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The Effectiveness-Lab

The DNA of the disorganised

In this blog, the Effectiveness lab discusses the ‘DNA of the disorganised’ – consider the latter the characteristics of disordered people and in many cases, they cannot be changed.

Disorganisation is a word we use daily in our lexicon, but never stop to deeply reflect on its meaning and impact on society. When we fail to plan properly and control our lives, we are disorganised. Individuals that cannot plan their personal affairs effectively and efficiently are disorganised.

'Sir, I've got a computer to avoid a giant mess but unfortunately I can't find the computer in this giant mess!' Credit: Credit:

We witness daily, disorganisation undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of individuals, families, organisations and national economies. The total annual cost of disorganisation anywhere in the world is in billions of dollars. Let us put the cost of lateness in perspective: If the cost of lateness to work costs a developed economy like the UK nine billion pounds a year, can you imagine the cost of lateness to work for an African economy like Uganda?

What makes the DNA of the disorganised?

  1. Extremely poor sense of time: an incredibly poor sense of time, and illusions about how to fix the problem. The poor sense of time gets worse when they are focused on something. Aware that they are aways late, disorganised individuals will have their watch/clock adjusted to read minutes or hours ahead of the correct time. Apparently, this is to compensate for their lateness; i.e. if the correct time is 11:00 am, their watch will read 11:30 am. How can the latter be a solution to perennial lateness?
  2. Chronic failure to break their day into small logical parts they just can’t put together a jig-saw of their day; what should come first, comes last and what should be last first or in between first and final. The resulting disorder overwhelms them as they constantly play catch-up. Leaving too much to be done, too late, gets the disorganised into a state of panic all the time – they regularly run late, forget things, etc. Their brain can’t break down tasks and place them in logical order
  3. Never learning from their daily failure: They never learn from failure. For example, if a disorganised person is late for work every day, and the underlying reason is that they wake up in the morning unprepared, they still won’t change their routine. One would assume that the solution is to adjust their routine and prepare everything needed for their morning routine, before going to bed. But they simply won’t do so.
  4. Taking action at the very last minute, even if forewarned: – A lack of preparedness turns the disorganised into the ‘last-minute’ type. They completely lack the ability to determine when to act and on what, to forestall future lateness. The disorganised are simply not ready for anything, leaving the organised folks bewildered; the organised don’t understand what makes the disorganised fail at preparing well, for things they know have to happen.
  5. Lacking a mental pattern to map where they place property: For some strange reason, the disorganised always misplace their property – Examples: vehicle and house keys, mobile phone, personal wallets, etc. Within the confines of their homes and offices, they lose property and will do it every day. As discussed above, the disorganised won’t learn from their failings.
  6. The tendency to become complacent and expect those others around them to stomach their disorder: – Disorganisation can manifest in people, alike to drug addiction. Many disorganised people know they are disorganised; some get professional help; yet, they always fall back to their old habits. The long-term consequence of the latter is for the disorganised to shift the burden of their disorder to those they live or work with. In effect, it is you to change your lifestyle and not them. The tolerant amongst us will certainly want to help the disorganised – but in the long run, it becomes too big a burden to bear.

Welcome to the trials and tribulations of life with the disorganised!

Should the organised worry about the disorganised?

The organised folks must be asking why they should be bothered by the existence and business interests of the disorganised. The bosses amongst the organised, believe that firing or denying the disorganised promotion at work is always an option available to them; families with loving spouses, children, and extended kin apply all sorts of mitigation, for example – close family support, a disciplinarian approach to curing the vice, in traditional settings it’s not unheard of to resort to ‘people substitution’ approaches like polygamy – i.e. merely substituting the disorganised DNA with another type of DNA.

The reality is, we do not always get to choose the kind of ‘organising-DNA’ we get from God or for the atheists, the biology that ‘procreates’ us. If I have the opposite DNA to yours, and in this case the disorganised type, the place to start may be ensuring that I am not excluded. Exclusion may make my situation worse.

