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Hot Pan Effect

Alexander of Macedonia conquered a large part of the known world during his life.. 
After one battle, Alexander ordered his soldiers to stop fighting hold their positions and do nothing to provoke the enemy. Yet a couple of courageous soldiers under cover of nightfall crept to the enemy side and killed several solders as they slept.
The stunning news was conveyed to Alexander. He called the two soldiers in front of all his troops and praised them for their courage and then ordered that they to be beheaded immediately.

He proclaimed to his troops, "They were praised for their bravery and killed for their indiscipline. Indiscipline can endanger lives of my forces and cost us a battle. This I cannot permit"


Discipline, a much used and rarely understood word, which means complying with realistic guidelines and laid down systems.

A high profile example is road traffic discipline rather indiscipline in India where we have the highest fatality and injury rate in the world.  There are rules but no one follows them and this is the primary cause of road accidents.

Any management system no matter how well designed is useless unless there is compliance. 
We have countless rules, regulations and laws and yet there is total disorder.

The question is how do we get people to comply to a system or guidelines etc.  There is a highly effective management technique I use called 'The hot pan effect'.

If someone were to touch a hot frying pan, three things are definite;
  1. The results are predictable  (hand will certainly get burnt)
  2. There will be pain 
  3. The results are instantaneous
Soon the very thought of being punished itself deters people from being undisciplined.

Many reckless clients rush to start imposing punishments without understanding the situation. It is not advisable to have a re-view without a view.

A good management system must be both adequate and complied with, meaning;
  1. It is adequate for the purpose it is meant to serve and it is possible for people to obey and follow it.
  2. There is compliance to the laid down system.

Sadly in most organisations guidelines simply do not exist. In many organisations that do have guidelines particularly in the government sector the systems are outdated, useless, ineffective, and impractical to follow.  Predictably this results in poor or non performance, unreliable outcomes, and total failure.

Those organisations that do have good and vibrant systems aligned with needs of the organisation and constantly being tuned based on compliance audits are normally the ones that can be seen to be growing from strength to strength.

What can you do?
If you are in any position of responsibility and leadership then make things clear so that your colleagues can work efficiently and implement the hot pan rule whenever necessary.
In all cases try to be a good citizen and role model by being disciplined.

We can get organised and disciplined and make life easier and grow or we can remain undisciplined and wither away, the choice is ours for each one of us to make.


  1. Prem Gupta said;

    Very good way to imbibe sense of discipline
    prem gupta

  2. Prem ji,

    You are a simple but effective motivator.
    Thanks & God Bless you



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