Digital Attitude: Becoming Eminent

The Journey To Authentic Self

Controlling Chaos: 6 Steps To Finding Sanity

$7D24436BC485CA89It sure seems like the pace of everything is getting faster and faster every day.  Finding ways to maintain one’s sanity while managing large, fast-moving projects is an endless dance.  When I was teaching a course on managing projects in e-business recently, one of my students asked me how I controlled chaos on my projects. My answer: “I plan for it!”

My job as a project leader is to keep the project flow moving, to meet deadlines, budget constraints, and most of all to manage my client’s expectations. I am not silly enough to think that I can ever really control things, but, I am smart enough to put the right things in place to make sure that maybe the roof won’t blow off when the tornado comes through (if you get what I mean).   With good planning and a deep understanding of my team and client, and with an agile (digital) attitude, I have managed chaos for years.

What is Chaos Anyway?

On a project, especially in today’s complex and dynamic environments, chaos can be defined as “a state of the (project) system where the future development of the system is not predictable, or only poorly predictable.”(1) Basically,  a small unpredictable event, like the delayed arrival of key resource materials, may be nothing more than a nuisance when it happens, but the cumulative effect of many deliveries not taking place over many months can delay you to the point of no return.  When you are dealing with a complex and dynamic project, you are sitting on the edge of chaos most of the time, so you need to plan accordingly and not be overtaken by events.


Sanity = Practicing Good Project Management

  1. PLAN:  Make a plan, work the plan, and update the plan continuously.  If it is not documented, it does not exist!  Do you have a project management plan?  If you don’t have a road map, how will you ever know where you are going?
  2. TRACK: Know where you want to end up and keep your focus there.  Stay on track.  Do you have a project charter?  Knowing what you are sponsored to deliver is critical to getting there.
  3. MONITOR: Have a metric by which you know how to check the health of your project.  Do you have an analytic?  How do you know you’re on track if you can’t show it in a graph somehow?
  4. PREDICT:  Know what your mitigation strategy is because something will go wrong.  Do you have a risk management plan?  Chaos management is really just risk management.  You may not know what is going to happen but you can plan how you will fix it when it does.
  5. FIX: Prevent everything you can from going sideways.  You do this by continuous review. Do you have a documented change management process?  Change the easiest things first and get them going in the right direction.  Repeat after me: Change is good when it gets you closer to your goal.  Little changes along the way are a lot easier than a big change near the end. (It’s that cumulative thing again.)
  6. DANCE: Be agile.  You need to be open to alternatives when you need them.  You also need to be close with your client and your sponsor, so that you can make decisions when they are needed.


I know it may sound over simplified, but believe me, most of the battle of controlling chaos is staying calm and practicing good project management.  Do you have any steps that have worked for you?


Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian







  1. AVOIDING AND MANAGING CHAOS IN (Construction) PROJECTS, Sven Bertelsen and Lauri Koskela, 11th Annual Conference on Lean Construction – Denmark, 2009
  2. How to Save a Failing Project: Chaos to Control, Ralph R. Young, Steven M. Brady, & Dennis C. Nagle, Jr.. Management Concepts, Inc., VA, 2009

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