Self-discipline or just discipline?

1st October 2007
Simon Baker

A short while ago,




as one of


missing from the

Agile Manifesto


Brian was recently asked:

How do you feel about the qualifier "self-" as
part of "discipline"?

Here’s his response:

If self-discipline has the connotation of doing [good
thing] and not [bad thing] because of one’s Steely Will, I think,
in the immortal words of Rockett J. Squirrel:

That trick never works.

I think self-discipline has that connotation. I prefer the kind of
discipline that relies on things external-to-the-self:

  • Pairing because it makes it harder to not write unit
  • Having to deliver business value at fixed deadlines because
    that doesn’t allow certain kinds of sloppiness.
  • Having big visible indicators when the build fails.
  • Putting critical data on the walls between the executive
    offices and the bathrooms or kitchen so that everyone knows what’s
    going on.

The simple and probably best way of looking at this is that it’s
not the self-discipline of the individual that’s interesting; it’s
how an individual enlists the outside world (people and things) to
provide a discipline that makes up for that individual’s lack of
Steely Will.

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