The resilience of your organisation depends on the people willing to risk breaking things.
Chaos Monkey is an open source application created to test the resilience of web services. By intentionally creating failures in random ways, chaos monkey helps engineers discover where there are shortcomings in their systems.
Many organisations have business continuity tests to help them learn how to manage failures. These exercises can be valuable learning experiences when done well. However, many are also predictable, formal and artificial. (If your business continuity test isn’t allowed to fail you won’t learn anything) Further many of these tests don’t go far enough because they test the continuity of defined current systems and processes internally, not the resilience of these in a wider dynamic ecosystem.
Chaos at the Centre and the Edge
How do create a corporate chaos monkey that helps your organisation learn how to improve its resilience in a rapidly changing environment?
Creating a way for your people to run small scale tests of new ways of working, new processes, new products and services acts as a chaos monkey in your corporate environment. Lots of change and experimentation will expose your weaknesses and keeps you engaged with the dynamic environment around your organisation. This is the usually reason that wide scale experimentation is resisted in large organisations. However, experimentation lets you learn and build capability to fix issues when they are still small. Experimentation builds resilience.
In most complex systems, the traditional approach of defence from failure will fail anyway. Building the capability to learn and adapt to failure is far more valuable than a Maginot line of corporate defence. Experimentation will help supply the needed chaos at the centre and the edges of your organisation.
Once you accept that a little chaos is required you need your own monkeys to bring chaos. Find and embrace your Change Agents. In every organisation there is someone willing to risk breaking something to make the world better. Change Agents are the corporate chaos monkeys.
Every responsive organisation needs its Change Agents to bring just the right amount of chaos, adaptation and learning.