Newton’s Laws of Management

Many of us studied Newton’s Laws of Motion in school. But do you know that these laws apply to management too? This is especially important if you are already a leader, manager, or supervisor.

(Okay, I am stereotyping but I do not intend to be offensive to anyone. This is just for laugh. Relax! We hope by explaining these management nuggets using Newton’s laws helps you remember them better too!)


Newton’s First Law

If a body is at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line, it will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line at constant speed unless it is acted upon by an external force.

What does it mean for managers?

If you have a lazy or unmotivated employee, your employee will remain lazy or unmotivated until you (or someone) do something about it. Nothing happened until someone does something! People do not change by themselves. This is also called the Law of Inertia.

For this reason, you need to be proactive. Be the change agent. Never wait for things to happen.


Newton’s Second Law

Force(F) = mass(m) x acceleration(a)

m = the seniority (rank) of the person within the organization

a = rate of change

What does it mean for managers?

1) The more senior an employee is, the larger the magnitude of the force required for the same amount of change.

2) In change management, you need to get senior management’s buy-in and get senior management to initiate the change. In another word, if the change were to come from the top, the force will be bigger and hence higher chance of succeeding.

3) The same (magnitude of) force that applied to a senior, when applied to a much junior person, the junior will change much faster. (F being constant, reducing m implies increasing a.)


Newton’s Third Law

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

What does it mean for managers?

Whatever you do or say, there is always a reaction – although sometimes the reaction cannot be observed. Just because you can’t see the reaction, it does not mean it is not there. (When you push against the wall, there is also an equal opposite reaction from the wall that you can’t see.)

Your challenge as a manager is to see beneath the surface and hear what is not being said. At times, your staff may not react physically or verbally. But there could still be an emotional reaction. Hence, be attentive!

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