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Micro disciplines key to world-leading productivity

Micro disciplines

A client order number not obtained. A forklift driven without checking its condition. The fire extinguishers not checked. Because we’re busy and we can do it ‘later’. It’s not urgent.

These are the behaviours that I’ve started calling ‘Micro Disciplines’, the everyday little tasks and actions that would fit into the Q2 box of the Eisenhower matrix: important but not urgent. In our personal lives we have loads of examples of these little actions. Indicating on a roundabout, sneezing into your elbow, putting the milk back in the fridge, making the bed, separating out the recycling. On their own, these actions hardly save the world. Missed occasionally, we will not face catastrophic outcomes. But when missed consistently, unfavourable outcomes are guaranteed. Not if, but when. And we all know from risk pyramids that the severity of the outcome will include catastrophic failures. Not indicating on a roundabout could lead to a fatal accident, not putting the milk back in the fridge could lead to a department or family off sick with dysentery.

Micro disciplines are the practices of proactive people. It is the activity of people that favour stability over expediting and firefighting. It is the habit of people and teams with a fighting chance to become leaders in productivity. Micro-disciplined people believe that well-planned work delivers great outcomes; that an improved way of working will create better performance. They do not ‘hope’ tomorrow will be a better day, they ‘will’ tomorrow to be better. A world-leading workplace celebrates and recognises these people. They are the unsung heroes who prevent underperformance, not the traditional ‘superheroes with their undies on the outside’ that swarm in after a catastrophic failure.

So, when Anthony (pictured left) explained to me how his ‘micro disciplines’ – in his case his standard work and basic care tasks – gradually eliminated error and waste and lifted performance of his dispatch area, I was excited to see him embrace the proactive mindset that will take his department and his company to world-leading levels of productivity. For his team leader and management team it is OK to have a ‘red’ against the routine tasks he does daily, weekly, monthly. There is no blame, only a desire to understand and an urgency to improve. Remove the root cause, put an effective control in place. A 100-year fix: deliberate action, rigorously executed. Anthony checks the conveyors for build-up and wear and tear. Does regular cleans on fins and intakes of motors. Looks at clearances of scrapers. Many small tasks combined, towards world-leading productivity.

It is not only the environments of overalls and hi-viz where this applies. Studiously reconciling account entries, uploading timesheets, posting product updates on social media, checking in on the wellbeing of staff. Every organisation needs micro disciplines if they want to be successful.

So, have you thought about the hundreds of little tasks and actions that make up your micro disciplines? Are you planned and deliberate in how you and your teams go about their work? Do you hope for high performance, or do you create a better tomorrow? When’s a good time to start? How about today?

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People