The sad truth is that in a fast-moving 24/7 world, the tendency by those that harbour the organised DNA is to express frustration with their disorganised peers. The disorganised are considered a burden to the organised. They are a permanent drag on what the organised do.

The disorganised folks end up taking valuable time from others’ schedules; because they are constantly behind and playing catch up, the organised are often forced to abandon their work to support the disorganised. In some instances, it’s a choice between supporting them and team/organisational failure.

Since they are constantly behind schedule, they tend, and unintentionally, to create social tension within families and teams at work. The organised run out of patience and start demanding that the disorganised shape up. Tensed, the disorganised become even more disorganised. The result of all this is strained relationships. You all may have dealt with this in your homes and workplace.

How does one live in harmony with the disorganised?

The above is a difficult question to answer – it comes down to one’s tolerance of the behaviour outcomes of the disorganised person. The disorganised are a constant drag on your life.

However, since we cannot always know in advance the organising-DNA of those we marry, live, procreate, or work with; it’s best to be accommodating to the disorganised. Most of the support to the disorganised is palliative than curative.

The choice is yours!


16 responses to “The DNA of the disorganised”

  1. […] week’s blog discussed ‘the DNA of the disorganized.’ The blog tacitly concludes that planning is a good skill to master – it is a valuable asset, […]


  2. […] May blogs: The DNA of the Disorganised, When Planning becomes a waste of time, The Spare tyre; when do we need spare? discussed various […]


  3. […] week’s blog discussed the ‘the DNA of the disorganized.’ The blog tacitly concludes that planning is a good skill to master – it is a valuable […]


  4. Mwl. Wenceslaus John Komba Avatar
    Mwl. Wenceslaus John Komba

    Sebbo, are you trying to be euphemistic to lazy people? What I see in my microscope is not DNA of the disorganized. It is a DNA of ‘deadwood’ or sluggards.

    Your perspective best suits such kind of caliber unless disorganized is a synonymy of laziness.

    Disorganization is attributive factor to how someone manages their human activities. Chicken are very much disorganized by they are so sweet. Who doesn’t love chicken meat? But look at them even if you put food in a nice feeder, they forage around in the dirt, plucking up delectable insects, grasses, dirt, pebbles and even the occasional rodent in a most disorganized ways.

    Sebbo, am sure you are the champion of diversity. You used to preach tolerance and understanding. I hope this might skew your beliefs in diversity.

    We will highly appreciate to hear from the ‘Guru’ of efficiency and effectiveness on how to live with diversity and use it to our advantage.

    Sebbo how about that.


    1. Mwalimu Komba

      The blog actually preaches tolerance – it asks that we accommodate and help the disorganised instead of isolating them

      We have to understand their DNA first

      Be careful not to allow others use disorder as an excuse for malfeasance and other vices

      Mwalimu I know you are organised- not so?


      1. Mwl. Wenceslaus John Komba Avatar
        Mwl. Wenceslaus John Komba

        Are you kidding me, hahahahaaaaa. Pssst!!!! Remember our ‘kaugomvi’ during those 1 on 1 sessions?

        Yeah I guess you need to be a good doctor. don’t only diagnose but also prescribe.

        Keep up the catalyst Sebbo. I am Oliver Twist.


        1. I hear you my Mwalimu!!! 😬😬😬


  5. Seddu Okugga Avatar
    Seddu Okugga

    Thanks ABG and every contributing on the subject matter. In discussing the “DNA of the disorganized” you have all chosen to take the behavioral approach.

    Can we also look at it from the accountability angle? ABG, you could probably do another series on this subject?


    1. Haaaaaa Okuga – agree; I am sure in accountability, you are looking at ‘feigned disorganisation’ to be able to do malfeasance

      Yes, that is another interesting perspective! We should consider having such discourse on the Effectiveness lab


  6. You make me smile when you say, “coming back…but are disorganised” because you are right, that the end result of the situation you have highlighted is that despite the condition being diagnosed and labelled (or not) the bottom line is that support is required!

