The 4 Disciplines of Execution, by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling, lays out a simple but powerful approach to business leadership. The 4 Disciplines of Execution, or 4DX, model focuses in on effective decision making. Instead of taking a one size fits all approach to leadership, the 4DX model is flexible and dynamic. If you want to know how to set bold and meaningful goals and effectively inspire a team to achieve them, The 4 Disciplines of Execution may be exactly what you need.
Success in both life and business rests on the capacity for positive change. Both individuals and companies need to foster a growth mindset. The proverbial failure of New Year’s resolutions testifies to the fact that making positive change is very difficult, even for ourselves. But what about when it comes to making changes in our team or company? The rest of the world isn’t about to get any less fast paced just to give you a chance to catch up. Business leaders need to be bold and decisive in their execution just to survive.
However, execution can often be reactionary and top down. It’s tempting as a leader to simply tell your team to get with the program. It is not enough to simply make snap decisions, and hope your team can keep up. This will be detrimental longterm, as you pour time and energy bringing people onboard or up to speed. This is what the authors call “the whirlwind”—the basic problem that the 4DX method seeks to address.
Which brings us to the four disciplines themselves. Their purpose is twofold: to aid leaders in their decision making and, perhaps most importantly, in their ability to communicate these decisions to their teams.
The first discipline of execution is to establish and focus on a small number, preferably 1 or 2, Wildly Important Goals (WIGs). Any good WIG has to be specific, attainable, and impactful. The more specific, the better. Deadlines are key.
Your WIGs should be simple and easy to grasp. Cut out any vagueness or fluff. “Getting in shape” is not a WIG. Losing 50 pounds is.
This brings us to the second discipline of execution: focus on measurable and significant performance indicators. More specifically, you need to track your leading indicators rather than lagging indicators. To use the weight-loss example again, pounds lost is a lagging indicator whereas it rests on other inputs. Good leading indicators for losing weight include daily caloric intake or distance run. Measuring lead indicators allows you to gauge your teams performance in the present.
The third discipline is all about motivation. Once you have a WIG and key leading indicators, you have to make sure your team knows and cares about them. The best way of doing this is to use a scoreboard that tracks the your lead and lagging indicators.
The fourth discipline stresses the need for accountability. This is facilitated by weekly WIG meetings where you discuss with your team both your successes and shortcomings in working towards your goals and meeting your indicators. It is critical that as a leader you attend all of these meetings. Your employees will respond to your level of commitment. If you can’t hold yourself accountable, why should they?
On the whole, The 4 Disciplines of Execution provides a high degree of versatility. The 4DX model is applicable to a variety of different situations, while also be necessarily driven by metrics and data. It gives leaders the blueprint to make bold, innovative decisions and communicate them for effective change.
The 4 Disciplines of Execution is available for purchase here.