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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Chaos isn’t a pit, it’s a ladder

People who create chaos know exactly what they are doing!

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is the ladder, and the climb is all there is.” Petyr Baelish, Game of Thrones

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” Sun Tzu

How many of you have people in your lives that thrive on chaos? I know that I do! They seem to create disruption and turmoil everywhere they go, and they seem completely unaware of what they are doing.

But they are aware.

Why do they create chaos? As a project manager, I love predictability! In fact, predictability in project management is so important that many project managers view risk as variance from the plan. The Deming/Shewhart quality cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) is built around the idea that we develop a plan and then we compare what we thought would happen to what actually did. Using that newly found knowledge, we can now modify our plan and try again. We follow that cycle until whatever we are doing is optimized.

But some people don’t want an optimized process. They want what they want, and that is all they consider. They look at the process and realize that they don’t have logic behind their position. Or that the rules don’t favor their desires. Perhaps following the process is just too hard or might take too long.

So, they break things.

Like a petulant child, they strike out at the system and hope that it breaks. Sometimes the goal is to actually take down the system, and sometimes the goal is to force so much chaos that defenders of the system give up and let them have what they want.

Normal people understand that you need systems and processes for orderly operations, and they view chaos as a pit to be avoided at all costs. But others create chaos because they understand it creates opportunities. Some people will immediately retreat to avoid the chaos. Some people have tried to fight in the past and have been broken. Others cling to the notion that the processes will protect them and that virtue and truth will prevail.

Probably not.

As project managers we are trained to remove chaos from the process. It is true at work, and it should be true in our personal lives. Process matters. Process always matters. We should remember that underlying truth.


I pulled heavily from Game of Thrones for this particular article. I loved the series because, dragons aside, it was true to real life. Moral people were out maneuvered by amoral people, just people suffered at the hands of the unjust and core principles were often defeated by Machiavellian scheming. Just like real life!


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