Clean Your Room

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And, they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because, they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”‘Apple Inc.

It was couple of years ago that I penned a column in this space concerning the need to change or become extinct.  My advice then was not to wait for the ‘Sudden Stop” [FON September 2012]. The message then and now is to act.

As the energy markets change, frustrating to watch are the slow motion train wrecks (too numerous to count) at both the micro- and marco- levels, fed in part by conscious action or inaction to maintain the status quo.  This flies in the face of what science has told us for centuries, namely that ‘the universe is in entropy.”

Entropy? For those of us that do not subscribe to ‘Journal of Thermodynamics” (I’m not making that up: it really exists), it describes the natural tendency of the universe to fall apart into disorder. A well-known illustration is the messy room concept:  You know that you need to constantly work at keeping your room clean and well arranged. However, you know that if you don’t keep up with the routine the room will gradually return to its messy state.

Sweet’s Corollary  I:   If you are not constantly cleaning up your room there’s nothing on earth that will stop it from becoming a mess, so you better get to work.

Sweet’s Corollary II:  Clean up your room, because your competition will not do it for you.

Fear, lack of vision, lack of consensus and support by others or a compelling need to not ‘rock the boat”‘just a few of the reasons why the status quo is so stubborn. 

Two years ago I addressed the issue of how well so many among us ‘talk” about change, but fail to really pull the trigger. David Peck of The Goodstone Group LLC says that if we just look at any major trend in leadership’like ‘innovation”‘the more you see it written about or talked about the greater the problem people have actually doing it, particularly when something is already built and running.
Sounds familiar.

Peck hit the nail on the head in a recently published piece.  He said, in part ‘…there’s a powerful magnetic pull to avoid change, or reinvention, even when facing a potentially tremendous opportunity for a greater good.”


He went further to say: ‘….there’s an inverse relationship between maturity [of an industry or business] and the capacity/willingness for innovation. The more mature an organization, or entrenched its leadership may be, the less significant innovation is taken on.”

I wish I had said that.

In 2009 Peck dubbed this ‘status quo fetishism,” which he defines as the tremendous impetus among leaders of mature organizations to tinker with the norms of the day rather than transform their products and services into something better. They see any rapid or major change as a threat: destabilizing, too risky or too hard.

The parallels to our industry are undeniable.  Our industry was built a long time ago and we have been out there for a long time, and therein lies the problem: self-preservation naturally kicks in.

Self-preservation is where the shields go up, the hatches batten down and the wagons circle to protect the status quo. In the end, some changes get made; however, they are only incremental.  They must be fundamental.

Final thoughts…

We have a desperate need for new blood and new thinking within our industry.  If you are not involved in your local, state, regional and national association efforts get involved today.  You will not be turned away.

Direct involvement, if new for you, is not a death sentence, so don’t think of it that way.  For those that get involved at the association advocacy level the chances are you will not have to testify in Congress on the second day, so be realistic about what you can contribute.
Refrain from thinking that because you are new to the fight, that you don’t have anything to contribute. Speak up.

If you are new to the fight, know that the ’90-10″ rule is in no threat of really changing. Some 90% of the lifting continues to get done by 10% of the group.  Think of this in terms of advocacy for policy, regulatory and legislative initiatives. For you, this means:  ‘show up.”  Your involvement will make a difference, and as you enter there are others that want to and will depart Stage Left.

I’m off to clean that room.

Shane Sweet is an energy and management consultant with clients in the heating oil, propane and motor fuel sectors and is a partner with the firm of Lake Rudd & Company. He served the industry as president & CEO of the New England Fuel Institute ‘NEFI” from 2007 to 2011, and as EVP/director and lobbyist for the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association ‘VFDA” from 1993 to 2007.

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