Discipline – to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control. I have had the good fortune during my service to attend basic training not once but twice. Ok, while some would say it was less good fortune and more insanity, I appreciated the lessons learned through both experiences. The first experience was enlisted basic training in 1991; the second was to earn my commission in 2005. While there were many valuable things I learned, perhaps the most important was discipline. One of the traits the military is best at developing is the discipline needed to do a task the same way each and every time it is done. This trait is built through monotonous repetition, in the beginning it is accomplished through the endless folding of the clothes in your locker only to have them tossed out on the floor to do it all over again.
There are two memories I will always carry with me through those training experiences. The first was during enlisted basic training, it was explained to us after the endless folding of t-shirts and underwear the reason why we were doing it: Discipline in our processes. Many of us would work on nuclear reactors or sophisticated weapons systems and it was neither safe nor practical to put us directly into those environments without establishing a benchmark of discipline in all we did. There was a method to their madness after all!! The second memory was during training to receive my commission. The point was driven home for us that if we did not meet standard, we would be sent home. Coming close to standard was not good enough. It was an all or nothing proposition. We could someday be responsible for sending loved ones to war and putting them in harm’s way. If they could not ensure we had the discipline to meet the basic standards no commission would be awarded and we would be sent home, it was as simple as that.
Discipline which can consistently perform a task in the same manner and do it mistake free is not only important in the military but also in Corporate America. Simple mistakes in routine tasks can cost a company millions in lost revenue. Simple violations of regulations caused by a lack of discipline can shut a business down for short periods of time or even permanently. This discipline carries directly over to safety practices in any organization. A company can’t just be a little unsafe or safe most of the time. It only takes one time and a mishap occurs. At best you will suffer a little lost time and a recordable OSHA incident. At worst, people will die and depending on your business, many people could die. Discipline is a value which directly transfers to any career beyond military service. Does your organization have enough discipline or could you value from a disciplined approach to carrying out routine to complex tasks?
Dennis Davis, Chief Translation Officer