The demand for improving efficiency and accountability in government organizations has increased drastically over the past twenty years. It is difficult to keep up with demands because of bureaucratic organizational norms; especially, when there are not enough resources available along with government down-sizing. Kiel (1994) introduces a new paradigm for managing chaos and government complexities through the use of nonlinear dynamics. This new paradigm will reduce the complexities of public management and guide managers into transformation change in government agencies.
According to Kiel, the nonlinear dynamics are often referred to as the "chaos theory", it is based on scientific research that shows how nonlinear systems change over time. The theory is known to have some relevance in providing public management with other ways to handle changes with their constituents. Implementation of changes does not necessarily come easily; however, with this new effective manner. The transition allows for public managers to understand change and complexity, to serve as a tool to transform and improve performance and services in the governmental agencies, and as a problem solving mechanism.
In order to clearly understand the nonlinear dynamics, we must first begin to look at where the discovery of the paradigm came from. Kiel (1994) states that a meteorologist by the name of Edward Lorenz used a nonlinear math equation to forecast the weather; this discovery is known as the "butterfly effect". Lorenz realized that small changes bring about big effects. The "butterfly effect" can be also seen in public management and organizations. This book gives several example of the "butterfly effect" such as the tip-off of the Waco, Texas cult incident and the disaster of the space shuttle challenger in 1986 with a failure of o-rings led to the explosion. In these two incidence, communication played a vital role for the alarmingly surprising outcomes.
Some models that have impacted organizations for many years are known as the deterministic change, equilibrium, and dissipative or transformational change. These models have helped to lead to the understanding for transition for transition of the nonlinear dynamic only because it modifies traditional management paradigms organizational changes.
When we begin to examine the nonlinear dynamics we anticipate some chaos that comes with the paradigm and in order to understand how to effectively handle the problems we must communicate and keep strict records of data collection to track the development of the organizational measurement, but it measure results and successes the survival of the organization.
Mangers in an organization may notice three transformations with using the nonlinear paradigm which includes convergence to a stability or equilibrium, stable oscillation, and chaos. With from one point then quickly stability or equilibrium, changes may start from one point then quickly stabilize at another point like in a machine such as bureaucracy. In the stable oscillation, managers can predict the outcomes of the organizational consistency. The chaotic behavior may look wild and erratic but it stays within boundaries. This is normal in some government operations such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may at times appear to be unstable; however, the employees are used to the pressure that comes around tax time.
The new paradigm provides insights that can promote organizational change, commitment to change, and acceptance of uncertainty. Managers should become flexible and comfortable with instability. In a bureaucratic organization, managers with uncertainties and it is important that managers in the public sector become comfortable with these uncertainties. Unexpected situations can cause devastating effects such the lack of communication or when communication is not clear and effective, as well as the technical failure that sometimes occurs with modern technology. Government organizations are constantly changing from both external and internal pressures. External pressures are citizens and the environment demanding quality services and internal pressures consist of employees demanding more flexibility and demands for decision making ability.
These demands challenge managers to lead the organization through transformation and improve performance to develop internal cohesion. This is where the managers will actually experience the survival of the organization or failure of it. New technology can increase uncertainty until learning is achieved as change occurs more often through symmetry breaks. In the bureaucratic organization, what once seemed novel will eventually become routine.
Changes are risky with the new paradigm because managers are accustomed to incremental changes maintain control, may seem safe, and employees adapt easily. Although it may appear that organizations are adapting to the incremental adjustments, this is not necessarily true. Uncertainties surely occur in incrementalism, as well as nonlinear paradigm. therefore, mangers must become creative and innovative in order to prepare themselves for instability because when an organization is transforming, regardless if managers use incremental changes or nonlinear paradigm, organizations are still in a period of instability.
Gathering data in an organization is essential and organizations are rich with information. Some approaches for data collecting is "activity base costing" known as the (ABC) time series, "external times series", and "internal time series." ABC was implemented in state government agencies where employees report the time devoted to work activities. Keeping records of employees work could determine the cost for their activities. The limitation of (ABC) time series is that it does not show direct results, but it examines efficiency and effectiveness. "Internal activities" serves as a time series in response to the internal pressures recorded. "External activities" serves as a time series for the demands from the external pressures recorded. Out of time series comes rules and out of rules managers can respond to external and internal pressures in an efficient and effective manner. By using time series, managers can also make predictions and even forecast the budget or unexpected events that may occur.
In bureaucratic organizations, when there are limited rules, managers can limit the system of the work dyaminics. Bureaucracy in an organization must be recognized to maintain standards and the need for fairness and equity of services; however, this should not be true for all cases in a bureaucratic organizations. Managers must define performance and track the inputs and outputs of these measures over time before decisions can be made. Both statistical quality control charts and traditional line graphs can help managers see the relative stability or instability of an organization system.
The nonlinear paradigm can threatened the organizational culture. Organizational culture can inadvertently present employees with a "correct" way to perceive, think, and feel about problems that may occur in organizations. Culture can also reinforce stability. Allowing employees to exercise autonomy can recreate more complexity because there are no bureaucratic duties. The nonlinear paradigm is a threat to status quo and traditional model cause productivity and quality of services to decline in an organization at times, but we must realize that progress is not from our mistakes and this reinforce ways in which managers must become comfortable with uncertainties. Although the nonlinear paradigm may threaten organizational culture, the new culture can emerge from the paradigm. The culture would towards performance, cost, and outputs.
A study by Gerald Miller (1993), with teams, suggests that unstable teams are more readily adaptive to changing situations opposed to stable teams. The stable were rigid when it came to changes and they minimized the discovery of alternatives. This promotes many qualities valued in contemporary governmental organizations. Total Quality Management(TQM) may help to improve governmental functional work activities could improve quality of services and efficiency in organizations.
Leading the organization will consist of managers who are creative, innovative and risk takers. Managers must know themselves and be able to back up their decisions by using some tools that were mentioned previously, along with skills, and knowledge. Planning is an essential function for public managers. Goals must be set in order for employees and constituents to visualize; goals become a blueprint for strategic planning. Managers are reluctant to risk, but we must remember that risk takers accept the uncertainty of a nonlinear and probabilistic environment. Sooner or later the followers will run into a dead-end because of their ridgidness and blockage of to discoveries. Managers will soon realize by using the nonlinear paradigm what once seemed unstable will soon be stability.
There will unexpected problems, whether it is with the traditional or contemporary approaches; however, instability is better able to manage than stability. The self-organizing agency is one that maintains a state of constant renewal. To get to this state of renewal, feedback is necessary from both internal and external environments. Because of the demands for quality services by citizens, along with demands from the environment, changes provide a good time for managers to become creative with modifying the organization by implementing the nonlinear paradigm.
Managing chaos and complexity in government seemed to be very informative in providing information for reconstruction of a bureaucratic organization and over-coming instability and chaos in an effective manner. Recognizing that there must be cooperation from internal forces, and knowing how to become comfortable with uncertainties are essential to implement the new paradigm. Because this is a period of devolution managers from both the public and private sector can utilize this material to make their organizational transformation a smooth journey.