Monday, October 11, 2010

Work Your Plan: Implementation vs. Entropy, Order and Complacency - Part # 1

THEME: Fall 2010 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable Report

FOCUS: Work Your Plan: Implementation vs. Entropy, Order and Complacency - Part # 1

Monday morning: October 11, 2010

Dear friends,

This past spring I was invited to lead a group discussion around the following book: Collins, Jim. How The Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In, HarperCollins, 2009. To date, it was one of the highlights of the year. In particular, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this group of leaders grasp the concept of a “flywheel,” i.e. mass x velocity = motion. The tremendous depth of clarity that surfaced during the discussions has generated great results throughout the summer and into the fall.

When I reflect on all that we explored at the Spring 2010 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable, and all that has taken place since then plus the quality of the discussions at the Fall 2010 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable, it may seem simplistic or trite to write that truly change is the constant now. And when change is the constant, then organizations are in constant motion. The goal of all this constant motion is an ordered flow and specific outcomes. But experience teaches us that with constant motion, we also experience entropy, i.e. the degradation of motion to non-motion. We forget as leaders that when things, people and teams are in constant motion, then they want or tend to move toward non-motion or have the desire to slow down.

Furthermore, when we implement something new at the personal, team or organizational levels, it comes from a new or “disorganized” state and therefore it does not trend toward entropy. However, once something moves through the trough of chaos and continues on toward system integration, then “degradation” of motion takes place and we witness a drop in urgency. With this degradation, we see the rise or the tendency for the complacency to take over. It is not easy to accept that disorder always moves toward order

At the same time, once a system becomes orderly, not only does it no longer move forward with the same level of progress and focus, but it, over time, also trends toward complacency, i.e. a complete lack of urgency. Therefore, we as leaders have to remember the insights Dan Cohen gave in his book, The Heart of Change Field Guide: Tools and Tactics for Leading Change in Your Organization. Harvard Business School Press, 2005, about the reasons why change Initiatives slow down. They are as follows: exhaustion on the part of the leaders, failure to see progress, turnover of key change agents, flagging team morale, and taking too long.

John Kotter in recent writings notes that the world will always selective order over disorder. Furthermore, he notes that producing order is rewarded and encouraged within organizations. He says that order creates entropy (lack of motion) and complacency (lack of urgency) on many levels. For leaders, an ordered flow, a very desired outcome, always generates it’s own demise because it creates a lack of forward momentum and complacency. In short, the world will select order whenever it gets the chance., but, we must remember that ordered flow also produces entropy faster.

This week recognize that seeking order can generate short term success and long term problems. Entropy and and lack of urgency are normal issues that leaders and mangers need to deal with on an on-going basis.

Have a marvelous week,


P.S. In 2010, nearly every strategic planning process and strategic review that I have participated in has had a discussion about one common problem, namely, what to do about succession.

Finally, after months of looking for a good article on this subject, I am delighted to report that I have found one. In the October 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Anne Mulcahy, former Xerox CEO, writes an excellent article called “Xerox’s Former CEO On Why Succession Shouldn’t be a Horse Race.”

In 2009, Xerox named Ursula Burns as it’s new CEO, marking the end of a nearly drama-free succession process. This article explores how Anne Mulcahy spent nearly a decade orchestrating this smooth transition. Looking back on the long process of choosing and then grooming her successor, Mulcahy explains how she did it and why she started that process soon after she became CEO.

For those of you who look over the horizon and realize succession is part of your near future, then please read and discuss this article. For those of you who think succession issues are a long way off, please read this article and recognize that in order to have a smooth transition one needs to start sooner than later otherwise you could end up with a highly dysfunctional transition and senior team.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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