Seven Ways to Fight Mission and Strategy Entropy

The second law of thermodynamics is about entropy: things move to disorder and chaos over time. This principle surrounds our daily lives. A well-ordered garage digresses to clutter; a cluttered garage never becomes an organized one without intervention. Our bodies, without exercise and care, experience muscle atrophy. Left alone our muscles grow weaker, not stronger.

Ministries and organizations face entropy too.

Richard Rumelt, in his book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy stated that organizations continually drift to disorganization because of the inevitable pull of organizational entropy.

Because of entropy, mission can lose its potency and strategy can lose its clarity. Without constant care, mission and strategy grow weaker, not stronger. (Mission is what an organization or ministry is on the planet for, and strategy is how the mission is accomplished.) Without leadership, people will drift away from mission. Without intentionality, a focused strategy will wander to disorder.

Leaders must fight the entropy that threatens to dilute mission and strategy. Here are seven ways:

1. Regularly communicate.

Much more important than communicating mission or strategy at the launching point is regularly communicating. If something is only communicated once, it is not deemed as important.

2. Connect staff roles to the strategy.

Operationalize the mission and strategy by explicitly connecting it to people’s roles. If not, strategy can be viewed as something that does not deeply impact daily work.

3. Align training to mission and strategy.

As people are developed, development should occur in light of the mission and strategy. If development occurs that is in line with the mission and strategy, the commitment and strength of the team is bolstered.

4. Avoid scope creep.

If a strategy gets more complicated, the impact of the strategy is diluted.

5. Stay as lean as you can.

A lean team is a focused team. Of course, as a ministry/organization grows, more team members will be added. But if more are added than necessary, people can begin to move in a plethora of directions.

6. Set goals in line with the mission and strategy.

If goals are set that are not in sync with the stated mission and strategy, then either the stated mission and strategy are merely empty words on paper OR the goal is useless. By setting goals that are in line with the mission and strategy, new energy is created for the mission and strategy.

7. Measure and evaluate in light of the mission and strategy.

What is evaluated and measured reveals what is really important. For the most important not to get buried by all the activity, evaluate through the lens of the mission and strategy.

The threat of entropy is real in any ministry or organization. It takes great focus and intentionality to overcome it.