Can it really be this simple?
Last blog I mentioned offering why we do what we do in business and life.
The book you’ll find the answers to this question is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. There’s so much to examine in it I’m compelled to write more than one blog.
For those of you who run a business a warning. You may not like what you’re going to hear in this blog.
The answer to the title of this blog: Your business is the way it is because of your organizational habits – good, bad or the lack of them (which may be the same as bad, however I want to make it clear that bad habits are different from having none at all).
Here some initial thoughts to absorb on habits. William James, the father of America psychology, “All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.” Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits.
Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often. This effort-saving instinct is a huge advantage.
When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.
Habits never really disappear. …it would be awful if we had to relearn how to drive after every vacation... The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.”
What does all this mean?
First published in 1982 An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change noted that it may seem like most organizations make rational choices based on deliberate decision making, but that’s not really how companies operate at all.
Instead, firms are guided by long-held organizational habits, patterns that often emerge from thousands of employees’ independent decisions. And these habits have more profound impacts than anyone previously understood. Without them, most companies would never get any work done. Routines provide the hundreds of unwritten rules that companies need to operate. They allow workers to experiment with new ideas without having to ask for permission at every step. They provide a kind of “organizational memory.”
This is exactly what Aubrey Daniels expressed through Vic Dungus, technical associate at Eastman Chemical Co., in Bringing Out the Best in People, “a company is always perfectly designed to produce whatever it is producing.” Daniels points out, “Every company is getting the performance it should be because it’s reinforcing that performance with what it is currently doing. If you’re not happy with what you’re getting you need to put consequences in place that stop these outcomes and then put new consequences in place to positively reinforce the new outcome you want. The bad news is you’re reinforcing the wrong things or you wouldn’t be getting that performance. The good news is you can change it with some diligence.” We noted this in an earlier blog Bad Performance is Your Responsibility.
The Power of Habit offers up the same message, “There are no organizations without institutional habits. There are only places where they are deliberately designed, and places where they are created without forethought, so they often grow from rivalries or fear.”
Of course all this points to is the power of discipline. It is only with discipline that we create habits. Particularly Good Habits.
The Power of Habits quotes former Super Bowl Champion Coach Tony Dungy, “Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.” This reminds me of the quote I include as a signature on all my emails, “A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness.” Jim Collins, Good to Great.
Your business is now and will be in the future the sum of your habits. If you want to achieve greatness, get your people to perform the extraordinary through disciplined habits. It’s why Collins emphasizes first who than what. You must have people who are disciplined, and people who are willing to do the right things right!
Here’s a powerful statement to understand the value of discipline and routines, “Routines reduce uncertainty.” The book explains how habit/routines give you and your people the feeling of control. I know from first-hand experience the value that control provided in my overcoming a fatal diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. If you believe you can change, then the change becomes real.
Is there one formula for changing habits? We’ll explore that question and the answer(s) next blog. In studying how people who conquered challenging addictions the book offers a solution, a blueprint, you and your business can follow to achieve greatness. That’s the good news. You and your business can change to establish good habits to ensure growth. It’s the same equation we teach our customers to follow to achieve results. Gazelles 4-3-2-1 formula
The practice of Strategic Discipline is Positioning Systems mantra for change, growth and powerful execution. Looking to change your business and develop the best practices those successful businesses follow? You have two weeks left to register. Be sure to attend Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Workshop, April 29th in Cedar Rapids, IA. Download the Flyer or Register Now