Operating Discipline – Boring But Critical

Developing new products and conceiving different types of solutions that an industry has never seen is fun. It is engaging. It is that elusive “high” that many students think happens in startups all the time. The reality is much different.

Many, if not most, great ideas never meet expectations- most never even get built. Why?

Unlike brainstorming or imagining something that does not exist, successfully accomplishing much of what is above requires discipline. Discipline is 99% of how you spend your time. Discipline helps you scale and is what allows good ideas to beat great ideas all the time. The widely circulated Steve Jobs and “Eureka” type stories that are now so well known would almost have never occurred if they did not have the discipline to carry them out.

Creativity Without Discipline is a Hobby

As a market leader, to really execute a vision, idea or new approach, you need a great team around you. Since you are competing against others within the market, you can assume that your competitor’s team is working hard to catch up to you. Often in a war fought over time, it is who gets better, faster as an organization that makes all the difference. A key way to gain steady ground, in the long run, is to identify all areas that are crucial for your team to be the best and focused on.

In the workforce, almost all employees are trying hard. Every individual also presumably wants to be better than they are; often they are trying to grow in various directions to accomplish that. The fundamental question, though, is: are they facing the right direction and focusing on the right things to get better?

The key is that each year, no matter what you do, you fortify the need to get better. Click To Tweet

To ensure this growth occurs in the shortest period of time, companies need to have metrics in place that are focused on the abstract of how a team, or individual, performs. Whether you manage this personally, or as a group, the standards are the same; the key is that each year, no matter what you do, you fortify the need to get better.

Manage What You Measure

A massive value for our own companies is that we continue to focus on Operating Discipline– meaning that every year we obsess on how we can get better and how we can put our Management Pulse in the forefront to make that happen.

We may be the best at implementing, but we can still get better. We may be the best at support in our industry, but we can still raise the bar. We may be the best at building new products, but we don’t have all the ideas.

Once you have chosen your operating goals, you need to embed them in how you plan your month, week and individual days. You should quantify your progression during this period of reflection, as well as ensure your focused development is visible to those around you.

Nothing anyone does can not get better, the key is to have reasonable estimates on how much better you need to get and how much you are willing to invest to get there. Each industry has unique characteristics and therefore the competitive positioning changes based on the skills and strategy of your clients and competitors. Although every company needs to select what they are going to spend their focus on, pinpointing the right metrics to obsess over will almost always be the most critical step for success.

Your Clients NEED You to Get Better

Between price increases, rising expectations and technology shifts, you need to ensure that the level of value provided to your clients is increasing faster than their costs. The only way these goals can come to fruition is if you are obsessively focused on them.

Operating Discipline is not as ‘trendy’ as other business topics out there, but it delivers most of the value to your clients. Pick your focus and then have the execution skills to make it happen.

What is your company’s version of Operating Discipline? How do you motivate and aid your team members when it comes to bettering their abilities and knowledge?

– Mike

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