Usually when we think of discipline, it’s deeply personal and not that much fun.
One kind of discipline involves punishing others. For example, as a parent, I may discipline my misbehaving child.
Another kind of discipline punishes ourselves. We exercise self-discipline when we turn down dessert, get up earlier than we want to go jogging in the rain, and save for retirement instead of splurging on luxuries.
Yet without the discipline to make a plan and stick to it, we can’t reach our goals. This applies whether the goals are personal or organizational; goals are meaningless if we aren’t taking the action required to achieve them.
Most organizations lack discipline. It takes discipline to clarify and communicate goals across a team, and even more discipline for all the individuals in the group to stick to the plan and do their part as time goes on.
When you operate at the organizational level, the type of discipline that leads to punishment for doing the wrong thing comes into play when someone either lacks the skills or the willingness to do their job. In situations like these, discipline looks like corrective action, or coaching, or training, or getting fired.
On the other hand, when the people in the group have the right skills and a willingness to do the job, a failure in organizational discipline looks like a problem with accountability. For reasons we often ascribe to weaknesses of character, the people we work with just don’t seem to follow through with the agreed upon strategy. They appear to lack that second flavor of discipline - self-discipline – to stick with the program and complete their tasks. We cajole, we threaten, we push and we pull, but things just don't change.
Those people. Grrrr.