Chaos Theory is a study of the mathematics associated with a complex system, in order to detect minute changes in the conditions in which the system must operate. The theory is that small changes will upset a delicate balance, and the upset will cascade into an unacceptable (and if the math is not correct, an unpredictable) level of risk to the primary function of the system. You might have heard chaos theory described as “the butterfly effect.”
The butterfly effect, which purports that if enough butterflies in South America flap their tiny wings simultaneously, they will shift the air current traveling north, to change the course of a hurricane as it moves through the Caribbean Sea. Or, you may have seen the 2004 film of the same name, the plot of which was chaos theory. Bear in mind that the operative word here is “theory.”
However, I can tell you that I have had experience with chaos theory in the workplace, and it had little to do with math. Technically smart people with intricate jobs tend to take pride in, or somewhat own their work. They see a correlation between the results of their work and their status among peers. Throw into this mix a new manager, who decides to institute changes in the workplace that he or she manages, to include decisions that affect the technical regimen. Now, you have a risk of chaos. Likely, the technical people will not see the manager as either their superior or their peer.
They will test the manger by instituting a technical discussion with him or her in order to measure the manager’s knowledge about the effect that the manager intends to cause or has caused to their work. If the manager does not pass this test, look out!
The best and brightest technical people will activate their resumes in order to disappear from that now failed workplace (their opinion) swiftly and unexpectedly. It is the technical people who remain that will do harm. They either cannot or will not see a way to leave, so they will institute technical chaos in order to cause the manager to fail at one or more benchmarks. Then, they will enjoy watching that manager fail again as he or she tries to defend what happened even though the manager cannot technically explain how the system works when it works correctly.