“Corpus omne perseverare in status suo quiesendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus illud a viribus impressis cogitur statum suum mutare”

The above quotation is from the renowned Principia by Sir Isaac Newton and describes his first law of motion. Translated, the sentence reads: “A body at rest or in a state of uniform motion will remain at rest or in uniform motion until an external force is applied to it.”  This resistance to change in an object’s state of motion it termed its inertia.  Inertia is a measure of an object’s mass.  The more mass that is present, the more inertia it possesses.  The product of mass and velocity is known as the object’s momentum.

Business systems, whether formal or informal, have their own intrinsic resistance to change, their own “inertia” so to speak.  An informal legacy system, no matter how ineffectual, can carry a great deal of momentum if it has been used to run a company for any length of time.  Counteracting this momentum will be the most difficult task to accomplish when undertaking a new business system implementation.

Just as physical systems require that an external force is applied to alter their motion, so too is a force required to change directions within a business organization.  This force can be supplied by education.  With an informal or old system, whether you notice it or not, there is a type of education going on.  It is the propagation of habits rather than a methodology.  The employees “learn it in the streets” rather than in the classroom. You must supply at least as much formal education or the new system will not function properly.  Education is the “force” used to manage change.

If you notice, the opening quotation looks a bit odd.  That is because Sir Isaac Newton chose to write in “scholarly” Latin as opposed to his native English.  Now, in order to make this knowledge understandable to most of us, it must be translated.  Don’t do the same thing when you are designing an educational program for your employees.  After all, the aim isn’t to teach Latin but to foster an understanding of the underlying principles.  Gear your program to the student in a form that can be understood, and you are on your way to a successful system Implementation.

May the “force” be with you!


This article  by Gary Drypen was originally published in The APICS Hot Sheet Volume III, Number 41