Lagos, Nigeria

The 4 Disciplines of Execution

People | Process | Technology

The 4 Disciplines of Execution

“The real enemy of execution is your day job! We call it the whirlwind. It’s the massive amount of energy that’s necessary just to keep your operation going on a day-to-day basis; and ironically, it’s also the thing that makes it so hard to execute anything new. The whirlwind robs from you the focus required to move your team forward.”– The 4 Disciplines of Execution, page 6

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Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling, authors of The 4 Disciplines of Execution, are definitely on to something when they pinpoint “the whirlwind” as the main detractor of execution success. And they spend the entirety of their excellent book detailing just how to avoid the trap of the daily grind. Achieving your “wildly important goals” through mindful execution is key.

Their combined business experience is impressive. All leaders at FranklinCovey with decades of business know-how, these guys “completed more than fifteen hundred implementations of the 4 Disciplines (4DX) before they were ready to write this book” and they have created a set of tools that can be useful for a single person, small business, or large international company.

It doesn’t hurt that “4 Disciplines” is a #1 business bestseller recommended by The Wall Street Journal. Or, that the book leads with pages of endorsements by the likes of author Stephen R. Covey, and CEOs of companies like Kroger, Wegmans, and the Campbell Soup Company, and even Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Mohammed Yunus. This is an impressive book, years in the making.

What I particularly liked about this book is that it is about taking action on your strategic goals, not developing more theory. There are four clear roadmaps to help you overcome the “whirlwind” of the day-to-day work that keeps leaders, and teams, from executing the programs that drive real change.

The Four Disciplines are:

  1. Focus on the Wildly Important
  2. Act on the Lead Measures
  3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
  4. Create a Cadence of Accountability

So, how do you begin to create the mindset that will help you take action on the four?

The Big Idea

Understand: The Whirlwind of your Day Job Keeps You from Acting on Wildly Important Goals

“Important goals that require you to do new and different things often conflict with the ‘whirlwind’ of the day job, made up of urgencies that consume your time and energy.”- The 4 Disciplines of Execution, page 7

Why so important?

While your day-to-day tasks are important for today’s success they will not help you progress or prepare for what is needed to succeed tomorrow. This book gives you the tools to help you execute your “most critical strategy in the midst of your whirlwind”.

This point cannot be emphasized enough, and the authors do a great job of underscoring what needs to change. It is so easy to say “I am too busy,” “too overwhelmed” or “what I am doing right now is more important”, but you are selling yourself short. By focusing only on today’s goals you are setting yourself up for failure tomorrow. This is why so many businesses suddenly find themselves struggling to meet the goals that will help them succeed for the long term. You must carve out time for the WIGS (wildly important goals).

How do you successfully deliver your day-to-day work while also concentrating on the WIGS?

Insight #1

Focus on one or two goals for optimum execution

“Focus your finest effort on the one or two goals that will make all the difference, instead of giving mediocre effort to dozens of goals.”- The 4 Disciplines of Execution, page 23

The key is to simultaneously manage your day-to-day whirlwind, often filled with many tasks, while also implementing only the top one or two WIGS. If you attempt too many WIGS you are setting yourself up for failure. Your goal: Manage the urgent of today while also executing the wildly important goals that will shape your tomorrow.

How do you implement?

Insight #2

Hold a Weekly WIG Session to Drive Accountability

“This meeting, which lasts no longer than twenty to thirty minutes, has a set agenda and goes quickly, establishing your weekly rhythm of accountability for driving progress toward the WIG.”- The 4 Disciplines of Execution, page 79

Holding a weekly WIG meeting can help drive accountability. During this meeting you will review your WIGS. But you also need a clear structure, on which to track the progress of your WIGS, including specific measures you have put in place to help you monitor your progress and achieve your goals.

The authors present “lead” and “lag” measures, providing a useful set of tools through which to monitor progress. They offer clear examples, throughout the book, to help you understand and develop these measures. For example: “While you can’t control how often your car breaks down on the road (a lag measure) you can certainly control how often your car receives routine maintenance (a lead measure). And the more you act on the lead measure, the more likely you are to avoid the roadside breakdown.”

There are many scenarios, and dozens of company examples presented throughout The 4 Disciplines. There is even a chapter on “rolling out 4DX across the organization.” As you read the book, I suggest you focus on what is relevant to you. This way you can focus on your personal situation and implement the great suggestions in a way that best suits your needs.

4DX is “for driving behavior changes that have to happen” whether in your personal life, small business, or large corporation. This is a roadmap that works across your life.

How could the approaches and measures mentioned above help you?

Summary written by: Tracy Shea-Porter