Business EntropyI’ve worked over the years in a variety of environments that were totally chaotic and always wondered why employees didn’t do something about it. Why do people put up with chaos when they could be fixing systems to make them more orderly?

Well thanks to a comment from Oksana Fedan I finally understand what causes the acceptance of chaos and it is Business Entropy. Now I am not much of a physicist and I’ll have to resort to physics to explain this so hold on.

Entropy is a “measure of disorder or randomness in a closed system.” The concept originated in thermodynamics but has been applied to all sorts of fields. In physical terms, energy flows from a hotter region to a colder one until they all become equally distributed and less able to utilize that heat.

Business Entropy

Business entropy occurs in bureaucratic organizations when people begin only to see their own jobs and not interactions with others. Employees do only what is expected of them and cease trying to organize the work in a manner that best suits the entire organization.

It takes extra effort to bring order out of chaos and when things get chaotic, organizations just find it easier to adjust to the chaos than to fix it. It takes less energy to do this (and less cost).

Unfortunately, Business Entropy is almost inevitable as an organization grows, becomes more process oriented, jobs become more specialized and bureaucracy emerges.

Bureaucracy begets more bureaucracy and as employees become more process oriented they tend to defend their processes against intrusion from outsiders and change that would benefit the organization as a whole.

It takes a shift in business thinking from a process orientation to an orientation around results to counter Business Entropy and for most companies, that’s just too much of a switch.