    As for the one million Africans who are dyslexic, the programmes you speak of can only be scaled through educational systems and institutions. In areas where assistive technology can be accessed then an additional solution is presented both at a micro and macro level. The smart phone for example is a tool that can be used to support a disorganised person. So for instance a person who needs to be in a car by 7:30 am, could have several alarms to help them ‘sense’ and hear time. So the first alarm would go off at 6:00 am, the next at 6:20 am to indicate that the action of having a shower, brushing teeth and being in underwear is done. The next alarm could go off at 6:40 am, by which time the person is fully dressed, perfumed, made up and out of their bedroom. The next alarm would go off at 7:00 am….and so on.

    And finally, it is music to my ears as an advocate for dyslexics, to read that you began to reflect on what organisations should do to identify and support dyslexics- Thank you!!!! It is no different from the support that you are suggesting that disorganised people require.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😆👏🏿👏🏿


      1. An interesting article Apollo which I read with amusement. The worst scenario is when the boss is disorganized. Quite often the disorganized boss will report late to work and claim that there were e-mails to be attended to, or deadlines to be met or superiors who were disorganized and were making their life difficult by giving them preposterous deadlines etc. etc. This then sets off a ripple effect which leads to a disorganized organization.

        On the other hand quite often the person whose desk appears quite disorganized may turn out to be very organised and knows exactly where things are on that messy desk. Albert Einstein, who apparently maintained his desk in a state of stupendous disarray, sweetly inquired: ‘If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?”


        1. The empty desk, which mine is Kheirunnisa, reflects a Zen & ordered mind – 😃😃😃

          My jokes aside, I do agree that having lots of paper on some ones desk is not always a sign of being disorderly – I have seen colleagues that have mountains of paper in their offices, but are very organised

          It’s the getting lost in the paperwork that causes disorganisation

          Thanks for reading the blog!


  7. Apollo your frustration can be heard loud and clear and rightly so! You have very aptly describes the traits of a disorganised person and the impact that they have to themselves and those around them. What I would like to invite you to do is to also consider the underlying cause for such behaviour. Disorganised people are just as frustrated as organised people, additionally they are often very ashamed, embarrassed and resigned to their predicament. These emotions often are suppressed which makes for an even tenser environment.

    The underlying causes vary so I will point out one possibility – dyslexia!

    Dyslexia is typically characterised by ‘an unusual balance of skills’. Dyslexia is a syndrome: a collection of associated characteristics that vary in degree and from person to person. These characteristics encompass not only distinctive clusters of problems such as extreme disorganisation and the ‘inability’ to learn from their mistakes, but sometimes also distinctive talents

    The good news is that with a growing understanding of neuroscience there are ways to help the sort of person you describe because we ‘get’ why they do what they do everyday and also how to develop themselves. Neuroscience is the field of study concerned with the structure and function of the human brain, the most complex example of any neurological system. The brains tens of billions of nerve cells or neurons enable people to think, plan listen- and read. When the brain develops improperly or is traumatised or stricken of oxygen supply, its capacity to think, plan, listen and read may be adversely affected. All learning creates new neural connections in the brain. New connections create actual structural changes in the brain- neuroplasticity. With practice changes and connection are reinforced and become permanent. To achieve mastery over our response to life, we need to form these neural connections by mastering our brainwaves and using the ultimate potential of the mind.

    A while back I wrote an article on dyslexia. I hope that you are able to find the time to read it for context. Here is the link


    1. Dear Christine- thanks for reading the blog, and educating me on dyslexia

      I have read your excellent article on dyslexia – how does one help the one million Africans that are dyslexic? I hope that specialists like you can start programs in Africa to address the challenge

      While reading your article, I reflected on what organisations should do to identify the dyslexic and support them at work – there is an invisible & unintended issue of discrimination at work – all down to employer ignorance

      Coming back to those that aren’t dyslexic or ADHD sufferers but are disorganised, it is always a challenge living and working with them – yet, they are part of us and we should do everything possible to support them


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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