Richard Maun – Great Process Vs Great Discipline

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Great Process Vs Great Discipline

14 May 2017

One way to think about business is as a large and very convoluted process, comprised of smaller support processes. When we consider continuous process improvement we can find ways to reduce waste, remove unnecessary steps, stop doing things that don’t add value, or combine elements to save time and money. All good so far and an essential part of making sure we are focussed on the ‘vital few’ and not the ‘trivial many,’ the latter grouping which can lead to us rushing about being busy without actually being very productive.

However, how often do we pause to think about the discipline needed to maintain the processes which add value?

When process improvement schemes fail, and they often do, it’s not because people don’t want to improve their working life. People, in my experience, want to come to work to add value and have an interesting and worthwhile job and do not really want to fritter away their precious lives on mundane tasks, frustrating processes, or wasteful work that saps their motivation. The reality though is that without enough collective discipline to stick to a workable process, the process drifts from an acceptable central point and starts to creep back into wasteful, or thoughtless areas.

It’s a bit like trying to lose weight when we are on holiday, when we find ourselves booked into a full-board package where we can eat what we like, when we like and so are tempted to nibble away our two weeks in the sun and return home happier and wider, instead of happier and healthier.

No process can be effective if there isn’t enough discipline to enforce it, monitor any potential drift and take swift and decisive action to bring it back on track. No leader can be effective in their role if they lack the awareness and commitment to make sure all processes are followed accurately.

Using the battle of Waterloo as an example, part of what made the British soldiers such fearsome opponents was not superiority of numbers, or clever tactical manoeuvring. The best card in their hand was that they were the only army in Europe to practice with live ammunition, so that on the day when the guns fired and the world disappeared into foggy chaos they knew how to holdĀ the lineĀ and remain disciplined. The French soldiers were undoubtedly a skilled force, but when faced with implacable Red Coats who stood firm in the face of withering fire, they would often break ranks and cause confusion. The difference that made the difference, was the British had much better discipline.

So then, if we are a leader in business and we want our organisation to thrive, we need to chose discipline over process because without it we are just tinkering. Once we have a well motivated and organised cohort of managers who hold the line, we can then slowly improve our processes to ensure we remain ahead of the competition.

We all know what frustrates us in our organisation, but if we tolerate poor discipline, we only have ourselves to blame when mistakes are made and customers are let down.

What will you do this week to ensure all your troops, so to speak, are kept well motivated and genuinely following all essential processes? If the Duke of Wellington was alive now and a competitor of yours, how would you feel about that?

Next week: Innocently Smooth


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© Richard Maun 2015 / Click here to contact