The vortex of executive activity

by Jay Lund

The graphic below seems to apply to any bureaucracy, with larger bureaucracies showing this tendency more strongly.  In this vortex conception of management, one can often make more progress from the periphery than from the center of power.

The center spins rapidly, always changing directions, but moving little in space.  Those in the periphery can go a greater distance.  Being in the center is more exciting and prestigious, but not necessarily more productive.

This analogy came to me while working in the Washington, DC area, where I encountered an abundance of very smart hard-working people, who seemed to accomplish little due to opposition from a high density of very smart hard-working people.

Almost all innovations in water and water management come from the periphery.

About jaylund

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Director, Center for Watershed Sciences University of California - Davis
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3 Responses to The vortex of executive activity

  1. Douglas Deitch says:

    … which is precisely the reason why here in the Monterey Bay, the water and food etc. emergency and immediate Executive Order by our Governor Newsom immediately to fund the one time cost $2.1 billion of our State surplus as a one time investment which will (see below), … is the most important part!:
    1. By “nbs” targeted passive recharge fixx, will immediately and best preserve, secure, and sustain both our exclusively local water supply here and best provide for our slr threatened future and our $5 billion yearly of Cali’s 50 billion yearly of US total $136 billion (?) farm/food production yearly, will both conserve and strategically through targeted passive recharge in two locations, 63000 acre feet of water per year, and will create new 21000 acres of new “esha”i/estuarine habitat/””farmlands back to wetlands” aka “Monterey bay Estuarine National Monument” (see 30 year old 43 acre Pilot Project @ Zmudowski Beach (run down@ a fb page) …in perpetuity.
    2. Also repurposes to exclusively urban use from ag use and upgrades the processes at the Castroville Reclamation plant/site of the 33000 acre feet per year of recyled water potential to a DPR project which will solve all of our Monterey Bay Region wide water woes and make us the “global exemplar social, economic, and natural system” @ … imho.

  2. Michael Mierzwa says:

    This graphic is very straightforward, but I’d like to suggest that the executive center has the ability to move the mass of the “storm of progress”. The key is if the executive center actually has a mechanism for feedback from the bureaucratic periphery, i.e. are those that are actually doing work ever really consulted and informed on the final landfall point?

    This concept is also why so many leadership courses focus on communication, recognizing it is a two-way street. The periphery should be moving along the course the center charts out, but the center can lay in a much more effective course if it actively engages the periphery.

    Honestly, I love watching various Star Trek series, and find that most of the “captains” actually do a good job about being inclusive in creating a starship culture focused on supporting this communication. I wish more executives would sometimes pause and ask “What would Captain Picard or Captain Pike do?”

  3. How to change this hurricane structure into one where everyone works more productively and collaboratively?

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