Friday, October 9, 2009

Chaos and Order: A Day in the Life of Bud's Warehouse

By nature, Bud’s Warehouse is a chaotic place on several levels. As a faith venture, we hire individuals rebuilding lives from felony convictions, homelessness, and addiction. Individuals in these circumstances often are dealing with messy lives. Messy lives breed chaos.

As a home improvement thrift store, Bud’s Warehouse also experiences chaos as a business. We rely on the donation of building materials for the supply of items to sell. Such a stream is never steady and easy to predict.

Last week, we finally achieved some order in our back yard only to learn that a big load of composite decking is arriving in the next few days. The next day 200 windows unexpectedly showed up.

We constantly fight the battle of the mess. When we are winning and getting organized that often means we are not finding as many donations as we would hope. When we are losing, it declares we are being blessed with an abundance of new donations.

Fortunately, our customers are very understanding. In fact, they get very nervous when we start becoming too clean and organized. As someone once remarked, "Bud's wouldn't be Bud's if we didn't have to hunt and seek. It's like finding a present on Christmas morning."

And in many ways Bud's Warehouse is on the cutting edge of management theory. OK... So that might be a bit of a stretch. But many thinkers are exploring how to manage chaos.-- how to find order in a world of many moving pieces and flatter management structures. One of my favorites is Visa Founder Dee Hock's, "Birth of the Chaordic Age" where he advances the idea that this new world of chaos and order can function together in a management system.

And in Bud's Warehouse case, the faith part of our faith venture also helps manage the chaos. We trust that there's a bigger purpose at work in the midst of the messy day-to-day situations. We know that our loving God is on a quest to rebuild a creation that has been fundamentally broken. God helps hold together what others might see as chaos towards His greater purpose.

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