Have you ever stepped on some gum while walking in the street?
It’s annoying because it’s difficult to get off the sole of your shoe and with each step you are slowed down ever so slightly. This is an example of friction — when a force must be overcome to achieve an outcome.
I usually run between 3-10 miles on multiple days throughout the week. I run fastest on the pavement, a little slower on the grass, and slowest on gravel and rocks.
Again, the friction of grass or gravel is slowing me down.
Leaders can use this idea as a mental model for organizational effectiveness; Consider where you are putting up roadblocks on purpose or by accident.
I used to work for a school district that said, “We value innovation.” The only problem was that they didn’t.
Each time I came up with an innovative idea it had to go through multiple channels for “approval.” By the time it moved through the bureaucracy of the district, not only did the idea die, so did my desire to innovate.
As a leader, it’s nice to say where you want to go, but it’s a much different thing to create an environment that supports what you say.
If your people feel like getting something done is like pushing cinder blocks across pavement, you have a friction problem and you have slowed your organization down.