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Shopify unleashes the Chaos Monkey

Shopify unleashes the Chaos Monkey

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Date created
August 23, 2023
Last updated:
April 7, 2024
5 min read
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Key takeaways

• Global companies are seeking solutions for impactful change without breaking talent.

• Shopify implemented Chaos Monkey in response to productivity challenges, shutting down communication channels to increase efficiency.

• Chaos Monkey, while effective in testing resilience, can cause unpredictability and stress in the workforce.

• Instead of sudden disruption, companies can focus on skills training to build resilience and empower leaders to support their teams.

• Data shows that collaboration, leadership, resilience, and ownership are key skills for global companies to develop in 2023.

Chaos Monkey 2023 proves global companies are still looking for a solution to trigger impactful change without breaking their talent in 2023.

Shopify took an unprecedented course of action. In January 2023, they cancelled all meetings with more than two people – for an entire fortnight. They shut down slack channels and wiped chat history in what Shopify would describe as ‘managed chaos’.

They were right to act. With extreme turbulence in 2023 – a recession, inflation and remote work – large companies are searching for new ways to design robust and nimble operations.

Shopify had previous operational challenges. Last July it laid off 10% of its talents in response to over-hiring and a depleted e-commerce market. But their problems don’t stop there.

Meeting and slack channel overloads were stifling their talent’s productivity. After all, time, efficiency and employee output determine business revenue. Therefore, Shopify shutdown all communication channels. COO Kaz Nejatian explained in an email to staff the logic behind management’s decision:  

“We are going fast and chaotic…Intentional chaos is more than OK, and it’s part of working and thriving at Shopify…We’ve forced our async work into Slack – it’s bloated, noisy, and distracting. We have endless channel updates mixed with broad announcements and pineapple on pizza debates.”

How do you trigger scalable, positive and sustainable change when systems malfunction at large organizations? Do we go fast and chaotic with a shutdown, or is there another solution to install resilience in our global teams?

What is Chaos Monkey 2023?

Chaos monkey is an engineering tool that stimulates failures in production systems to test their resilience. Used by Netflix, it shuts down systems at random to make them more robust and effective when they recover. It’s essentially a fire drill to train talent to react and adapt to unforeseen situations.

What caused shopify to unleash Chaos Monkey?  

Shopify deemed chaos monkey as the answer to productivity killers. In simple terms, they restricted communication to increase production and forced talent to adopt a low meeting culture. The sudden disruption was designed to make employees recover quicker and develop resilience to turbulence at a widespread organizational level.

Is there a negative impact of chaos monkey on a workforce?

Its main pernicious feature is unpredictability. The unforeseen disruption is liable to cause distrust with management and immediate stress on people as the brain craves habitual actions when experiencing discomfort. This stress increases mental pressures and evokes an underlying paranoia, especially for those with mental health difficulties, or remote workers who become isolated without communication channels.  

How do you make your workforce more nimble and robust to impact your business for the long-term without breaking your talent? Is there a much steadier approach as opposed to immediate chaos?

What’s the Chaos Monkey alternative?

Rather than shutting down communication platforms and stripping our people of resources, why don’t we make our people more robust by giving them the tools they need?

Think about the skills and resources that enable your people at every level of the organization to be efficient, productive and to perform. Remember that with remote work trending, the pressure to communicate with colleagues across global teams is mounting and enabling talent to collaborate ensures efficient co-working to produce results.

This may seem like a daunting task, but consider starting your leaders because they have the capabilities to support your global teams. By empowering leaders, we don’t rupture communication, but rather strengthen the relationship between management and their teams. And large organizations can provide the tools to standardize quality leadership skills to nurture a productive and stable environment.  

In this way, leaders empower their teams with the right skills and create stability, trust and growth to deal with forecasted turbulence in 2023.

What are the key skills for global companies to train & develop a robust internal organization in 2023?

We have the data to help large organizations solve their widespread challenges this year. Based on 78,551 hours of skills training from 162 companies, global businesses can focus on skills that impact their revenue goals while building a resilient workforce.  

Starting from a wide overview, the top trained skill in 2022 was Collaboration and Influence – a total of 24,547 hours (31%). With leadership skills ranked second. From this, we see that top global organizations are building teams of effective communicators led by empowered leaders.

However, most of the 162 companies trained Resilience and Taking Ownership skills and this is the upcoming skill for 2023. Meaning that as companies adapt to new workforce trends and changes, they’re focused on building resilient teams with the right leaders to make their organizations successful in 2023.  

But there’s more data on these 162 companies to consider.

Data from State of Skills

We’re starting to see an upward trend in increasing L&D budgets. This is because global companies are realizing they have to place more value on upskilling in 2023. However, the budget increase within most companies is insufficient to tackle such large-scale challenges this year. Therefore, multinational companies should take that next step by increasing their global budget to upskill their talent at scale.

Data from State of Skills

Tame the Monkey, unleash Skill Training  

This isn’t an attack on Shopify. Chaos Monkey proves that large organizations are seeking a solution to a serious challenge in 2023: how do you evoke positive and sustainable change at scale to impact your business in turbulent times?

Chaos Monkey is one tactic, but how can you make your talent more productive without piling on more pressure with such sudden disruption?

Train your talent to communicate and collaborate better and ensure the right leaders are in place to support them.

Global companies can’t rely on shutting down systems to become more robust. Our people aren’t systems – they’re humans. There’s enough stress on your people with changing work modes and reliance on communication channels to connect with global teams. Let’s focus on what we can give our people to succeed, not what we take away from them.

Global companies can rely on skills training to build resilience and allow their people to thrive amidst the intensity of change and turbulence. It’s a longer process, but a sustainable one. This is precisely why resilience and ownership is the upcoming skill to train for 2023.

Be brave and be one of the few global organizations to take that first step to upskill your people at scale and transform your business in 2023 with sustainable growth.

Download our State of Skills report here to gain full insights into the data that matters to your business revenue in 2023.

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About Lepaya

Lepaya is a provider of Power Skills training that combines online and offline learning. Founded by René Janssen and Peter Kuperus in 2018 with the perspective that the right training, at the right time, focused on the right skill, makes organizations more productive. Lepaya has trained thousands of employees.

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