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Friday, January 22, 2010

What Are The Six Disciplines?

The Six Disciplines strategy execution program integrates the business-building elements of strategy, planning, organizing, executing, innovating and learning, and offers a systematic way for organizations to continually improve and achieve lasting business excellence.

You can think of the Six Disciplines Methodology as a series of annual, quarterly, weekly and daily repeatable cycles which, with each successive pass, helps individuals to be accountable, align their activities with organizational goals, and consistently execute on strategy.    

So, what are the Six Disciplines? 

Discipline I. Decide What’s Important. The foundation of all strategy formulation is deciding what is most important to your organization (and by implication what’s not important) so the allocation of resources—time, money and creativity—can all be aimed toward this end. In this discipline, organizations regularly review and renew their mission, values, strategic position, vision, their most vital few objectives, as well as agreeing what to stop doing.

Discipline II. Set Goals That Lead. Well-defined goals are among the most effective communications tools available to any leader—yet most leaders don’t know how to set goals that lead their people in the right direction. The purpose of this discipline is to produce annual goals that are clear and measurable. Pursuing these goals will lead the people in the organization to align their activities with the vital few objectives set in Discipline I. The result is a brief company goals statement that every team member can understand.

Discipline III. Align Systems. One of the greatest barriers an organization faces in pursuing its goals is itself. For many businesses, the systems that make up the business are often at cross purposes with the priorities of the company. Why? Because most organizations do not have an organized approach to keep their systems aligned with their strategy. Discipline III, taps the knowledge of the whole workforce to identify the areas where the company will get the greatest return on its investment in policies, processes, measures, technologies and people.

Discipline IV. Work the Plan. One of the greatest organizational learning tools ever invented is the quarterly Individual Plan. In this discipline, every person in the company works with his/her team leader to develop Individual Plans for the upcoming quarter. These goals are reviewed and checked for alignment with company goals. This quarterly plan serves as a timesaving template for a Weekly Status report. The result is that every individual in the company learns how to set goals, understand company priorities, takes responsibility for their own activities, and reports progress regularly.

Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully. Innovation is just another name for problem-solving, and everyone in the company has the ability to solve problems. This discipline is unlike the rest in that it provides tools and principles that are used throughout the other disciplines to help people set clear goals and eliminate barriers to progress.. These goals will align with company priorities, and then employees use their innate creativity to meet or beat those goals. Empowering principles, such as Embracing Constraints and Taking Informed Risks, plus tools like the 100-Point Exercise and 5-Step Problem Solving, are but a few examples of what’s included in Discipline V.

Discipline VI. Step Back. This annual discipline helps the whole organization to step back from the pressure of everyday business and gain perspective on the factors that affect business performance. This is achieved through a series of “discovery exercises,” exploring externals (competitors, industry, economic) and internals (goal performance, stakeholder feedback, measures, etc.). In addition to the organization as a whole stepping back, all individual team members are encouraged to do the same by providing input on each other’s performances. This is achieved by completing a 360° and an annual performance appraisal for each team member.

BOTTOMLINE:  The Six Disciplines are described in detail in the award-winning book, Six Disciplines for Excellence, available here from Amazon

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