Being Great Through Discipline

September 28, 2018 by FlexPro

Each quarter my senior leadership team reads a new book to help us to continue to learn and stay motivated. This quarter we read a book by author Jim Collins, titled Great By Choice. You may be familiar with Collins’ other works titled Built to Last and Good to Great which were both written after many years of research. Rose and I were also privileged to be able to hear Collins speak at an Inc. conference a number of years ago. Much like his other books, this one was based on nine years of research into what goes into making a company great in today’s more fast paced and unpredictable environment.

Collins and his colleague Morton Hansen had a team of twenty researchers who studied companies that  were successful. The synopsis from explains the book:

“Companies that rose to greatness- beating their industry indexes by a minimum of ten times over fifteen years – in environments characterized by big forces and rapid shifts that leaders could not predict or control. The research team then contrasted these “10x companies” to a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to achieve greatness in similarly extreme environments.”

So how did they do it, when so many others couldn’t? The common thread that helped lead these companies though difficult and unpredictable circumstances was what Collins calls “Fanatic Discipline”. Discipline in business is critical to its success and Collins’ lesson one is that “fanatic discipline is a trait of great companies.” Companies who lack focus and commitment, whether to their core values and ideals, their product or service, their mission statement or even their employees will not succeed. Any great business is focused on one goal that they never lose sight of, regardless of whatever else is going on around them. Great companies (and I would also add great project management teams to that) should rely on something that Collins calls the “20 Mile March”. He explains how in 1910 there were two expeditions heading out to reach the South Pole. Only one succeeded and returned safely. This group maintained a daily rule of walking 20 miles a day, no more and no less, regardless of what they encountered along the way in the form of adverse weather. On good days when they could have gone a lot further, they still stopped. By maintaining this disciplined plan they were able to rest on those days and conserve resources, ultimately leading to their success. It is said that the other expedition wore itself out and when they needed the strength and resources they didn’t have anything left and did not survive. Collins believes that this kind of unwavering discipline is how the 10x companies in his study survived through all kinds of adversity.

I think we can make a parallel to great companies being like great teams. As a PM, I believe that discipline and routine is critical to our success in how we manage our team and our projects. Distraction and inconsistency is not the way to motivate a team and get the necessary results. At FlexPro we are nothing if we’re not consistent in how we operate our business. A few examples of what is important to us, yet so simple to accomplish with a little discipline and determination includes:

  • Having regularly scheduled team meetings without exception
  • Always having an agenda
  • Issuing meeting minutes within 24 hours of a meeting (always!)
  • Starting and ending meetings on time

Our staff knows what to expect and when to expect it, without exception. We have a senior leadership team meeting every Thursday from 10:00-11:30 a.m. no matter what. Whether there’s been a hurricane or a blizzard, we still hold it via Skype. We have also never missed an issue of this monthly newsletter since its inception. This is Issue #118 and there will be at least that many more to follow! Do we always have time or even an idea to write about? No! However, skipping a month is simply not an option.

The bottom line is that in business, as in life, fads will come and go. New ideas, new technology, new innovations will never stop coming, nor do we want them to. We just need to be disciplined enough to not be lured away from our principle plan to the next “flavor of the month” or new “shiny object” that distracts us from our goals. There are no shortcuts to success. Ask any successful athlete, musician, author, entrepreneur or artist what their key to success is? I know it wasn’t slacking off, cutting corners and chasing the latest fad. It was discipline and hard work.  And while it isn’t always easy or glamorous, it means results and results are the measure of our success!

-Lynn Faughey, COO

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