In 2012 McChesney, Covey and Huling released their seminal book The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Like all good things, it received resounding press and then faded into the oblivion of “the whirlwind of the urgent”. It’s time for a second look.
Executives deal with 2 fundamental subjects – Strategy and Execution. MBA Schools teach Strategy; Life teaches Execution. Unless you want your next great strategic initiative to get slowly and quietly suffocated by competing “priorities”, you will want to take a second look at this book.
We have all learned that changes in strategic direction require changes in individual behaviour, and changes in behaviour require buy-in, commitment, engagement, and constant monitoring. This book deals with these 4 topics under the headings of Focus, Leverage, Engagement, and Accountability.
Focus – There will always be more good ideas than your team has the capacity to execute. The secret here is to focus on the most compelling one, the Wildly Important Goal (WIG).
Leverage – The authors are careful to distinguish between Lead Measures and Lag Measures. Lag Measures are the ways you determine if you have achieved your WIG – did we achieve 12% market share, or a 10% increase in revenue? Trouble is, you won’t know until the Fat Lady sings. Lead Measures, on the other hand, “measure the new behaviours that will drive success on the lag measures”. They are predictive of achieving the WIG, and relate to the daily activities of every team member. Leaders need to leverage their daily attention on the daily activities of their team which move the needle on the Lead Measures.
Engagement – People play differently when they are keeping score. “The highest level of performance always comes from people who are emotionally engaged, and the highest level of engagement comes from knowing the score.” Your scoreboard should measure daily activities that are tied to the Lead Measures, and ideally should be designed by your team and constantly visible to them.
Accountability – Unless team members hold themselves accountable, the goal naturally disintegrates into the whirlwind. This will only happen with regular (weekly), short (20 minute) meetings where team members commit to activities they will do in the coming week to move the needle, and report back on what they committed to in the previous week. If done well, these meetings will become energizing and peer pressure at the individual level will not allow for failure.
Doing this, your team will:
- Know the Wildly Important Goal
- Know what to do to achieve the Goal
- Know the score at all times
- Hold themselves accountable regularly and frequently for the results
Here is a quick link to an overview of the book: http://www.4dxbook.com/blog/the-4-disciplines-of-execution-overview/