Author, consultant and former professor at Stanford, Jim Collins believes greatness is born of discipline. His prescription: disciplined people – disciplined thought – disciplined action. I agree with Jim. Recently, I received a question from a leader who asked, “How do you create organizational discipline?”
As is often the case with the questions I receive, this is another big one. And, let me state the obvious – creating organizational discipline is challenging. However, I believe it is possible.
If you don’t have a culture of discipline, it will take time; measured in months, not days. Patience will be required. Don’t allow the challenge level to discourage you. The effort will be worth the investment. Here are a few ideas that may help.
Name it. As with any change effort, naming “it” creates clarity and establishes intent. Be prepared to define it too. Be clear on what you are trying to do and why. Don’t expect people to read your mind. Name it and declare it before you expect the organization to pursue it.
Leaders must model it. People will not outpace their leaders. If the leaders aren’t disciplined, don’t expect others to be. This can manifest itself in many ways. An obvious one: do you and your leaders consistently complete your action items on time? Here’s another, are you on time to meetings? Do you return calls and emails in a timely fashion? People always watch the leader.
Select disciplined people. I assume you can teach discipline, but I would rather select for it. Ask candidates to tell you about a time they set a goal and accomplished it. Brainstorm with your leadership team a dozen behaviorally based questions you could ask a candidate to determine their level of personal discipline.
Consider making discipline a strategic priority. What is on your short list of priorities over the next 12 – 36 months? These are the items which you believe warrant disproportionate time, energy and focus. If you make it a priority, you’ll create goals, strategies and tactics to achieve it. You’ll talk about it more often too; and as a result of all the attention, you’re more likely to make progress.
Create a culture of accountability. I’ve written about this before if you are interested. The point: if you really want to build an organization in which discipline is the norm, you will need everyone willing and able to hold each other accountable. You’ll need to rebrand accountability to create a culture of discipline.
Recognize and reward the behaviors you want to see repeated. Michael Leboeuf says this is the greatest management principle. How do you reward disciplined action in your organization? Why not ask your leadership team to both identify appropriate methods for recognition, and take the next step and routinely select individuals and teams to recognize.
Disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action. It begins with a decision – the rest is all discipline.
Enjoy the journey![GLS_Shield]