How the Mighty Fall - Decline Happens

organizational declineGreat Leadership Lesson, Note 19
Without Constant Resistance Entropy Wins in the End

Decline. Decay. Diminishment. Disintegration. Regression. Going Downhill. Whatever you want to call it. It happens. To all of us. Even to the best of us. Individuals, families, teams, organizations, nations - Decline Happens.

The Boston Celtics are my NBA Team. They were so great (years ago). Now it is hard to watch them!

The Dallas Cowboys WERE my NFL Team. They were great (decades ago...sigh). Now I won't watch them!

I have no MLB teams. The entire sport is in trouble. It was once America's pasttime. Now it teeters and totters toward irrelevance with smaller audiences as the years pass by. Decline Happens.

Arnold Toynbee, in his massive 12 Volume History, researched 26 great nation-empires. Guess what they all have in common? They were great. NOW THEY ARE NOT GREAT. Decline Happens.

If you read through the Book of Judges, you will see a cycle in operation. The tribes of Israel flourish, they prosper, they decay, they suffer, they turn back to God and the renewal process starts once again. They become great...then they are not great. Decline Happens.

There are church denominations and religious organizations in Europe and North America that once flourished. Now their churches close doors every week. They are in serious decline and if trends continue - will literally disappear from the culture landscape. Decline Happens.

entropy happensDECLINE HAPPENS to business organizations as well. That is the thesis of Jim Collins in How the Mighty Fall.  For those of us who are involved in organizational leadership, that means we give huge amounts of time, energy, love, sweat, agony and sacrifice for the sake of the organization. We work our hardest to see our organizations grow and experience greatness. So it is a matter of real concern to think that all our energy, commitment, etc. may eventually be for naught. Perhaps that eventually is not that far away!

In this part of the series on Great Leadership Lessons, we will see what Collins discovered about organizational and institutional decline. I will add a few additional thoughts of my own. When I do, I'll be sure to indicate these are NOT from Collins.

The good news Collins discovered is this:

  • There are clearly recognizeable signs of organizational decline.
  • There is a progression of stages of decline.
  • The earlier you identify the stage, the easier it is to make corrections.

Tomorrow - an overview of the Five Stages of Decline.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International