“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu quotes (Chinese General and Author, b.500 BC)
The world we live in is often chaotic and those who manage organizations may find it hard to forecast and understand the correct strategies for planning and budgeting. Because in a chaotically changing environment, one never knows what is going to happen next. Changes seem to happen in random patterns similar to waves on a body of water. In smaller markets, similar to smaller bodies of water (like a pond), these waves are easier to understand and forecast. However, in the largest markets, like larger bodies of water or an ocean, all the rules change and forecasting change becomes more difficult as chaos hits the organization from all sides.
The Ship in the Storm:
As storms often describe chaos, ships often describe organizations. One can think of an organization in a radically changing environment as a ship on the ocean during a storm. Probably, you have heard entire nations referred to as ships of state or large organizations described as ships. The metaphor is useful to describe how hard it is to turn those ships or for organizations to change course. A storm helps us to visualize the abstract concept of chaos and helps us to better plan our actions and manage change.
To illustrate chaos, I often explain how overwhelming and complicated life can become by using a very visible prop. I take a stack of papers and ask the audience to imagine that they are dreaming and in this dream they hold a similar stack of papers. Only their stack represents their life’s work. It symbolizes every piece of work they have ever produced for any reason, all on unnumbered sheets of paper. I ask the audience to imagine that all their assets and their life’s savings rely on delivering this report to the someone across town, maybe the IRS. They must use this stack to prove that they have earned their incomes. Then as they open the door to go outside to get into their cars, imagine that a mighty gust of wind takes this stack, tearing it from their hands and exploding it down their street for several blocks. As I throw my stack into the air – sheets fly in all different directions.
“Now what do we do?” The answers, “Cry,” “Run and Collect the Papers,” “Call for Help,” and so on. Then someone says, “Start categorizing the papers in manageable groups.” This is exactly what you do with chaos. Think about managing chaos in terms of collecting all the information we can and then categorizing it into manageable groups.
By adding the storm scenario, as in the picture of a ship on the ocean in the figure, we can build a more effective picture of strategy and organize strategy into five forces effecting our organization: