For centuries inventors have dreamed of a perpetual motion machine, one that will run unattended forever. No such machine exists nor can it in this environment. Leaders have dreamed of a perpetual motion company too, one that will run never needing attention. If there is a common failing in novice leaders it is that one. They want to think that once a process or strategy is introduced and put into effect, it will run by itself. Like the fantasy perpetual motion machine the unattended company or organization will never exist.
Why? There are 4 laws that prevent that from happening.
Law #1 – the law of friction.
When two parts or two people work together the natural and expected result is friction. Friction generates heat. Heat causes components to expand beyond their normal size which will affect working tolerances and will slow the machinery ultimately leading to a breakdown. Careful engineering and attention will forestall, but not prevent, the ultimate need to replace parts. Even then, they need regular lubrication which in this contect means attention from you. Greasing the wheels is a subject too large for this one post, but it means rewards in the form of money, title, prestige, affirmation, and responsibility.
Law #2 – the law of cause and effect means that for every action there is something that causes it and some consequences as the result of it.
Push too hard and risk burning out the works. Ignore your producers and they will eventually run out of fuel. Neglect careful planning and chaos will result. Forego making decisions and anarchy sets in. Fail to keep the vision alive and apathy takes over.
Law #3 – the law of wear and tear
Nothing and no one stays the same. People change. They get tired, they get better offers, they get bored, they get…well you get the idea. Renewal is required for every and all moving parts. The only time wear and tear does not apply is when a piece of equipment is in cold storage. Nothing happening means nothing will happen. Motion means movement and progress (hopefully). Motion and movement mean wear and tear. Wear and tear mean maintenance. Take care of your people and they will take care of you. Neglect them and they will take care of themselves first.
Law #4 – the law of unforeseen events and independent will
When I owned a millwork business in the Caribbean, one of my employees was a retired US Air Force Officer. We would discuss the parallels between military strategy and business…and they are remarkable similar in principle. One that stood out was this law. Regardless of how clearly you envision the future and how thoroughly you plan the strategy and how ccarefully you consider the contingencies, no plan, no system, no directive survives contact with the real worl without some modification because of unforeseen events and the independent will of those who work with you (your staff and associates) and those who work against you (your business competitors and those within you own company who for whatever reason are determined to prusue their own agenda over yours).
The trouble with cows is that they never stay milked. You can select the most productive cows, provide them the most beneficial environment, give them the most healthy food, but if you milk them this morning they will need to be milked again tonight. Leadership requires more than painting pretty pictures with a broad brush. Grand plans demand diligence and detail to execute. Leaders must manage if it means nothing more than managing your managers. The ultimate responsibility for the smooth operation and productive output of your company or organization is yours.
On Monday, Task # 5 – achieving workable unity.
See you then.