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The CEO of a major airline was approached by an employee with the suggestion of offering a particular salad on some of their flights, suggesting the airline customers would appreciate it. The CEO asked one question, “Will adding the salad contribute to our value (culture) having the low-rate airfares in the industry?” This was his litmus test for any suggestion within the operations of the airline. If the answer was yes, we’ll explore it. If the answer was no, then to follow through would mean we are not operating within our culture of discipline.

I credit Jim Collins with coining the phrase Culture of Discipline. As Collins puts it, “A Culture of Discipline. … Disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action—operating with freedom within a framework of responsibilities—this is the cornerstone of a culture that creates greatness. In a culture of discipline, people do not have jobs; they have responsibilities.”[i]

Creating a disciplined culture in your organization may take time, but it will be valuable time spent – an investment greater than finances can provide. Collins definition is wordy and covers a lot of ground, it is important to understand and utilize each part. Disciplined people engaged in disciplined thought, yet not allowed to work in freedom within certain guidelines (framework) will not create a disciplined culture. This freedom enables the motivation to operate within the disciplines set forth for the organization’s culture.

Example: Your organization could provide the absolute best training on procedures and best ways to accomplish the tasks required, yet the leadership allows no freedom in performing those duties, the workers are being treated like slaves under a dictatorial leadership.

If, on the other hand, there is freedom to complete assignments without any discipline processes and thought patterns, each person and division is looking out for their own interests without consideration of how their actions affect others within the organization. Chaos will ensue.

Therefore, a disciplined culture containing all the parts of Collins’ definition is critical to the effectiveness of any organization. In the business world, it all begins with the hiring process. In churches and other volunteer organizations, it is instrumental in vetting everyone desiring to be part of the organization – prior to their joining. Educating people prior to their joining your organization will eliminate many issues and difficulties that arise in organizations without a culture of discipline.

When people know the expectations upfront and realize they have certain freedoms to act within the framework of the organization, they will be motivated to act within the disciplines of the organization. As long as these disciplines are not oppressing in nature and not harmful, people will accept them and assist the organization in moving forward to accomplish their desires and purpose.

George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at ALSBOM.org/revitalization.

[i] Jim Collins, Good to Great, Harper-Collins

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