Simple. The rules work.
  • Complicated. The rules work but there are multiple sets from which to choose.
  • Complex. The rules are falling apart. Some work. Some don’t. Some are creating problems.
  • Chaotic. The only organization present is at the strategic level, e.g., Business Plan. There has been no or next-to-no implementation of consistent rules.
  • Random. The “coffee shop” situation where there are just-a-bunch of ideas with no cohesion.


  • Simple. With simple the rules work. The problem is out-of-bounds behavior occurring. To succeed you simply reference the policies/procedures and rules you have in place and get back to doing things right and achieve the deliverables. This is where money is made unless your company is being paid to explore the other areas listed below. Consequently, driving to simple as much as possible is essential.
  • Complicated. With complicated the rules work but the problem is there are several sets from which to choose.  So, you have meetings with your employees, vendors, etc., and decide which methods to use for the given situation. The only thing new to the situation is which methods in your “tool box” are appropriate for the situation and the order in which they will be used.
  • Complex. With complex the problem is new thinking is required if you are going to get back to simple. Here the rules, to some extent, aren’t working and something new is needed. Based on client needs you and your team look at the existing rules and keep what works, drop what doesn’t, and add new rules specific to the situation.
    Experimentation, which may incur some sunk costs, is needed. This can include changes in the culture and organization which, in turn, can upset some of your team members and stakeholders. More time than usual is spent on organizational culture and team makeup in order to create and sustain a stable environment.
  • Chaotic. With chaotic there are general thoughts but the problem is there are no specific, implementable rules. Once you go one level down below the strategic level organization disappears.
    You are left only with intention. These intentions may be quite strong and there may be a great deal of belief in future success but, again, the situation “has no legs.” To bring the ideas to life there is a need to move into complex and start the experimentation process. There is reliance on the team and all stakeholders believing that as a team you can make this happen.
  • Random. Again, this is what I call the “coffee shop” stage where ideas are being kicked around and there is a lot of brainstorming and searching for options and possibilities. This is a sunk cost. At some point movement into Chaotic, where the Business Plan is generated, is needed to begin the march to simplicity.

For more information regarding change management and how you can get your arms around it download my free e-book, Mindset – 5 Simple Ways To Look At Complex Problems.