Saturday, November 15, 2014

Week Forty-six – Organised Chaos!

A few years ago, looking at the mess on my desk someone asked “how can you find anything in that mess?” and I told them it’s not a mess it’s my organised chaos!

Years later after making this comment I find myself writing about Organised Chaos and what it really means. I think we can all fool ourselves believing that statement but organisation comes from having a system that works and not a system that looks organised but it’s chaotic.

Let me tell you what got me thinking about it this week. I was travelling in Turkey visiting several cities within the country. The Turkish culture and its people have always fascinated me and I remember the first time I visited Turkey how much it reminded me of home. And by home I mean my birth home Mexico. I always tell people that Turks and Mexicans are somehow related in the way we live our lives. Spending time in Istanbul always brings back memories of the busy and exciting buzz Mexico City has. And whenever I leave Turkey to go back to the UK it also reminds me of why I never went back to Mexico! The comfort of knowing I can leave what seems a very chaotic city makes me enjoy it more than if I lived there. I can’t judge how chaotic Mexico City is nowadays as I haven’t been there for years but I am sure they have become more organised, just like the Turks, constantly look for way to improve the quality of life of people in these over populated cities.

But in a way, even thought these cities constantly look for improvements on their everyday systems, there always seems to be chaos all around you. A good example of this is at Istanbul International Airport. If you’ve never been through the famous Ataturk International Airport, this is one of the busiest hubs in the eastern part of Europe. There is no time when this airport is not busy with thousands of people arriving, transferring and leaving to hundreds of destinations. I don’t think I have ever been in a plane that arrives or leaves Istanbul empty. To alleviate the large numbers of people boarding and ensure planes take off on time, the airport has devised a simple but effective queuing system to board the aircraft by row numbers. This is no a unique idea and you may be familiar with it. Many airports attempt to do this by calling people to board by row numbers through the loud speakers. This, as I am sure you will also know, never works because people don’t listen. To avoid this the airport in Istanbul has set up barriers with queuing by row numbers! Simple! This means you get into your line based on your seat number and they board people accordingly, from the back of the airplane to the front, keeping everyone moving so you can board quicker and leave on time to your destination.

Now, you would think this system should work and help speed up the boarding process right? Wrong! It doesn’t work! And in my eyes it becomes what I call “Organised Chaos”. Yes they have the lines clearly marked with who should stand where for boarding and yes they let passengers into the plane from the back to the front rows to avoid congestion in the airplane’s aisles. But when you actually get on the plane there are people blocking the aisle, people sitting in the front rows trying to fit their suitcase and slowing everyone down! How do this happen I hear you ask? Simple – if you don’t have the barriers and make an announcement instead, people don’t listen. If you have the barriers and don’t make announcements, people don’t read! So you end up with people queuing on the last rows that are in the front rows and so the organised system is out of the window and it become chaos – an organised chaos!

This is a very simple example of why when someone tells you this is my organised messed it can’t really work. I am not judging peoples systems, I think everyone is entitled to work how they best fits them, but what I am saying is that throughout they years I have learn that organisation can and will help you be better at what you do. Think about it, how many times have you been in a situation where you thought you were organised and then something went wrong? This is probably because your system, like the boarding system at Istanbul, although it may seem organised still has flaws and needs perfecting. I have been trying to find the best way to keep myself organised for years and I still feel I have a long way to go. Checklists are a good example of this.

Do you keep a checklist? Or several checklists! You may even have a checklist to check your checklists! Do you like paper or electronic? I keep on switching back and forth between these two. And if your checklist is neat and organised how does it help you to get everything done? Some people are very successful at keeping well organised checklist but aren’t always successful at delivering what is on the checklist! Just like the queuing system, you have to not just implement it but make sure it gets done!

I don’t think we will ever be perfect at organising ourselves. Even countries like Germany and the UK still have their “Organised Chaos”. But what we can do is to continue to strive for this perfection. I know for myself, I continue to look for the ultimate checklist that will help me be organised, and who knows, I may never find it. But I encourage you all to look for ways to always improve and find your best-organised chaos! Trust me, no one has an organised mess that is 100% effective and even though it may seem to works at one point or another you will have to move away form your organised chaos and fix that mess!

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