Friday, 17 January 2014

Discipline and leadership

A recent post on this blog looked at how lessons analysis can help organisations identify some of the high-impact issues affecting their performance.  We last examined ‘knowledge gaps’ and the related problems that organisations may encounter, such as over-reliance on external specialists and increased costs.

In our final post in this series, we now look at discipline and leadership – closely associated issues as an absence of the former is often due to an absence of the latter – and the extent to which both management and workforce conform to the expectations that organisations place upon them.

What is the problem?

Organisations suffering poor leadership have management teams that fail to communicate, inspire, encourage or control.  Poor discipline often ensues, with corners being cut, deadlines being missed and control measures (if in place at all) ignored.  Team spirit is notable by its absence with few willing to help others unless formally instructed to do so.

How does it manifest itself?

Poor leaders say one thing and do another.  They expect their staff to stay late whilst they head home.  They punish transgressions in others whilst ignoring or rationalising the same misdeeds in their own behaviour.  They rely on their place in the hierarchy (i.e. their ‘rank’) instead of skill, charm, charisma or inspiration.  They don’t listen to warnings from their staff when risks are identified and fail to enforce control measures, thereby exacerbating problems. When things do go wrong, they avoid responsibility yet dishonestly exaggerate their role in success, thus discouraging their staff from being honest about mistakes and unwittingly encouraging deception which prevents organisational learning and performance improvement.

Consequently, such poor leadership usually (and deservedly) creates an ill-disciplined workforce. Employees fail to follow procedures, including those relating to safety, which puts themselves and their colleagues at risk. They arrive late for work and increasingly try to leave early.  They ‘go sick’ – often on Fridays; sometimes for weeks on end.  They steal from the stationery cupboard, use phone and email for personal purposes and browse the internet as much as possible (often looking for a new job), resulting in high staff turnover.

What is its impact?

High staff turnover is expensive and organisations suffering from this are forever enduring the costly, unproductive induction phase as it seeks to get new employees ‘up to speed’ so they can become useful.

Ignoring budgets and deadlines results in reduced profits (or even actual losses) and delays in the short-term but also impedes future planning, as few will believe the projections next time round.  This can lead to an increasingly negative spiral of non-conformance and over-runs.

Without resolution, an organisation’s reputation suffers, as investors and customers alike (or patients, students, soldiers etc.) lose confidence and take their money (ailments, study, skills) elsewhere.

What recommendations are made to address it?

Problems relating to discipline and leadership are often identified during lessons capture sessions, either in the meetings themselves or during subsequent analysis of the lessons, which reveals a common theme of non-compliance across an organisation.

Responses have included leadership coaching initiatives, reviews of terms and conditions of employment and the introduction of grievance management procedures.

KM initiatives play their part too, with cultural audits and KM assessments helping organisations uncover ‘what is really going on’ before remedies are selected.

For more information on any of the initiatives outline above, please visit

No comments:

Post a Comment