The "Laws of Organizational Physics" - Part 1: Energy

Remember back in your high school physics or chemistry classes when you studied the Laws of Thermodynamics? As a refresher, the Laws of Thermodynamics say, in very general terms, that all things tend to disorder or chaos, unless acted upon by an outside force. While I am constantly reminded of this every time I open the door to my son’s bedroom, I am also witnessing this principle in play when we do a root cause analysis of a problem on a project.

Every successful organization is built upon systems and processes of some sort that guide the work of the many parts of the whole. Whether it is a football team, a Boy Scout troop, a project team or a corporation, by nature, the founders of that entity and subsequent leaders put energy into defining roles and responsibilities that enable the organization to achieve its goals. The larger the entity, the more energy is required to maintain the processes and systems. 

So, this is a way of saying that the natural state is for processes and procedures to not be followed (e.g. don’t clean up your room, don’t make sure you have everything packed for your camping trip, don’t prepare comprehensive meeting minutes) – taking the easy road. These things can all lead to disorder, chaos and failure.

I believe that the success of any organization is benefitted by the ability of the organization to draw on energy from all of its members to maintain order and improve performance. This is only really done through training in the systems and processes established. Otherwise, inefficiency and disorder rules and chaos occurs.

However, learning not only what needs to be done, but also how to do it, is the only way to ensure energy is expended efficiently in following the procedures and guidelines that have been proven to the path to success. At Austin, learning The Austin Method® is the key to the company’s success as a team. The Austin Method® clearly defines the roles and responsibilities that form the basis for communication and cooperation among all members of the design and construction project team from concept through completion. Expectations are better understood and the opportunity for miscommunication is minimized. Knowing the roles, responsibilities and expectations isn’t enough, however. Energy needs to be expended to ensure procedures are done, processes are followed and expectations are met. No matter how long one has worked in this system, there is no short cut. The energy must be expended or chaos rears its ugly head again. Arguably, the first expectation is that energy will be expended to follow through on the processes and procedures.

So, so much of what we do to ensure successful efforts is simply observing what we may call the “Laws of Organizational Physics”.  In some ways, they follow the physical sciences laws very closely.  In other ways, they do not…more on that next time.

What we imagine is order is merely the prevailing form of chaos.

Kerry Thornley

A living cell requires energy not only for all its functions, but also for the maintenance of its structure.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Read "The Laws of Organizational Physics - Part 2: Momentum"