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 following comes from summaries by Actionable Books and Jesse Gee.


The overview

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."

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).

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.

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."

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.”

The Four Disciplines are:

Focus on the Wildly Important

A WIG is an acronym for a “Wildly Important Goal”. A goal so important that not achieving it makes other achievements inconsequential.

Ask yourself: If every other area of our operation / my performance remained the same what is the one area where change could have the greatest impact?

The WIG can come from within the whirlwind i.e. fixing or improving something, or it can be something new outside the whirlwind. The organisation will set a WIG (example: increase revenues from 10million to 15million by year end) and then teams within the organisation will have their own WIG’s that support the overall WIG (eg improve sale conversion from 10% to 12% by year end)

WIG Rules

  1. No team should set / focus on more than 2 WIG’s at the same time
  2. The battles you choose must win the war (organisational WIG)
    • DON’T ASK: What are all the things I must do to win this war
    • DO ASK: What are the fewest battles necessary to win this war.
  3. Snr Level leaders can veto but not dictate what the sub WIG’s
    • The level of engagement in creating the WIG will equal the level of commitment to achieving it.
  4. All WIG’s must be in the form of: X to Y by when.

Act on the Lead Measures

Lead Measure: Measure of actions planned and taken to achieve a WIG

Great teams invest their best efforts in those few activities that have the most impact on the WIG’s and measure these actions. Achieving your WIG is like trying to move a giant rock. It's not a question of effort. Effort isn’t enough. If you're acting in the right (best) lever, the lead measures are measuring the effort on the level that is most likely to move the rock.

Ultimately the lead measures that your team chooses is their strategic bet that moving them, will move the WIG.

Lead measure tests:

  1. Must be predictive of achieving the WIG
  2. Must be influence-able by the team

Defining lead measures is the most difficult aspect of 4DX

  1. They can be counter-intuitive. Most leaders are used to looking at lag measures
  2. They can be hard to keep track of.
  3. They can look simple with a precise focus on a single behaviour.

Two types of lead measures.

  1. Small outcomes focus the team on weekly or daily results but give members of the team latitude to choose their own method.
  2. Leveraged behaviors focus on specific behaviors from the team member.

It is up to the team to decide which lead measures to use.

Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

This is the discipline of engagement. Even though you have defined a clear and effective game in disciplines 1 and 2, the team won’t play at their best unless they are emotionally engaged and that happens when they can tell if they are winning or losing.

3 Principles

  1. People play differently when their keeping score. If you’re not keeping score you’re just practicing.
  2. A coach’s scorecard is not a players scorecard. A coach’s scorecard is complex. A players scorecard is simple. Think of a basketball game. The coach is keeping track of all sorts of data on things like field goal %, steals, blocks, 3 pointers, etc, etc. The players scoreboard is simple. It shows a handful of measures that indicate to the players at a glance if they are winning or losing the game.
  3. The purpose of the scorecard is to motivate the players to win. Watch Out! The more the team is involved in designing the scoreboard, the more likely it will instill their ownership.

Create a Cadence of Accountability

Even though you’ve designed a game thats clear and effective, without consistent accountability the team will never give their best efforts to the game. This is done with WIG sessions. A WIG Session has a singular purpose: To refocus the team on the WIG despite the daily whirlwind. It takes place regularly, at least weekly and sometimes more often. It has a fixed agenda as follows:

WIG Session Agenda

  1. Review: Leader to review the scoreboard.
    1. Learn from successes and failures.
  2. Report: Each team member to report on last week’s commitments.
    1. State the commitment
    2. State its outcome
  3. Plan: Clear the path by removing obstacles and make new commitments that will raise the lead measures to the required level of performance the coming week. Leaders should guide the team in making commitments that have the highest impact using the following guidelines.
    1. One or two high impact commitments at most
    2. Specific. Exactly what will you do and what is the outcome?
    3. Should start with “I”. Its a personal commitment.
    4. Timely. Must be able to be competed in the coming day / week.
    5. Must be directed at moving the lead measures on the scoreboard.

Common pitfalls

  1. Competing whirlwind responsibilities. Don’t let the whirlwind into the WIG Session.
  2. Ask how will completing this will affect the scoreboard? Stick to specific outcomes.
  3. Repeating same commitment for more than two weeks
  4. Accepting unfulfilled commitments

The video (15min)