Discipline. Does it matter?

Exploring aspects of conversation, both personal and professional

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.

George Washington


Heading off to Clovelly Beach at 7am this morning for a swim, and a catch-up with a great bunch of people that run and swim down there every morning, the topic of discipline entered my mind.

You see, I am not the most disciplined of attendees (I know that is hard to believe ) to this particular marvellous ritual, in fact this is only the second time I have been in the past few months. Here’s the thing though … I know they will be there, so I can just show up.

It’s a classic example of how discipline makes for a really efficient and effective operation. I didn’t have to make a phone call, check-in with anyone – just had to turn up. How they operate, the service/experience they provide is predictable because of their discipline.

Is this true for you and your business?

Disciplined People



What discipline is required of you and your people to ensure absolute predictability?


What discipline is required of you and your people to ensure absolute predictability so that your colleagues and clients just know they can trust that it will be done? What attitudes and behaviours are required from you such that that discipline drives your #scalingup of the business?

I am currently reading Jim Collins’ excellent book Good to Great in which he puts forward the concept of a ‘Culture of Discipline’. Namely that great companies have disciplined people thinking in a disciplined way and taking disciplined action as a result. That within their framework of responsibility they can function with freedom.

Takes me back to my days in the late ‘80’s when I was running a software company and invested a day in meeting a bunch of graduates as part of their selection and recruitment process. Many of them were surprised that the CEO would spend all day with them – socialising, interviewing, engaging in various individual and group activities. It was a process I had been introduced to when I was recruited by the company back in the UK. As I shared with them; investing in the day provided a marvellous return on my time. I was able to assess their attitudes and behaviours rather than simply their technical smarts. Get this first decision wrong and you potentially pay for it for months, years after the event. Get it right and you enjoy working with a bunch of ‘A-Players’ who have the discipline and desire to just do great work which your clients love.The critical piece about the ‘Culture of Discipline’ is that it all starts with the people. It is not about creating guilt and admonishing people who don’t want to do what is needed. It is about making sure you get the right people on the bus in the first place, people who personally choose to be self-disciplined.

Essentially we are leveraging the idea that our attitudes drive our behaviours, which leads to the results we enjoy – good or bad. So finding people with an attitude of self-discipline is a great place to start.


As a sidebar to the concept you might like to watch this two-minute video on the 'Playground Study'. It shows how children behave in a playground with or without a fence around them. 

Fascinating and to the point that your team members can be more creative/innovative as long as they have some boundaries.

Watch video


Disciplined Thought

Without Disciplined Thought you may find Yourself Heading in the Wrong Direction

Discipline on its own though is not what successful #scalingup is about. Without disciplined thought, the willingness to confront the brutal realities of your situation, you may find yourself heading in totally the wrong direction – all be it in a disciplined fashion. Additionally part of successful disciplined thought is also having the confidence to know you will prevail, irrespective of the harsh reality you have to confront.

For me that reflects my personal ‘hobby horse’ of life – in that it is not what happens to you but how you choose to respond to what happens to you that matters. Or to put another way, what will you choose to do having faced your ‘harsh reality’.

Contributing to this is letting go of ego and personal self-interest and minimising the corporate politics and ‘game-playing’ that maybe part of the harsh reality. In my humble experience anything one can do to reduce this will result in you being better placed to achieve your company’s full potential.

Disciplined Action

Disciplined Action May Just Drive us over the Cliff More Rapidly

Jim Collins goes on to make the point that without the disciplined thought happening before action then having disciplined people engaged in disciplined action may just simply drive us over the cliff more rapidly. Similarly, having great people, executing superbly, but out of alignment with each other, or towards a badly thought through strategic plan can be a recipe for disaster.

Interestingly, one of the factors that attracted me to attaining #ScalingUp Certification was the provision of methodology and simple, practicable and actionable tools to facilitate this discipline and alignment. Even their cadence of meetings, their communication rhythm, referred to in my previous blog creates an environment more likely to create a ‘Culture of Discipline’.

So where do you need to apply your ’Culture of Discipline’ first – people / thought /  action?

Would love to hear your thoughts below, let’s get into conversation, and maybe I’ll see you for a swim down at Clovelly Beach one of these beautiful mornings.

So what might you do now?

If you haven't already done so, download a copy of your Function Accountability Chart (FACe) and complete the exercise with your leadership team to ensure you have the "right people doing the right things right".



If you are interested in further exploring how to leverage simple, actionable, and practical tools to help you have the "right people doing the right things right" why not come along to the Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop we are running in conjunction with our partner SWAAB on Tuesday 4th, December.

More informationGet tickets


Alternatively, if you would just like to learn a little more about Scaling Up - grab yourself a copy of the "Quick Start Guide".



Good to Great

Jim Collins






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