Auburn Works

Auburn Technical Assistance Center (ATAC)

Disciplined People – Disciplined Thought – Disciplined Action

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.  ~Vince Lombardi

Jim Collins, Good To Great states: “Sustained great results depend upon building a culture full of self-disciplined people who take disciplined action, fanatically consistent with... the Hedgehog Concept.  (This hedgehog concept reminds me of Deming’s “constancy of purpose” principle. The great companies discriminate between a) what they can do best and what they cannot, b) what is profitable for them and what is not, and c) what they are passionate about and what they are not.) Collins further states, "A culture of discipline is not just about action. It is about getting disciplined people...who engage in disciplined thought and...who then take disciplined action."

In a culture of discipline, people do not have “jobs;” they have responsibilities. Disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action is the cornerstone of a culture that creates greatness. This culture of discipline requires duality – 1. It requires people to adhere to a consistent system & framework of responsibilities and 2. It gives freedom and responsibility within that system. Similar to Toyota that has standards which allows team members to be creative, improve and increase their responsibilities.

So, what do we mean by "disciplined people."  Here are a few different perspectives:

  • They have a trained condition of order and obedience
  • They have a habit of self-discipline - the discipline comes primarily from within
  • They typically finish things they start.
  • They are capable of facing and dealing with brutal facts, even about themselves
  • They are willing to adhere to the organization's systems for getting work done
  • They are proactive and begin with the end in mind
  • They put first things first
  • They have a ‘Stop Doing’ List
  • They continually improve

In our organizations, team members arrive at varying levels of discipline.  In our role as lean leaders, we have to complete the job of building discipline, in both thought and action, through our guidance and with our systems. This requires that we devote attention to modeling discipline, setting clear expectations, reviewing performance, assigning developmental jobs, rewarding disciplined behavior and recognizing contributions to a whole culture of discipline. As leaders, we must also step up to the responsibility to weed out those who are either unable or unwilling to rise to the desired level. You can’t have a culture of discipline if you don’t have the right quality of people in the organization with which to build such a culture. Perhaps our most important role of all is capturing the wholehearted commitment of the person by helping them realize that their passions align with the mission of the organization. When applied to all of our people, we move the entire organization toward great.

Do you have the self-discipline to be great?  If not, take steps to improve your self-discipline.  Look to areas where you are passionate enough to make improvements.  Set small goals for yourself that require discipline and achieve those goals.  Challenge yourself to be a good example for others to follow.  Don’t let a lack of will stand between you and greatness.  A few thoughts on how to develop the discipline to be great

1.      Recognize that planning is priceless, but plans are useless.

2.      Disciplined action without disciplined people is impossible to sustain, and disciplined action without disciplined thought is a recipe for disaster.

3.      Allow team members freedom and responsibility within the framework of a highly developed system.

a.       The transition begins not by trying to discipline the wrong people into the right behaviors, but by getting self disciplined people on the bus in the first place.

b.      The right people then need disciplined thought to confront the brutal facts while retaining resolute faith that you will create a path to greatness.

c.       Disciplined action is then required to realize the improvement.

4.      The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline – a problem that largely goes away if you have the right people in the first place.

a.       Avoid bureaucracy and hierarchy and instead create a culture of discipline.

Disciplined people – Disciplined thought – Discipline Action – A Foundation for Lean

-- Hank, Lean Team Leader, Auburn Technical Assistance Center

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Comment by Mark M. Clark on March 11, 2011 at 5:13pm
This is great!
Comment by David Hicks on March 6, 2011 at 3:10pm
Good to Great is one of the all time excellent books. The foundation of disciplined people, thoughts, & actions gets expaned throughout the book to include leadership, strategy, and persistence.  If you don't have a culture that creates and encourages disciplined approaches, any success you achieve will be temporary.


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