Why Chaos Is Such a Great


Source of Motivation



By Tara Miller

Pennsylvania, USA

As a seasoned project manager, I thrive on chaos. The joke in my family is that if I get bored, everyone is in trouble because I’m going to start a home renovation project, bring home a puppy, or even start a company. When things get calm, I tend to create a whirlwind of new activity.

I know that might sound counterintuitive (for someone whose job is to create order) or even reckless, but I’d argue that chaos is where greatness, innovation, and magic happen if you can push through the discomfort. You often see the best in humans come out when they’re forced to push their limits. For me, the alternative to chaos is complacency.

The best project managers acknowledge that the world is inherently chaotic and apply their project management tools in a way that provides structure to the chaos while leaving room for flexibility and creativity. This balance is known as the “edge of chaos.” It’s a sweet spot where you have enough structure to guide your team and manage your resources, but enough flexibility to pivot when necessary and adapt to changing circumstances.

Chaos gives me, as a project manager, confidence and motivation. My favorite part of a project is when no one else can see the way through, but I’m already starting to see the pieces come together. I know how my project management tools will help create order from chaos: the project plan and vision, the team charter and ways of working, and the contingency plans.

And in fact, some of my proudest accomplishments have stemmed from periods of pure chaos. After having my third child, I came back from maternity leave and decided this would be a good time to co-found my own strategic project management firm. (I told you I love chaos.) Starting a company from scratch is inherently chaotic—even more so when you’re trying to handle the demands of a new baby and two other children under 5. There are so many unknowns, so many risks—especially as compared to the stability of a job you have 15 years of experience doing. But this also offered an opportunity to create something new and on my own terms, so I took the leap, treating the process like any other project with project plans and stakeholder management plans. While we now have our foundational components in place and are aligned on where we’re going, there are still days when my schedule is thrown off before I’ve even woken up, so the chaos never goes away.


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How to cite this article: Miller, T. (2023).  Why Chaos Is Such a Great Source of Motivation, commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VII, July. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/pmwj131-Jul2023-Miller-why-chaos-is-such-a-great-source-of-motivation.pdf

About the Author

Tara Miller

Philadelphia, PA, USA


Tara Miller is co-founder and partner of Artemis Factor, a women-led management-consultant business that has scaled in four years to over 50 consultants serving 15+ pharma/biotech companies. Tara has a reputation for building sustainable operations from the ground up, and instilling discipline and structure in ambiguous and chaotic project environments. As a portfolio, program and project-management practitioner, Tara over the course of her career has delivered more than 40 transformational projects, including at least 10 product launches and 7 innovation incubators. Tara can be contacted at tara.miller@artemisfactor.com. To learn more, visit https://artemisfactor.com/