(This is Part II of Henley’s Leaders Overcome Entropy series)
WHAT A LAUNCH IT WAS: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and Rosemary Clooney all bumping Ed Sullivan off his hallowed Sunday night spot for “The Edsel Show.”
Ratings soared. The Edsel sponsored “Wagon Train,” and the country buzzed about Ford’s new car.
Briefly, the product—anticipated by Ford to sell at the rate of 200,000 units per year—seemed headed to its orbital path.
Then, quickly, disaster. Despite assurancesto dealers in November 1957 that“the Edsel is here to stay,” the guppy-faced car went quickly into orbital decay, entropy took over,resulting in free-fall, and by 1959 the highly touted,dizzyingly expensive Edsel project had crashed and burned.
The oblivion of the Edsel was so total my computer spell-check doesn’t recognize the word.
It’s one thing to launch a product, program or organization—like a Bible study class—but it requires just as much, and sometimes more, to sustain the “orbit.” That brings us to the second phase in overcoming organizational entropy:
ORBITAL PATH (OP) STAGE—This is the level of optimal performance, the organization doing what it was intended and designed to do.
Condition—A company, a business unit, an organization, including a church and Bible study class, is in Condition Blue in the OP Stage, signaling that the path is to be sustained. In the space station, there is a continual need for systematic firing of thruster engines to sustain orbit. An organization must have “thruster firings” in the form of infrastructure activity to stay at the level of effectiveness.
Characteristics from the ministry of Jesus—The Lord’s work on earth reached orbital path when He emerged from His water baptism. Consider what He did to sustain effectiveness:
- Establishment—In Jesus’ first miracle, He showed all He came into the world to do. By turning common water in common clay pots into the highest quality wine, He showed He had come to transform all He touched. It was His way of saying, “I have arrived!” Every organization needs an establishing event, after its launch, which will demonstrate why it exists.
- Infrastructure focus—Jesus spent much time developing His disciples, because “orbit” is always sustained through the infrastructure. An organizational leader, to sustain optimal effectiveness, must create sub-units and equip people to lead them. In a Bible study class, such sub-units would be shepherd and fellowship groups, prayer teams, men’s and women’s activities, outreach, new member assimilation and other activities that fuel members with energy.
- Expansion through the infrastructure—When Jesus sent out the 70, He kicked His ministry into a higher orbit. A spacecraft’s orbit decays without periodic thruster firings to lift the orbit. Sustaining organization orbit means motivating and mobilizing the members to reach out to add new energy by increasing the size of the organization.
ORBITAL DECAY STAGE—For a spacecraft, orbital decay begins when, due to neglect or malfunction, the vessel begins to decline from its orbital path, and sink to lower levels.
Condition—For an organization, orbital decay occurs when the class, group, team, company or business unit declines from its peak of effectiveness. This is Condition Yellow, for caution. Leadership needs to be alert at this point that effectiveness is being lost, and immediate action is required. The Orbital Decay Stage is the point where change is needed in the infrastructure—reorganization, new leadership. This is the phase for adjustment, not major renovation.
The mission of a leader in such a situation is to, in the words of a famous TV chef, “kick it up a notch.”
Lessons from the Ministry of Jesus—Jesus’ work on earth never reached a stage of orbital decay. In fact, the ministry that began with turning water into wine at Cana soared into the highest possible orbit, reaching the apex of resurrection. Let’s look carefully at what the Lord did that prevented a slide into orbital decay.
1. He continually “fueled” His own “engines.”
Jesus was the “booster rocket.” If He lost energy, all that depended on His strength would decline. He healed a woman and knew that “virtue,” or power, had flowed out of Him. (Mark 5:30) Jesus spent time in intimate fellowship with the Father, away from the crowds. This “fueled” Him for His work. The Lesson for Leaders: Take time for intimate fellowship with God, remembering that apart from Him you can do nothing, and for personal renewal, spiritually, psychologically and physically.
2. He continually “fueled” His core “engines.”
Peter, James and John constituted Jesus’ core. He took them up the mountain, and was “transfigured” before them (transfigured means a stripping away of the outward shell so the essence is revealed). They saw Him in His glory, and were energized for the mission awaiting in the valley, the “lowlands” below. The Lesson for Leaders: Identify your core leadership team, and take them away periodically for fellowship and to inspire them.
3. He transferred the energy at the core outward.
Though Jesus had His leadership core, there was nothing elitist about Him. His purpose in energizing the core was that they would take the inspiration and motivation to the next level. From the “three” Jesus’ energy passed to the “12,” and from them to the “70,” and from them it expanded outward until it impacted the “3,000,” and at last the “billion” of today! The Lesson for Leaders: Make sure there is no breakdown in the linkage between you and your core leaders outward to the team, class or group. Keep those channels clean and open, and don’t be isolated and remote from the team.
4. He refused to settle for a lower orbital path.
There were always people who wanted Jesus to compromise and limit His vision—from the devil, who wanted Jesus to compromise His strategy, to Peter who wanted Him to stay on the mountain, to Judas who wanted Him to be nothing more than an earthly revolutionary, to the mobs who wanted Him to be their temporal king, to the Pharisees who wanted Him to deny His divine nature and oneness with the Father. At every point, Jesus refused, though it was costly. The Lesson for Leaders: Don’t deny or compromise the vision and the means of its attainment no matter what the cost.
5. He converted entropy into energy.
Science dreams of an engine like the fictional instrument on Captain Kirk’s Enterprise that will actually use gravity to propel the craft upward and forward. Jesus did this. At what appears the low point, free-fall, Jesus’ ministry reaches its greatest height—the resurrection. He came from the open tomb and energized His followers with an even greater level of vitality. The Lesson for Leaders: Use crisis as a tool to energize and motivate your class, group or team by building overcomers rather than victims, successes rather than failures.
To be continued…
Wallace Henley is a pastor, journalist, former White House aide, leadership consultant, and author of “Globequake,” among other books. He teaches Apologetics at Belhaven University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.