Signs of Corporate Entropy

Sep 25th, 2002 by Tony in QSM1

One of the most important things leaders need to learn is to recognize the signals of impending deterioration. I have made a list of these signals over the years. As you read this list, remember that many people in large organizations relish apathy. They often fail to see the signs of entropy:

  • a tendency toward superficiality
  • a dark tension among key people
  • no longer having time for celebration and ritual
  • a growing feeling that rewards and goals are the same thing
  • when people stop telling tribal stories or cannot understand them
  • a recurring effort by some to convince others that business is, after all, quite simple
  • when people begin to have different understandings of words like “responsibility” or “service” or “trust”
  • when problem-makers outnumber problem-solvers
  • when folks confuse heroes and celebrities
  • leaders who seek to control rather than liberate
  • when the pressures of day to day operations push aside our concern for vision and risk
  • an orientation toward the dry rules of business school rather than a value orientation which takes into account such things as contribution, spirit, excellence, beauty and joy
  • when people speak of customers as impositions on their time rather than opportunities to serve
  • manuals
  • a growing urge to quantify both history and one’s thoughts about the future
  • the urge to establish ratios
  • leaders who rely on structures instead of people
  • a loss of confidence in judgement, experience, and wisdom
  • a loss of grace and style and civility
  • a loss of respect for the English language

— M DePree, Leadership Is An Art, quoted in Jerry Weinberg, Quality Software Management Vol 2, Chapter 1

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