Home » Blog » November Book of The Month ‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’

By Chris McChesney, Sean Covey & Jim Hurling

Getting sh*t done!
I have been blessed to work with many extremely successful entrepreneurs and if I was to observe one attribute, above all others that they all share it would be; ‘their consistent execution’. Or in more grounded language ‘they get sh*t done!’

What I love about this book is that much of the lessons shared come from real-life scenarios with clients the authors have worked with.
The authors point out from their experience that most MBA graduates are well educated when it comes to business analysis, planning and strategy yet they know and are taught little about execution. However, most business leaders will consistently agree that their greatest challenge is in ‘consistent effective execution’ without which the greatest strategies and plans in the world are useless.

Ineffective Execution
You may have come across some of the principles in this book before such as the old faithful ‘Pareto Principle’ (The 80 / 20 rule), however, the greatest wisdom in this book is in identifying 4 fundamental components (disciplines) of execution, that if implemented in a team will, without doubt, improve one of the greatest issues in most businesses ‘Ineffective Execution’.

The book explains each of the 4 Disciplines in terms of both theory and practical application, as illustrated the 4 disciplines are:

Discipline 1 FOCUS – Focus on the wildly important
Discipline 2 LEVERAGE – Act on the Lead Measures
Discipline 3 DISCIPLINE OF ENGAGEMENT – Keep a compelling Scoreboard
Discipline 4 DISCIPLINE OF ACCOUNTABILITY – Create a cadence of accountability

Much like the authors of this book, it has been my experience that a many business leaders and entrepreneurs manage to create decent looking plans and strategies but many struggle with effective execution, even those with plenty of ‘get up and go’ are not always effective in their execution and struggle to ensure that their team is effective at execution. 

This execution problem exists not only in business leadership but in ‘self-leadership’. For example; how many people do you know who have created a strategy and a plan to lose weight, earn a certain amount of money, exercise every day or some such goal only to fail to follow their strategy and plan often only days after starting? 

The authors identify a key premise for their book: 
‘Having a plan and a strategy does not in itself ensure the required changes in human behaviour.’

Let’s have a high-level review of the 4 disciplines:

Discipline 1 FOCUS – Focus on the wildly important
‘WIGs’ = Wildly Important Goals
Every team should have NO MORE that 2 or 3 WIGs 

WIGs must be aligned with the mission of the organisation.

The authors reassure us that from their experience ‘It’s ok to have 2 primary goals, the other stuff will still get done’.

There are higher-level WIGs and lower-level WIGs from individual WIGs to team WIGs and Organisational WIGs. WIGs can be inside or outside the whirlwind
2 important rules when setting WIGs:

  • No team focuses on more than 2 WIGs at a time
  • The battles you chose must win the war (regularly review what battles you are fighting)

The Whirlwind 
The term ‘whirlwind’ is a great term to describe the everyday business activities that demand team members’ attention. The authors note that ‘The Whirlwind is a distraction from working on your Wildly Important Goals’. Being inside or outside the whirlwind is similar to ‘working in your business’ and ‘working on your business’

Discipline 2 LEVERAGE – Act on the Lead Measures
LAG measures v Lead measures
To use a personal example a ‘LAG measure’ is ‘I want to lose 30 pounds in weight within the next 90 days’ – If I focus on measuring this I might then break this down into losing 10 pounds in weight every month
LEAD measures are: every day I will measure and consume 1800 to 2000 calories and each day I will report do more than 20 mins of cardio exercise

LAG measures are relatively easy to track and measure – in business a lot of them might even show up in the businesses P&L account for example ‘annual sales revenue’ where the LAG measure a year ago was to achieve $3M in sales revenue over the next year. 

Lead measures are measuring the actions including the daily and weekly actions that most influence the achievement of the LAG measures. Lead measure data is harder to track and measure for example asking every new customer if they would like to earn a discount by signing up for an auto-renewal.  Or calling and logging at least 3 customer survey calls every morning between 10 am and 11 am.

Discipline 3 DISCIPLINE OF ENGAGEMENT – Keep a compelling Scoreboard
People behave differently when they know the score.
We need a visual scoreboard! They tell a great story of a High School football game where the previous day a storm had blown down the scoreboard so during the game the crowd was far less engaged. They could not see the numbers, who was winning and how much by and how much time was left etc. No one was cheering as they would be usually. This metaphor translates perfectly into the business world.

The authors pose the question “Have you ever got frustrated with your team ‘Hey there is an important game going on here’!”

They recommend that all of your team members have a constantly visible scoreboard to ensure maximum engagement. In fact, it is most effective when team members are themselves keeping score using the pre-agreed key lead measure and LAG measure data.

Discipline 4 DISCIPLINE OF ACCOUNTABILITY – Create a cadence of accountability
The authors point out that in a survey an astonishingly low 34% of people reported that they had regular weekly or at least monthly reviews of their goals with their managers and other team members.
They suggest that ideally there should be a team WIG meeting (Wildly Important Goals) once a week!

In these weekly meetings, the team should review progress on their WIGs (wildly important goals) reviewing what agreed lead measures were achieved over the last week and what will be the priority lead measures for the coming week.  It sounds like a no-brainer to me, but how many businesses are practicing this throughout their organisation?

The book is a relatively heavy read, however, it needs to be to get across its message. Ultimately, if you apply it’s content you will undoubtedly magnify your potential and the potential of your team to consistently effectively execute! 

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