Entropy has always been taught as a measure of the disorder in a system containing energy or information. In this definition the less ordered any system is, the greater is its entropy or disorganization. Of course this concept has always been useful in science, communications and other fields of study, but it can and should also be applied in business applications, including the areas of quality and food safety.

When we apply the general concept of entropy to almost any natural process, the tendency of these natural processes is to increase entropy, that is, to move to a state of greater disorder. This tendency, according to the experts, occurs because there are many more random arrangements possible than ordered arrangements for all of the various parts of any system.

The example that best defines this is, when a box containing coins arranged in rows is shaken, the coins will come to rest in a disorganized pattern because so many random positions for the coins are possible.

Using the example above, it is easy to see that those “stacks of coins” could represent our employees, our business units or the structure of our entire company and its operating systems. If we have no structure in place, wherein each of those individual business functions is not well-defined, we are in a state of entropy or disorganization and the number of potential random positions for these business operations is overwhelming. For those who look, it is easy to identify those businesses that have well-defined structures in place and those that do not.

So what differentiates those that do and those that don’t? Structure!

Structure requires energy to maintain the status quo. The companies that are successful inevitably have better structures and thus better functions in place to manage their business and achieve their objectives and goals. Another distinct difference is, those that have structure constantly invest in learning new concepts and ideas to improve their overall business performance. In fact, they are investing in the energy required to move their business forward, to make it more efficient, more productive and more profitable.

So for companies that are vested in their businesses and the results of their business performance, they must define where they are and how they are going to change and improve. If we understand that it takes more energy to actually improve, rather than just maintain the status quo, it is easy to see that achieving more structure and a better organization requires more energy.

This is a difficult issue for some companies and business managers to understand. The upside is that more structure equals better function, more compliance to the business operations themselves, which inevitably drives profitability. And we all know what I was once told by a colleague: Like it or not, this is all about money.

Every business process requires energy. Energy is provided in the form of controls, processes or product redesign, new operating procedures, additional training, performance measurements and numerous other interventions just to maintain its original level of performance.

Based on the analysis above, if we want to continuously improve the level of performance of any part of our business, we must add more energy to the system. The outcome of the investment in the energy required to create, maintain and improve the performance of any organization results in better business performance. For those assigned responsibility for quality and food safety, this is a concept that must be known and applied.

So how do we improve our structure alongside our business function? Define the structure. Write it down and outline the structure of the business and its basic functions. Who does what, when, how, for how long and what are the expected outcomes?

These are all part of defining the structure. Once defined, you can work to develop the company operating programs and procedures required to define clearly how the structure functions.

With so many changes coming so fast in the areas of food safety and quality, it is imperative for the individuals assigned this responsibility to not only understand how to manage food safety and quality but also be able to define structure and function. They must understand that the natural order of the system is disorder, and its function is reliant on their ability to define and develop operating programs and procedures that inevitably satisfy the needs of their company, the regulators and the public at large.

They must invest their energy and time to move the company forward.