I don’t know, but an effective way is to move your Schwerpunkt off of cheng / chi. When this happens, your ability to generate chi will atrophy (it’s hard enough to keep it going, anyway), and eventually cheng will follow. Here’s an example.
From an article in Monday’s Wall St. J. (subscription required) on recent problems at Target:
Creative leeway—once the DNA of the chain affectionately dubbed ‘Tar-zhay’—took a back seat to rigid performance metrics.
Auftragstaktik (as we might describe it) was replaced with control:
Initiatives once left to divisional leaders to execute on their own became subject to consensus and extensive testing, say former executives. Even small projects, like a mobile app, became bogged under the weight of giant teams.
What happened out in the marketplace, what customers experienced, was predictable:
The chain “lost a lot of what used to make it unique,” says Barclays analyst Matthew McClintock. “There haven’t been exciting reasons to shop at Target in recent years.” (emphasis added)
Kill creativity and you kill agility and then …
What’s odd is that the person held most responsible for this debacle, only five years in the making, was a 30-year Target insider hand-picked by the outgoing CEO, the person who had guided the evolution of the previous culture.
I don’t know what to say. Fortunately a palace coup back in May ousted the new CEO and began to fix Target’s culture:
Since Mr. Steinhafel’s departure, top executives have been given more freedom to plot strategy and enact projects—like putting mannequins in stores. … The retailer has pledged to add new products more often and hasten decision making—in part by eliminating layers of management.
“Our ability to speed things up has gotten exponentially faster,” says Mr. Jones, the marketing chief. “We aren’t waiting for a new CEO to arrive.”
I wonder, and perhaps a reader can tell us, whether the events described in the WSJ article were accompanied by an internal focus. One indication is that shortly after he took office, Steinhafel cut off any interaction with the former CEO (who built the system). If the focus did shift internally, then the events described in the article fit Boyd’s prediction that many non-cooperative centers of gravity would emerge and, as they turn their attention to competing with each other, the company as a whole loses its ability to shape and react to the external environment. Boyd called this effect, “pumping up organizational entropy.” It’s a great idea — for your competitors.
One cannot determine the character or nature of a system within itself. Moreover, attempts to do so lead to confusion and disorder. (Strategic Game, chart 23)
Interaction permits vitality and growth while isolation leads to decay and disintegration. (SG, 29)
Why do people screw up a good thing? This is something that’s puzzled me for years, and it’s particularly weird when it’s done by people who know the system and culture and who even helped create them.