Why discipline is important

Why discipline is important

Freedom is only part of the story and half the truth…. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplanted by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast. —VIKTOR E. FRANKL, Man’s Search for Meaning

It’s true, people need freedom to be creative and to do the work they love, but without responsibility, nothing worthwhile will be built.

In Jim Collin’s book, Good to Great he writes a whole chapter on establishing a culture of discipline and explains why it is so important if you want to take your business from being good to being great.

The reason you want to do this is explained in the following diagram:

courtesy of

As an entrepreneur what you want to avoid at all costs as you grow is to become a bureaucracy (excessively complicated administrative procedure driven organisation) with multiple levels of management. You either want to be start-up or a great organisation. A great organisation requires discipline.

A culture of discipline Collin’s states is a culture full of people that take disciplined action within the vision that you as the owner set for the company.

He likens it to the job of a pilot. A pilot operates within a very structured environment and does not have the freedom to go outside of that environment. Yet he can still make decisions on whether to take off, to land, to divert the plane or abort the flight. It all rests with him to make these decisions. The pilot is ultimately responsible for the lives on the plane and because of that, needs a structure within which he/she can be creative.

You surely don’t want a pilot to get on the plane and announce that he/she has read the manual, decided which bits were important and will only use the parts he/she feels is necessary to get the job done. I don’t know about you, but I would get off.

Collins noted in all the companies that he researched, the same model as the airplane pilot: freedom and responsibility within a framework of a highly developed system.

The systems to fly the plane are developed and are tried and tested. New pilots are taught these systems and each can deliver with his/her own specific techniques what needs to be done. Within the framework, that is.

For freedom to exist within the requirement of responsibility, we need boundaries or systems. They protect us and make us safe, just like we feel safe in an airplane, despite who the pilot is. The safety lies in the system, not so much the pilot.

It’s exactly like that in business. Unless you have systems and boundaries in place, creativity can create chaos and chaos eats profit. You can only have a great business if you have the right tried and tested rules, regulations and procedures in place.

I have worked with boundary systems in business for over 25 years and my favorite and the foundational one I use every time I start a new consulting job is a time and attendance system.

I first teach people to respect time and if they do, they build a disciplined life. A disciplined employee has disciplined thoughts about your business and takes disciplined action towards our shared goals. They win and the business wins.

If you’re not measuring what time employees come and go, you’re not measuring discipline.

What you don’t measure people don’t respect.

I suggest we start measuring…


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