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"Entropy - Things fall apart if you let ‘em." - Harlan Bareither

My grandfather graduated from University of Illinois with a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering then enlisted in the United States Army.  He was stationed in Ft. Belvoir, VA where he helped train troops for overseas duty in World War II. Following military service, he pursued a Master's Degree focusing on HVAC design and then became a Professor in Mechanical Engineering at his alma matter and even authored a book on the subject, Winter Air Conditioning”. After a teaching career, he acted as Associate Vice President of Planning and Budgeting for all U of I campuses (He authored a second book on his knowledge here, “University Space Planning”). He knew something about organizations and about systems from HVAC to Military to Higher Education.

The first time I heard him say this quote, he rocked back in his chair and rapped his knuckles on the table with a bit of a smirk and a chuckle. He couldn't be more accurate when it comes to any business sustaining their performance. Processes, procedures, and policies can quickly fall apart if they are not well-maintained. This is why it is so important for leadership to not only provide training but also to coach their people in real-world application. Why it is leadership’s responsibility to focus on the sustainment of process improvement? Because their repetitive behavior is what creates a culture.

Leadership often focuses on providing ‘sending’ their employees to training. Training provides a foundation of knowledge but often does not necessarily translate into real-world application. This is where coaching comes in. Coaching provides employees with the opportunity to apply their knowledge in real-world situations. It allows for mistakes to be made and corrected in a safe environment. Coaching also provides employees with feedback, which is essential for growth and development.

Leadership's number one responsibility is to create a culture that supports the organization's goals. This means that they must be intentional about the behaviors they promote and reinforce. If leadership wants to sustain process improvement, they must promote the behaviors that support it. This includes coaching employees to practice these behaviors and skills repetitively until they become ingrained in the culture.

Sustainment is achieved through repetitive behavior that creates a culture. Leadership's job is to create the culture that supports the organization's goals and develop the people to operate the system. This means promoting and reinforcing behaviors that align with process improvement. By doing so, organizations can ensure that their processes, procedures, and policies do not fall apart due to entropy.

What do you think? Where have you seen things fall apart?

...What have you "let" fall apart?

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