Arches distribute weight loads over a span – providing windows, doorways, tunnels, and all sorts of internal volume. They are one of the oldest and most widely recognized aspects of architecture and are defined as a curved masonry construction for spanning an opening – consisting of a number of wedge like stones, bricks, or the like.
Properly designed and built; they can support tremendous loads … over long distances … for thousands of years. Arches get their strength from compression. Gravity, weight of the load, and the shape of the stones work to force the system closer together; therefore increasing its strength.
The stone at the top center of an arch is called a keystone; and while it carries the smallest stress-load, it is perhaps the most crucial part as it distributes the load through the system. During construction, the entire system is unstable and needs to be completely supported externally with bulky scaffolding and framework. But once the keystone is precisely set in place; the system will support itself and its intended load.
How much would your businesses, departments, or teams operate with a proper keystone; one who is 100% committed to and part of the system?
The role of a keystone (in arch or team) is two-fold:
Distribute the workload evenly through the system;
Provide strength to keep the system together
Unfortunately, too many see the upfront the cost of having to build the system (that won’t work until it is complete); they see the ugly scaffolding; and opt for a different type of system – perhaps one that is quicker, easier, or more contemporary.
They may not be revolutionary designs anymore; but each year, millions of people visit the ancient ruins of Rome and marvel at the strength and longevity of arches. Besides the architecture, the city has a history of ‘keystone’ leaders as well.