They’re Not Angels, Part V

Disciplined Execution. While business author Jim Collins may be best known for coining the term “Disciplined Execution,” as it applies to big businesses, it’s my colleague Tim Hull who brings this concept to life for small business owners.

As part of a presentation he gives, Tim talks about the discipline of using the company’s core values as a measuring stick when hiring new employees. He reinforces his point by emphasizing the importance of hiring disciplined people to begin with and having an intolerance of poor or underperforming behavior.

Disciplined execution goes beyond just the hiring process and includes making financial decisions based on sound data rather than emotion, convenience, or ego. It means having conversations that might be uncomfortable or unpopular but are necessary to have. It means making necessary decisions in a timely manner even when you’d rather kick those decisions down the road. Disciplined execution is following through on your business plan even when you might be tired, bored, or have shiny new objects you’d rather be chasing.

Disciplined execution is being disciplined in the thousands of decisions, big and small, that you make every day. It does not mean having a lack of emotion or being apathetic or dull. Remember, we’re talking about entrepreneurs here, people who are known for being animated and who have strong opinions and aren’t afraid to voice them.

When it comes to their business, disciplined owners demonstrate the natural emotions of a good parent—they’re passionate when it matters and controlled when it’s necessary.

Navigating vs. Steering. The difference between steering a company by using a strategic plan versus navigating uncharted waters and unseen hazards can be very subtle. For this reason, it might be a good idea for me to include a minor disclaimer ahead of my next comment on the topic: Having a written business plan is vital to most owners, as it is what gives an owner the ability to steer the company and to sustain profitable growth. But there are times when business plans are not as critical, such as for a solo-preneur without many people engaged in the company’s execution or when circumstances demand that the owner calls an audible to avoid a catastrophe or to take advantage of a unique opportunity.

Former General and U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower captured the essence of this best when he stated, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Navigating means that even with your best laid plans, you expect the unexpected. You anticipate disruptions. This is where the difference between navigating and steering becomes clearer. Without firm goals toward which to steer the business, you may find yourself going in circles fighting disruption after disruption without any clear direction. However, with clearly defined goals these disruptions simply become obstacles to be addressed on the way to your ultimate destination.

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