Why discipline within (family) businesses is the most important value even in the corona era

5 April 2020

5 April 2020

Many organizations have gotten over the initial shock. At least for those who are still “in business.” A new (temporary) balance seems to be emerging in supply and demand, portfolio, available production capacity and remote working and the 1.5m economy. The world is totally different than it was a few weeks ago and at the same time we are already starting to get used to the new situation cautiously. From a change management perspective, there has been a tsunami of unprecedented proportions. How do we struggle with and resist change? This crisis shows how resilient people and organizations are and how quickly we adapt to the new situation. This time last year, I wrote a blog about passion, talent and discipline. (see April 2019 blog). Where do we stand today and why is discipline so terribly important to survive and be or remain successful in the coming months even in this time of crisis?

The four core elements as the basis for long-term success (in a period of crisis)

Passion, talent and discipline are important conditions for success. Combined with an appealing, challenging and clear goal, these are the most essential elements for success. Many top athletes and entrepreneurs agree on that. This is true in normal “business as usual” situations, but also in times of crisis. Underlying it, though, are significant shifts within passion, talent and discipline in times of crisis. The main shift is in the area of being able to move quickly. Successful organizations in times of crisis have the passion to want to continue to “deliver” to and for customers and employees. For this, they need the talents to adapt quickly from a “can do” mentality, by creating overview and using their organizational ability: where are we, what needs to be done now and how do we get it realized, so that execution or implementation can continue. The focus is now more on the here and now and less on the future. Organizations that don’t have the talent and passion to move quickly will continue to fall behind the times and can quickly fall into a negative vicious cycle.What is the role of discipline during the corona crisis? From discipline, new processes are put in place, organizations have effective team or zoom meetings and are decisive. What company has not experienced in recent weeks that (daily) short and aligned meetings within operations, sales and/or supply chain lead to clarity, speed and quick feedback. We have also all found that clarity in terms of rules and regulations may not be fun, but it is very effective. In other words, many companies have experienced in recent weeks how essential it is to work and meet in a disciplined manner. The current situation makes us as a rather undisciplined Western people suddenly embrace discipline. And therein lies immediately the challenge to the near future.

The biggest challenge: maintaining discipline as time passes and relaxing measures

It seems extremely unlikely that we will soon return to the pre-crisis “business as usual” situation. After the period of “survival (1)” of the past few weeks, many companies seem to be slowly entering a phase of “recovery (2),” in which new (work) processes, meetings and decision-making are set up in a disciplined manner. We are now heading for a period of cautious growth (3) during which restrictions will be gradually phased out.

This will also be accompanied by ever-changing trends in sales volumes for different channels and customers, with all the implications for production and supply chain fine-tuning. In addition, new products and services will likely be developed at an accelerated pace from marketing and sales to improve revenue and margin. In this phase of “post-recovery growth,” the tendency will begin to loosen the current successful and disciplined way of working. Past experience shows that, unfortunately, successful structures can easily and often too quickly disappear again, creating a vacuum:

  • Maintaining a (new) structure requires continuous attention and energy. When energy decreases, any system will tend to fall back to a looser structure;
  • Disciplined practice painfully reveals who is performing and who is not. Especially those who fall through the ice will saw the legs of disciplined practice. After all, they benefit from a more fluid way of working;
  • The new way of working in recent weeks has not yet become automatic and probably not yet well secured;

In other words, the big challenge for many companies is to maintain the very successful and persistent way of working over the past few weeks. If this does succeed in the coming months, many organizations will absolutely reap the benefits. However, if we fail to maintain the “peace, cleanliness and regularity,” I would venture to predict that, despite gradual growth, the performance at many organizations will start to slump and, with it, continuity will be threatened. Below are some do’s and don’ts for the upcoming period.

Do’s, suggestions for success: Don’ts, beware of this:
Stick to the current structure at least 4-6 weeks longer than you would like. Employees who say “we could go back to the way things were before Corona”
Properly secure the new practices through training, process recalibration, meeting agendas and KPIs / dashboards Avoid a vacuum or gap between the way things were done before and during Corona. Vacuum = Chaos
Become aware of the successes of recent weeks: why are things going so well? What can we learn from this and want to retain? Just moving on, going along with employees who see the past few weeks mostly as an incident
Keep communicating to the organization, even if things seem to be improving. Stay clear and resolute Stopping communication, as responses from employees dwindle.
Which employees have risen above themselves? Compliment employees personally. Not taking the time to give employees feedback on their performance in the past period.
Stick to the current (rationalized) portfolio and agreements of the past few weeks Strong expansion of the portfolio or services, without it being clear that these actually lead to a substantial increase in sales or margin

Success in your business from entrepreneurship and discipline.

Dirk Harm Eijssen, partner | d.eijssen@gwynt.eu | 06-26 108 966

Gwynt B.V.