The 4 Disciplines of Execution

Strategy is useless without an efficient method of execution, no matter how wonderful it looks on PowerPoint. FranklinCovey consultants Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling provide managers a process for achieving “wildly important goals.” They provide a simple yet efficient 4 Disciplines of Execution formula, from goal setting to implementation and accountability. Although the concepts are simple, the explicit implementation instructions set this book apart. 

Strategy Blockers

Executives can quickly adopt some strategies with a single order. They initiate changes such as designating investments, modifying salaries, or employing new personnel simply by requesting it from the right managers. More ambitious solutions, on the other hand, necessitate people changing their behaviour, which is rarely easy. For example, even if the new application is compatible, asking your sales crew to use new software when they already like what they’re using will result in opposition. “To achieve a goal you have never achieved before, you must start doing things you have never done before,” said Jim Stuart, the creator of the “4 Disciplines of Execution” (4DX). Change resistance is a significant barrier to executing a new approach.

What else leads to bad execution? Employees fail to implement strategy because they frequently do not comprehend the aims of their company. In one survey, most frontline employees couldn’t recall what their company’s management said were its top three priorities. Furthermore, even when they knew what the goal was, employees stated they rarely felt committed to it. Or, if they were aware of the purpose, they didn’t know how to contribute to its realisation. In most cases, managers did not hold employees accountable for progress toward company goals.

Discipline 1: “Focus on the Wildly Important”

Another barrier to strategy implementation is the “whirlwind,” which is defined as “the enormous amount of energy required just to keep your company running on a daily basis.” Keeping up with daily demands consumes the majority of people’s time and energy. It is challenging to achieve large ambitions while still remaining on top of business. The four execution disciplines will enable you and your company’s employees to achieve significant goals even while the work environment swirls around you. Choose one or two extremely important goals. Examine the plethora of good ideas. 

Then accept the challenge of saying no to some in order to focus your company’s time and energy on one or two “Wildly Important Goals” (WIGs) that are truly important. This allows your employees to concentrate on the firm’s core priorities without being blown off course by the maelstrom.

Discipline 2: “Act on the Lead Measures”

This discipline finds the actions that will provide your company with the greatest leverage in reaching its WIG. In this step, each team defines specific activities with quantifiable goals that will help it reach its WIG as part of the firm’s WIG.

“The principle of focusing on the vital few goals is common sense; it’s just not common practice.”

To evaluate your success, use two types of metrics: “Lag measures,” such as consumer satisfaction reports and revenue calculations, report if you’ve fulfilled a goal by computing your success after you act. Regrettably, by the time you obtain the findings of lag measures, you will have performed the actions they cover. “Lead measures” are more in your hands. A lag measure may show your car’s repair history, whereas a lead measure may indicate how much normal maintenance you’ve performed to avoid repairs. As a result, lead measurements can be predictive and have an impact on lag measures.

Discipline 3: “Keep a Compelling Scoreboard”

Informing employees about their performance increases engagement and dedication. Scoreboards inspire activity, encourage problem solving, and increase energy and intensity. People get enthused when they see visible progress. It is tremendously motivating to see that they are winning. An effective scoreboard fits the following requirements:

  • “It has to be straightforward.” – The scoreboard should clearly represent where the team is and where it needs to be. 
  • “It has to be visible to the team” – While computer data can assist managers, a large amount of information will not motivate the team. Place the scoreboard somewhere where everyone can see it. 
  • “It must show lead and lag measurements” – Viewers must be able to see the goal they want to achieve (lag measure) and what they can do to get there quickly (lead measure). 
  • “It has to inform you right away whether you’re winning or losing.” – The scoreboard must communicate how participants are performing at a glance.

Create a massive, visible players’ scoreboard with your team mates to put Discipline 3 into action. Participants will be more invested if they help design the scoreboard. To begin, decide whether you want to display a bar chart, a pie chart, or an X/Y axis diagram. Keep it basic, clear, and easy to understand so that lead and lag measurements can be displayed. The scoreboard is updated weekly. “People play differently when they are keeping score,” you will notice.

Discipline 4: “Create a Cadence of Accountability”

The accountability discipline keeps WIGs from blowing away in the whirlwind. Create a sense of personal accountability through weekly WIG meetings that follow a predetermined agenda and focus solely on the status of the big goal’s execution.

WIG meetings consist of three parts: Participants first report on the status of their commitments. They then “review the scoreboard” and discuss what is working and what needs to be tweaked. Then they determine what they must do by the next session. These meetings are fantastic motivators since employees are accountable to one other as well as their supervisor, which is more encouraging. Because teams work to overcome barriers, “WIG sessions” foster creativity and innovation. They share experiences and ideas as they strive to advance the lead measure, bringing out the best in each other. “The WIG session is like a continuous science experiment,” says one participant.

These sessions should not cover anything other than the status of your WIG for the purposes of implementation. Meetings operate best when they are held at the same time and venue on the same day of the week. Limit them to 30 minutes. Leaders should set a good example by reporting on their WIG commitments on a regular basis. Teams celebrate accomplishments, discuss lessons gained, and assist one another in overcoming challenges. Keep the whirlwind at bay throughout your WIG workouts.

4DX Installation

To ensure the success of 4DX within your company, make it a continuous process rather than a one-time event. Instead of working with only a few leaders at a time, involve all of your firm’s leaders and their teams. Prepare your leaders to lead this initiative. Follow this tried-and-true six-step process to implement 4DX in your company:

  1. “Clarify the overall WIG” – Use the 4DX technique to establish your company’s critically important goal. 
  2. “Construct team WIGs and lead measures” – Dedicate two days to teaching leaders in 4DX ideas. Once leaders have digested these concepts, they can collaborate with their teams to identify WIGs that complement the organization’s WIG. These managers should establish the lead measurements that will be required. 
  3. Run a “leader certification” class to teach leaders how to establish a scoreboard, manage a WIG session, and prepare their teams to launch 4DX.
  4. Execute a “team launch” — Begin 4DX in two-hour team meetings. The agenda calls for the 4DX concepts to be taught, the organization’s WIG to be reviewed, and the lead measures to be described. Finish the meeting with a WIG practise session. 
  5. Execute “with coaching” – Once you’ve launched 4DX, keep on track and work through issues with the assistance of a coach who is knowledgeable about the four disciplines. 
  6. Organize “quarterly summits” – At quarterly gatherings, leaders report to higher management. This allows children to exercise accountability and get appreciation for their accomplishments.

4DX in Your Life

The four disciplines are not simply an excellent tool for achieving corporate goals. The same concepts can be applied in your daily life. One man utilised 4DX to help him lose weight. His WIG’s goal was to drop 80 pounds before his son’s high school graduation, which was six months away. He characterised his leading measures as daily walks of several kilometres, calorie restriction, and not eating in the evenings. He kept a tracker on the kitchen wall and finished in time for his son’s graduation.

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