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  • Writer's pictureRick Cramblet

Hacking The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

One of our readers asked, "How do you distinguish between entropy that is truly needed and everything else that is probably a safety net requirement?".  Excellent question!

The truth is, some portion of an organization's energy is going to be used to handle the day-to-day stuff, much of which is non-negotiable and has to be done...  If you don't find time to do the payroll, you may find the staff is slightly disgruntled as a result...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most of us are not very ruthless about ensuring our organization's energy and resources are properly focused.   We are probably diligent about making sure no one is taking home extra office supplies or coming back from lunch late but, diligent about effective meetings?  Not so much...

Here's the scenario: we need to get some information from a book for a very important research project we are producing. We walk into the room where all of our books are stored and find a scene like this. It is necessary to find the book (we need the information) but the time required to find a needle in a haystack; that was unnecessary & avoidable if we understand the concept of entropy.

It might help to think of entropy as "disintegration" because, as defined in physics, entropy is "often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system."

Meetings must take place, but they need to trigger a reduction in disintegration.  If you don't have a clear, well thought out and effective methodology for every one of your meetings, the time spent is only adding to the entropy

Think of it this way: anything that isn't bringing the organization into integration is adding to the disintegration.  That sounds harsh, but this isn't just my idea, it's a law of physics.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that when any system is left to itself, it automatically gets more and more disorganized and random (disintegration).  Anything other than entropy requires an act of the will - a conscience effort to make order (integration) out of disorder (disintegration).  Everything we do on a day-to-day basis should be reviewed with one simple thought in mind - is this activity (meeting, review, strategy session, conference call, etc.) a step towards adding to our integration?  If that isn't the case, the following illustration may help you understand why you are getting more and more entropy.

There is a prescription that can cure the disintegration problem: you must build a culture of mutual trust and respect between the members of your organization.

A lack of mutual trust and respect makes everything more difficult, requiring you to spend energy that should be used for growth and expansion on the day-to-day.  If you remember an earlier "Brite Idea" discussion, mutual trust means "I believe you will do what we've agreed upon - I don't have to spend time checking up on you".  Trust also means "We believe that, in the long run, we can create a win-win environment and re-balance any short term losses that might be required of a individual or group".  Mutual respect means "We will listen to each other and learn from each other, thereby avoiding costly missteps and mistakes". That sound pretty good, doesn't it? 

Here's that reality -  creating this environment requires a level of rigor and intentionality that most organizations have not invested in.  It's easier (or so it seems) to continue to live in the painful disintegration to which we have become accustomed, rather than to learn the techniques and master the tools required to build mutual trust and respect in our organization.  These tools and techniques do not require "super genius" brains or some kind of secret  knowledge - they take a long term commitment to building the organizational "muscles" that will empower and sustain this new way of working together.  Mutual trust and respect will not eliminate conflict, but it will make the conflict constructive rather than destructive.

So, is there "necessary" entropy? In some sense, entropy can be considered "necessary" but only if it is the least amount possible based upon the rigorous and disciplined pursuit of integration - which is based in mutual trust and respect.  How does your organization stand up to this evaluation?  The future growth and vitality of your business depends on finding more energy - make sure you are not guilty of wasting the energy you have!

Looking for help solving issues like these?  Contact us at or (231) 577-9138.

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