Discipline

I found as a definition of Discipline:  Control of wrong inclinations.

With discipline I do not mean what others impose on us. I mean the discipline of doing things how we know they should be done. We know how we should do it, but if nobody is watching, we do it an easier way. Don't we?
This creates a risk of getting problems with quality later (if it doesn't create a risk, it's not a discipline problem, but a potential better way of working). Even while we know that not keeping discipline is a risk, easy now easily prevails over problems later.

Discipline is difficult.
When in a lecture I suggested that the Bible as well as other religious books probably talk about discipline, someone in the audience immediately replied: "Yes, it's written in chapter Romans 7-19:

For the good that I would, I do not - but the evil which I would not, that I do
He didn't convert me, but this event taught me that the discipline problem in humans is known for thousands of years, and who are we to think that we can suddenly change that? We won't. We cannot fight the genes! Instead of wasting time fighting the genes, is there still something we can do to decrease the risk of lack of discipline, without asking for it?

I found four things we can do to somewhat improve on the discipline problem:

  • Helping each other
    It is easier to keep the discipline to do the right things right if somebody is watching over our shoulder. This is why in organizations with many one-person projects, we let two people work on two one-person projects. This way they can watch over each other's shoulder, helping each other to do the right things. In a larger project, people can watch over each other's shoulder, helping each other to keep the discipline of doing what is best for the best result in the shortest time.
    To some people "watching over the shoulder" feels like policing. This feeling is probably caused by the attitude of some 'managers'. However, once people admit that discipline is difficult but important, we can ask each other to watch over each other's shoulder. It's not policing, but rather helping each other to do the right things right.
  • Rapid success
    If we ask people to keep the discipline of the process from now on, we actually ask them to change their way of working (otherwise we didn't have to ask). Some people claim that people resist change. I think people like change if it's improvement. It's the uncertainty that initially comes with a change that people (subconsciously) shun. This makes people seem to dislike change. If we ask people to change their way of working, telling that if they work hard, in about two years things will go much better, people have to endure the uncertainty of improvement for a long period of time (example: moving from CMM level 1 to CMM level 2 takes about two years, if it succeeds at all). That doesn't work well. People cannot cope with uncertainty for such a long time.
    People do not resist change, if it's for the better. If it's not clear for them why and how it's for the better..., well forget it. It won't happen.
    With the help of a coach, uncertainty is bearable for a few weeks. As a coach I say: "Do this three weeks for me". If within two weeks people feel that the suggested better way of working really is successful for them, then there is a chance that they keep doing it. We should create rapid success, adapting our rate of change to small consecutive steps, each of which start working within about 2 weeks.
  • Making mistakes
    People learn more easily from mistakes if they feel the pain of the mistake. If we suggested another way of doing and the person insisted in his own way and failed, feeling the pain, then there is a chance that the person now will accept to try our suggestion. If that suggestion quickly works better for him, the person now may accept it. Because the pain of the mistake fades away quickly, we only have a short time-slot to help the person to improve.
    In a large equipment development project with a lot of software, the R&D manager expressed his satisfaction how the weekly planning had made his people much more efficient. I asked "How about defects? Do you get fewer defects?" He replied: "We still have too many defects". So I asked: "Do they feel anything if a defect is found?" He said: "No, they don't feel anything. They just repair the defect". I said: "Then they will keep making defects. No pain, no gain".
  • Openness
    If we keep sweeping things going wrong under the carpet, not doing anything about it, these things keep going wrong. If we're open about what we're doing wrong and what we're doing about it, others can help us.
    Especially at management levels, people are afraid to show failure, and if the failure comes out, they try to explain why it actually wasn't a failure. That's why so many failures are continuing to be made. If it isn't in the open we cannot learn, discuss about it, and prevent it from happening again. If it happened once, it probably will happen again, unless we actively do something about it.
    In one project I was asked to both coach the project and to report to a division manager because the board was anxious about the several million euro's they had furnished to the project. The first monthly reports I made for the division manager made him panic: "So many things in the project are going wrong!" His panic made him stop reading on to see what we were doing about it. The first several monthly meetings I took him apart after the meeting to explain why I was reporting the things that went wrong and what we were doing about it. In other types of projects the same things happen, but get swept under the carpet. Therefore, in those projects these things are not rectified and go on throughout the project, making it explode at the end.
    After several months, he saw that what we were doing about it worked and that we were doing less and less things wrong, eventually making me decide not to spend time coaching and reporting on this project anymore, because they were quite well in control themselves.
  • Lecturing at a University in Japan, one of the attendees, an American working in Japan for an American company, said that he learnt the power of being open about ones mistakes. He said:
    "Every time I make a mistake, I send an email to my colleagues about the mistake and what I decided to do about it. At first my colleagues were puzzled with my frankness, but gradually they started to send their mistakes around as well. This multiplied my learning about mistakes, because for every mistake I sent around I got 10 more to learn from!