Metaphors for Managing Complexity

In business today a critical leadership skill is dealing with multiple variables, commitments and time-frames simultaneously. This can be very stressful so I’m often bought in to do time and stress management workshops. These are effectiveness however there is a more fundamental issue – what are the metaphors people have for managing the complexity of the modern world? People are as effective as their metaphors and models of the world allow. People live “in” their stories and images of the world, and these shape their lives.

“This is a mess – let’s clean it up!” This is an old “command and control” metaphor where leaders try to get everything in it’s correct place. It rarely works these days – there’s too much change and uncertainly and this model will just make you stressed.
“I’m juggling a lot of projects at the moment, get back to me”. Another control model but one that acknowledges that things may never be completed. The hidden message of course is “and i may drop something” so I would also see this as a stress inducing narrative.
Surfing and Dancing
“Going with the flow.” “Leading the sales tango.” Moving from control to accepting and responding to what is, newer metaphors are emerging to cope with the current business environment.

Randori” is a Japanese word from the martial art of aikido to do with effortlessly dealing with a multiple attack situation in a calm and flowing manner. While perhaps too foreign or combative for some this is a personal favourite.