A Culture of Discipline



What comes to mind when you read that word? For me, I think of structure. I think regimented organization. Someone has a habit and is able to stick to it in order to benefit from it.

But, discipline can often go beyond action. In “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, he talks about how a culture of discipline is one of the defining factors of a great company. And it isn’t just about what you do: “It is about getting disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who then take disciplined action.”

Sure, the leader can swing discipline like a hammer. He or she could strike fear into their people by being a sort of tyrant. However, if your people are not engaged in lives and a culture of discipline, it’s going to be more like a discipline dictatorship — and that usually isn’t long lasting.

Because while discipline brings structure, it also brings a level of freedom. “A culture of discipline involves a duality,” wrote Collins. “On the one hand, it requires people who adhere to a consistent system; yet, on the other hand, it gives people freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system.”

Often when we think rules and organization, the last thing we think of is freedom. Isn’t freedom supposed to mean the exact opposite? But Collins proves in the latest chapter that by giving organizations and their teams a culture of discipline, there is then freedom to work within very specific boundaries. I don’t know about you, but I find the most freedom when lines have been drawn clearly and I know where to work.

Why is discipline so key? Well, it goes back to your Hedgehog Concept. If you know what you’re passionate about, and what you can be better in the world at than anyone else, and if you know your economic engine, but you don’t have the discipline to stick to those things, then what’s the point? It’s like having a map, a route laid out for your drive, and then ignoring it completely. Don’t come crying to me if you get lost.

“The good-to-great companies at their best followed a simple mantra: ‘Anything that does not fit with our Hedgehog Concept, we will not do,’” wrote Collins. “‘We will not launch unrelated businesses. We will not make unrelated acquisitions. We will not do unrelated joint ventures. If it doesn’t fit, we don’t do it. Period.’”

Does a culture of discipline thrive in your organization? Are your disciplined people having disciplined thought and taking disciplined action? It’s time to start understanding the importance of discipline in order to enjoy the freedom it does bring.

Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at heather@peakemedia.com.

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