A Culture of Discipline

This is about chapter 6 of “Good to Great” and it is called “A Culture of Discipline”.

In every new company is a seed of creativity and a sense of entrepreneurial spirit.  Bold moves are made and if success comes, the company grows.  This growth triggers problems however.  It is much more difficult to control a growing company and soon things start to go wrong.  This is perfectly normal.

The most common reaction is to bring the company back into control.  This is accomplished by hiring people to enforce process and to manage the day to day business more tightly.  As a result, the company is controlled but ultimately loses its early energy to innovate and take risk.

It is common at this stage for the originating members to become disillusioned and eventually leave.  As in other company, this is true with Citrix as well.  What is more uncommon is for the company to keep the young seed alive.

The Good to Great research team found a pattern that allowed the company to remain intact.  Some companies kept this initial energy going.  The premise is that with great freedom comes great responsibility.  A company will trust its employees with freedom but must also expect that the employees will act in a responsible way.

It is key that the company hire people that are self-reliant and self-disciplined.  The business needs people that can not only be trusted but also can be viewed as having their own guidance that will fit well with the company’s hedgehog concept.  They have to understand that the two go together and that the cost of freedom is the ability to do the right thing.

What is the right thing?  Well, the simple answer lies within following the hedgehog concept closely.  It also implies thinking clearly and thinking openly.  It is difficult to balance creativity and risk with a strong sense of responsibility.  Life is like that.  Once you get that balance however, there is a sense of control that cannot be surpassed.

It is important to note that discipline does not imply a dictatorship.  It is more about self-discipline than controlling other people.

Successful companies are going to build frameworks that guide many actions but when it comes to the things that can change quickly, that responsibility will lie with the employee.  The book gives an example of an airline that has lots of rules about the operation of the planes.  The pilot is expected to follow all the rules for the sake of safety.  However, the pilot is given the freedom to decide on highly variable environments.  In the case, the weather might be terrible and make the pilot decide whether or not to land.  It is not a process decision but rather the pilot.  This makes sense because process cannot anticipate every situation and the pilot is likely to have the best data on what to do in such a situation.

Another key point is that disciplined action comes after acquiring disciplined people and thought.  All three conditions should be there in order to make sure the company fulfills its concept.

It is the role of the Level 5 leader to build the culture of discipline.  This would largely be acquired by trusting people and by example from all levels.

It takes a great deal of discipline to focus on the hedgehog concept instead of being tempted by the latest fad or potential acquisition.  It is like the mind wants to be a fox when the truth is that being a hedgehog is much more healthy for everyone involved.

A concept worth respecting is the idea of “stop doing it”.  Success is based on both action and stopping negative action.  This is an awareness thing that means that you have to realize that you are doing something wrong first.  Once realized for what it is, it should be much easier to melt away this bad habit.

Budgeting for correct action means to drop the incorrect ones.  Again, this is defined by the hedgehog concept.  Once unfunded, the incorrect action is destined to go away.  Some companies find themselves in the wrong business and have the guts to drop the old business for a new one.  As usual, this means that it has to fit in the philosophy of the company’s hedgehog concept.

I see this mostly as a means of following through with the hedgehog concept.  Without discipline at the employee level, the company is much more likely to become a bureaucracy.   It makes sense that “Good to Great” companies would be run much more efficiently with less hierarchy and wasted imposed control.

Freedom and discipline.  That’s what you need to be great.


Live near Brisbane, Australia. Software developer currently focused on iOS and Android. Avid Google Local Guide

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