The Two “D’s”: Discipline & Discernment


Busy, busy, busy!  That’s what we hear. Our people are busy at work.  Ask them. Our companies are busy being productive.  Check on those metrics. Our organizations are delivering on the mission.  Watch for impact. Everything is in accelerated motion; so speedy, we risk having no idea whether we’re relevant anymore ‘cause just check in with me, “I’m busy.”

Any idea whether our talent pool is busy with the right things? Have we stopped and asked our customers; our employees?  Have we examined the future to see what is coming that could disrupt our marketplace? Think Kodak and the digital camera they invented but never launched. Yes, it could happen to us if we’re not paying attention.

Are we worried about relevance so much that instead of crafting focused, targeted strategy; we’re all over the place seeing what sticks to the wall versus identifying the two or three things our company should be focused upon that creates distinction for our brand? There are two “D’s” that every company and organization should be paying attention to in the business climate in which we are operating – discipline and discernment.

The first “D,” discipline, is committing to a strategic vision and mission, which creates focus for our company or organization.  We can be in operation, making money, and yet, be outdone by a competitor in the next three months, because we weren’t paying attention to our strategy and watching our competitors.  We may have invested in a strategic consultant and authored strategy, but then done absolutely nothing to communicate to our team what the new message is, authored the stories that drive the direction throughout our organization, and failed to train up for execution.  Where is our discipline around decision-making and strategic execution?  We have to move away from the doing to working on our business with intention – day after day after day. Strategic execution must become an ongoing and continuous dynamic fueled by the behavior of discipline.

The second “D” – discernment, can still undo owners or leaders, who may have very well have undertaken the leap to create a discipline around strategy.  However, once engaged in strategic thinking, it opens up such compelling possibility for most leaders that they create such long lists of “and then we’ll,” “and then we could,” “and then we’ll do more,” that they are in completely unrealistic territory.  If it all commences at once, none of it would be done well.  Employees wind up frustrated by the overwhelming number of strategies.  Resources do not exist to support them. Timetables are too short.  Meetings are so numerous trying to plan and figure out how it will all get done that nothing happens. Everyone is set up for failure.  Taken to the extreme, businesses can fail under these circumstances just as easily as they can from not planning at all.

What’s the key to ensure that discipline and discernment complement each other and result in exceeding a company’s or organization’s expectations? First, someone has to be in charge of ensuring that the strategic focus flows into every nook and cranny of the operation and is known by every employee. The plan becomes a part of the organizational culture and is what the company is becoming; not a task list to be accomplished. This is the discipline feature of the Two D’s. Making sure it is dynamic, a touch point for decision-making, well executed, and part of the daily language of everyone, not just the owner, or the C-Suite, or the leadership team, is an imperative.

Secondly, once designed, strategy must be prioritized to two or three primary foci in a given year, with agreement on intended accomplishments – not just metrics of growth but impact.  What was different as a result of the achievement that improved your customer’s experience, increased the likelihood of repeat business, or changed their lives for the better? Having the discernment to realize that small wins along the way add up to big strategic gains is part of the judgment facet of deciding what to execute first to achieve your desired outcomes, instead of trying to do everything at once.

Your chance of relevance and sustained success is incrementally higher if you practice “The Two D’s.”

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