Misleading Conduct # 11 : Applying Organisational Discipline Sloppily and Inconsistently


“Organisational discipline” refers to the body of knowledge which guides how the organisation works. It often includes directional and aspirational statements like visions, missions, goals etc. It might include standard codes of conduct (what some organisations refer to as Rules of Racing and the like).

Great organisations develop these disciplines in a consultative way, make sure they are championed by the leadership and regularly review and update them. Good leaders (including Boards) regularly check the efficacy of policies, procedures and processes and how they are being applied in practice. They might do this through audits or personal inquiry.

Misled organisations don’t have this kind of guidance at all, develop it ineffectively or half-heartedly, or apply it inconsistently. Leaders who allow sloppy, bureaucratic, ineffective processes and rules to operate are sanctioning waste and risk. One of the worst leadership behaviours is to apply organisational discipline rigorously down through the management layers to the workforce but to apply it inconsistently upwards.

As a colleague, Eric Motti has observed:

“These misleaders personally intervene and break agreed rules, processes and policies in the flawed belief that they will consistently get better outcomes than if they follow them. They are fully aware that in any large organisation the policies, procedures and   guidelines are put in place to keep the masses organised. The guidelines are clearly not intended for superior beings who have the ability to exercise exceptional judgment over a range of subject areas where they have no real knowledge. The confusion often arises because they feel that the G in their title (e.g. EGM or GM) stands for Godlike, yet most of their work colleagues are of the belief that the G stands for General”.

Have the courage of your stated convictions to regularly check the discipline standards of your organisation and make any necessary changes. Your people will applaud you for doing what often only you can do to make their work life more productive and satisfying and contribute to better business results.

Author: This post is by Ian Sampson (B.Comm., LLB., FAICD, FAIM). Ian is a Cause and Effective Associate (www.causeandeffective.info). He is a Strategic Advisor to Boards, an Executive Coach and a Facilitator of our Powerful Leadership in Action Program. He can be contacted here.


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