What does it mean to do the right thing even when there's a popular shortcut?
From a strict business perspective isn't the obvious answer differentiation? If you are the one company doing things the "right" way even when a popular shortcut exists then by nature you stand out in a crowd. You are choosing to do something that no one else is doing and therefore you stand to gain attention. Of course I suppose I should opine that doing the right thing for the sake of getting the attention isn't the right thing at all... it is simply gaming the system to "win" which might work in the short term, but what are the long term consequences of selling your soul for the short game?
My daughter is taking piano lessons and one day I heard her practicing a portion of scale as fast as she could. I suggested that perhaps she slow it down and practice each note one at a time until she plays the grouping flawlessly. She disagreed. Instead she continued to hit the keys as fast as she could until she made a sound that looked like what was written in the music. For this short term performance she wins. Long term though she loses. What happens when the next scale comes up? What happens when she needs to run her fingers up and down the keys in a quick but controlled manner? She won't be able to because she didn't stop and do things the right way (practice slowly, learn the fundamentals) so she will not have the tools to cope with the change. If instead she practice the scale slowly, learned the mechanics, the notes, the progressions, and really trained her hands to play things correctly instead of just good enough, she'd be much further ahead than she is now. Thankfully she's young and has plenty of time to learn this lesson. Others thought might not be so lucky.
To put it succinctly, I think doing the right things regardless of shortcuts available means you are instilling a sense of pride, tradition, and resilience that will not be cast aside at the first sign of change. Doing it the right way means never needing to question why you did it in the first place.
Consider the journey that you and your team are on. Do the ends justify the means? Which means? What's right and where do you draw the line? Does everyone in your culture draw the line in the same place?
I struggle with this because at the moment the only team I have is my family. I have co-workers, friends, and other groups I'm a part of. However I have yet to cultivate a team that is willing to follow me. (That has to be a blog post sometime right?) For the sake of discussion, and as a believer in God, the line needs to be drawn in the sand when things start to contradict what I've been taught from the Bible. In over-arching and simplistic terms this is mostly the golden rule - do on to others as you would have them do to you. Be honest, lead and work with integrity, be polite and courteous, and if I may be so bold as to add one of my own, tell a stinking joke once in a while. Any culture without laughter isn't a culture I want to be a part of.
As individuals I don't think everyone has to have the same line in the sand. As a team though it is absolutely necessary that each individual conforms to the culture of the business and is able to discern what is right and wrong in the context of the team. This falls on the shoulder of the leader to lead by example and to make the expectations painfully clear. I don't want a team full of facsimiles of one another, individuality is good, but as a business a common culture and set of values is imperative.
What sort of control are you willing to give up to get closer to your goal?
None. I'm a control freak and this is counter intuitive. If I had to give up something, and let's face it I'm going to have to, I would be willing to give up everything. On one condition. I used to hate boundaries, now I love them. Not because boundaries are rules that I get to govern or dictate, but because without boundaries there is no creativity, there is no discovery, there is nothing new. I'm sure at least half a dozen times in the last year I've been angry enough at someone because they challenged me (how dare my boss challenge ME) on an opinion or a piece of work that I did. After pouting like a child and thinking about how ridiculous people were being I came up with a solution. All the boss did was give me boundaries within which to work and the boundaries provided the answer.
That might be a tangent, but take a team of smart individuals, give them a common goal and a set of clearly defined expectations and boundaries within the context of the company culture and I'm sure the group would make any product I came up with look like garbage.
My gut reaction again is I'd give up nothing, but I like winning and I'd like to think that I'm maturing to the point where I can give up control, within the context of a healthy culture, to get the goal.