Fighting Entropy

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Entropy is the tendency for systems to move from order to disorder. We can see it all around us. Given enough time cars rust, sidewalks crumble, and bridges fall.

Imagine an organized deck of cards. If you throw the deck into the air, it will come fluttering back down and land in a random scattering on the floor. It takes much more energy (classifying, ordering, and stacking) for the cards to land stacked in the correct order than it does for them to land randomly.

Humans like to bring order to chaos, but things left on their own tend to revert back to chaos.

Organizations are no exception. Without the sustained infusion of energy over time they cease to function and disintegrate into chaos. The same holds true for corporate strategies, initiatives, and plans.

Entropy is a formidable enemy for anyone leading an organization, but equipped with these strategies you can combat it effectively:

Utilize People AND Technology

Systems impose order on chaos. Without a system, something as simple as an employee handling a customer complaint becomes a random process. It devolves into a menial task. Soon, the employee will take short cuts and miss important steps resulting in less consistency and reduced quality overall.

But deploying technology by itself is never a complete solution. Computers aren’t adaptable and lack good old common sense. But by coupling the consistency of technology with the intelligence of human oversight, you can maintain the order you’ve worked so hard to create.

If you want to create lasting change in your organization’s culture and leadership, you can use the same strategy. Perhaps you’re a CEO who wants to ensure that you don’t revert back to spending more time managing than leading. You might consider only turning your phone on during certain “open” hours to control the access your direct reports have to you, encouraging them to take the initiative to solve problems on their own.

Or perhaps you’ve been working hard to change your own personal behavior in some way. In order to maintain that change, you could set an alarm on your phone or computer calendar to remind you daily (or weekly, or monthly) to do something that your coach recommended.

Maintain Energy

Fighting entropy requires energy. And energy in the world of business costs money. In order to keep things on track and running smoothly, you’ll have to allocate regular investment dollars for labor and technology. If you become short-sighted or complacent, all that you’ve worked so hard to build will start to regress and ultimately fall apart.

Employ Watchers

Consider hiring an executive coach to help you with the accountability of both your work team and yourself. The coach can act as a continual monitor of the organizational health of your company. Work with her to develop the critical aspects of your organization that you want to protect at all costs and then bring power to the coaching relationship by showing up ready to tackle the work of continuous development of your whole person.


What other strategies have you discovered for fighting entropy in your work and life?

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