The 4 Disciplines of Execution

Within the frenetic business pace we keep, there is a systematic, accessible way to strategically and effectively execute—to realize the goals we set and the dreams we have. That is the foundation of the 4 Disciplines of Execution (or 4DX, as the authors call it).

It is possible, they say, because the 4 Disciplines are based not on practices, but on principles. Just like the life work of Franklin Covey says that there are principles that govern human behavior, there are principles that govern successful business processes and execution.

These 4 Disciplines, in summary, are:

1) Focus on the Wildly Important: Your chances, they say, of achieving 1-3 goals with excellence are high. However, the more goals you have to pursue, the less likely you are to meet ANY of them with excellence. So the first discipline is about mining for 1-2 “Wildly Important Goals” — or your WIGs. Those 1-2 WIGs become your principle focus.

2) Set Your Lead Measures: Apply disproportionate energy to the activities that drive your lead measures—or those activities that have a predictive and influence-able impact on the lag measures (those measures at the end of your goal that say whether you’re successful or on track). This Discipline defines leveraged actions that will enable you to achieve the WIG.

3) Keep a Compelling Scorecard: This is the Discipline of engagement. Make sure that everyone knows the score at all times, that they can instantly tell whether or not they are winning. The most successful scorecards are simple and crystal clear, most often developed by the team, from the bottom up.

4) Set a Cadence of Accountability: This cadence includes a commitment to a weekly WIG session—a short, intentional meeting that establishes a recurring cycle of accounting for past performance and planning to move the score forward.

Throughout the book, I found myself saying something like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it—set priorities and move toward them.” However, when I really let the content soak in, I would realize that the principled, singular approach was much more well-defined and clear than just “setting priorities.”

In the midst of the 4DX process, I was especially won over by the authors’ willingness to admit and address the sometimes overwhelming nature of the daily tasks that face each of us in business. Those daily tasks—the things that MUST be done for the business to continue to function—are what they call the whirlwind. They do not under value, under appreciate, or under emphasize the reality and necessity of the Whirlwind. Rather, 4DX exists and succeeds in the midst of the Whirlwind.

Part of the unique nature and impact of this book comes in the way it is structured. While the first third of the book addresses the principles and concepts behind 4DX, the final two-thirds act as a manual for putting it into practice, including stories of success and challenge by others, step by step instructions, worksheets to guide the process, and a well-developed section of Frequently Asked Questions and challenges.

By the end of the book, the sense is very much like I have just seen into the mind of an extremely bright and experienced consultant, and he has just downloaded his best instruction on making a change in my business.