July 17, 2023

Infusing Discipline into Business

Organizations can only succeed at high levels when leaders begin with self-discipline and embed it thoroughly throughout the workforce. The executive team must articulate the systems and processes necessary to achieve the company's goals. Then they must commit to working with the required discipline to complete the defined objectives successfully.

As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership practitioner, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.

A Disciplined Approach to Business

Last week we looked at accountability, the first of eighteen essential elements of business success.  When most of us hear the word discipline, we associate it with receiving some form of punishment for failing to follow the rules.  However, in the business world, integrating a high level of discipline allows for the opportunity to become a highly efficient and effective organization.  We will look at several vital elements of integrating discipline into our work.

Your ability to discipline yourself to set clear goals, and then to work toward them every day, will do more to guarantee your success than any other single factor. – Brian Tracy
Discipline Begins with the Leadership

Developing a lean operation requires the organization's leadership to define the expectations and hold people accountable to follow them.  The leaders must exhibit the same level of discipline that they set for the other members of the organization.  Additionally, there must be communication that shares the benefits and rewards that will result from a successful lean operations implementation.  As Tracy suggests, leaders must set goals, communicate them early and often, provide the employees with the resources and training to achieve them, and regularly verify that the entire workforce is aligned with one another to achieve these objectives.

Avoiding Short-Term Thinking

Organizations take on the traits of the leader of the organization.  It is often the default reaction to look for a quick fix to a problem that arises.  Instead, those at the company's top level must adopt the required discipline to address issues using robust critical thinking and problem-solving techniques using a comprehensive process.  It may create discomfort to do this when multiple fires are burning all around the operation.  The pain the leader experiences will be the same as those in the organization's balance.  It allows for the potential of more vital empathy when the workforce deals with similar concerns while adopting their critical thinking skills.  The energy, resources, and time commitment will be challenging early on.  However, consistent daily improvement will lead to significant results when the organization becomes proficient at applying critical thinking and problem-solving.

Simple Concepts that Require Discipline

Various elements of lean are simple concepts.  Applying 5S is a process of sorting, setting in order, shining, standardizing, and sustaining a work area at a high level of order and efficiency.  It is often the first step companies take when looking to apply lean operations.  It is something where completion of the initial work requires a few days.  The sustaining step is where it generally fails.  I have toured many plants where you see shadow boards with outlines of the places where brooms and dust pans are now empty.  Exhibit one for the lack of discipline in an organization.  In some organizations, additional remnants of standard work and visual controls will languish unkemptly.  Further monuments to the lack of time, patience, and, most importantly, the discipline required to implement lean fully.

tothstefan1983 on Pixaby
A New Way of Management

While the roots of lean operations are in the automotive industry, many other sectors realize the benefits of adopting the model.  The key to achieving success is integrating the tools necessary to develop the discipline that results in high organizational performance.  We reviewed the need for leaders to go to Gemba, a Japanese word that translates to "the real place," a few months ago.  Going to the area of interest allows leaders to observe, learn and understand, thus leading to the more significant potential to make more informed decisions.  An element of this work is to audit the employee's use of standard work.  Adopting a similar discipline as an executive requires the leader to adopt standard work where the person defines standardized elements of the job, including strategy deployment, personal and team development, supporting continuous improvement, and ensuring compliance with visual management.    

Key Takeaway

Organizations can only succeed at high levels when leaders begin with self-discipline and embed it thoroughly throughout the workforce.  The executive team must articulate the systems and processes necessary to achieve the company's goals.  Then they must commit to working with the required discipline to complete the defined objectives successfully.  

First Step

Leaders looking to instill more discipline in their organizations should begin by developing vital self-discipline.  A guide to help with this work is 5 Ways To Improve Self-Discipline at Work.  The content addresses mental blocks, how to build self-discipline, and exercises to further develop this essential leadership skill.  A leader can then model this behavior to others in the organization.

My Gratitude

When I think of a disciplined approach to the work, I think of John Wooden, the former basketball coach at UCLA.  He won ten national championships, including seven in a row.  An element of his success as a leader was to require a disciplined approach from his players, where he would share why it was necessary so they could endure the work to make championship work happen.

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will shift to a review of the essential element of rewarding goal progress integral to becoming a humanist manufacturing organization.  

Additional Information  

To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstratgicsustainability.com.

I encourage you to read my book Humanist Manufacturing: A Humanitarian Approach to Excellence in High-Impact Plant Operations.  The paperback and eBook versions are now available at Amazon and many other booksellers.  You can also view the Humanist Manufacturing Book Launch to gain additional insight into the Humanist Manufacturing framework.

I invite you to join the Humanist Manufacturing Group on LinkedIn if you want to interact with others interested in the topic.

If you like what you have read, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Contact me if you need help with the manufacturing support services of consulting, coaching, Fractional Chief Sustainability Officer, or training/reskilling at 734-664-9076.

See my virtual TEDx videos at Reinventing the Prison Industrial Complex and Humanist Manufacturing.

You can sign up for my newsletter or email me at Contact Me.

Cover Image Credit: geralt on Pixaby

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